Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance

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Pittsburgh Human Rights City AllianceDignity & Justice for All of us"Human rights don't trickle down...they RISE UP!"
Racism is a Health Emergency! And Health & Housing are Human Rights!

Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance works to bring together diverse groups and individuals to encourage the realization of our City Council's 2011 Proclamation declaring Pittsburgh a "human rights city". We strive to realize a city that maximizes human rights and dignity for all people who live in our region (See Human Rights Cities Principles). We help network leading community organizations and concerned residents to support local efforts to realize people-centered human rights in Pittsburgh. We cannot wait for leaders in Washington to protect our basic rights! It takes engaged and creative efforts of community residents to "bring human rights home"! Our work is guided by the leadership of our Human Rights City Alliance Steering Committee.

Get involved


  • Public panel event: UN Report Condemns U.S. Discrimination in Law Enforcement—How do its recommendations apply in Southwest PA? Wednesday October 25, 2023 from 5:30-7:15 PM. Last spring, the UN sent a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations by by U.S. law enforcement officials. Pittsburgh advocates reported on local conditions as part of this investigation (see our Report on the Treatment of People of African Descent by Law Enforcement Agencies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Allegheny County). This panel presents findings and recommendations of the UN investigation, discussing their implications for local law enforcement policy and advocacy. Food and childcare provided. Co-Sponsors: TBD

Current Projects

Building Pittsburgh's Human Rights Housing Strategy-This resource page shares some of the background behind our research and strategy conversations.
  • Renewing Pittsburgh’s Human Rights City commitments and legislation Pittsburgh’s 2011 Proclamation making us the 5th Human Rights City in the U.S. is not a strong document, especially in light of recent developments in the human rights cities movement. We’re drawing from examples in other cities such as Atlanta to bring stronger human rights commitments along with processes for monitoring and setting targets for advancing equity and protecting the rights of all residents. See Draft Resolution to Renew and Update Pittsburgh’s Human Rights City Status

Recent Events, Recordings & Documentation

  • The African Diaspora Convenes on the World Stage & Calls for Reparatory Justice--Reports from the Inaugural session of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent. (Recording) In December 2022 the United Nations launched the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (UNPFPAD) as part of the International Decade on People of African Descent (2015-2024). Activists who attended this historic, inaugural meeting of the PFPAD share their observations on how this new body can be a tool for building local and national movements to end white supremacy and advance racial justice. Panelists: Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy and Policy, Southern Poverty Law Center; Charkera Ervin, Howard University School of Law/ Movement Lawyering Clinic; Efia Nwangaza, SNCC Veteran, Civil/Human Rights Attorney, Director Malcolm X Center for Self Determination; Tiffany Williams Roberts, Director of Public Policy Unit, Southern Center for Human Rights; Gretchen Rohr, US-Liaison and Global Strategic Litigation Officer, Open Society Justice Initiative
Webinar Co-sponsors: U.S. Human Rights Cities Alliance, Southern Center for Human Rights, Southern Poverty Law Center, Ubuntu Institute for Community Development, Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance, Global Studies Center & the Center for African Studies-University of Pittsburgh

(Recording-November 18, 2022 by 1Hood Media). After Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri, Justin Hansford helped Brown family members bring their appeal for justice to the United Nations See Ferguson to Geneva. This conversation brings together Black community leaders, advocates, and educators to discuss this effort and understand how we can make use of UN bodies like the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent to promote racial equity and fight white supremacy. What role do our communities play in building global tools to help defend and advance our human rights? Panelists: Dr. Rashad Williams, Assistant Professor of Race and Social Justice in Public Policy, University of Pittsburgh (Host), Tiffany Williams Roberts, Director of Public Policy Unit, Southern Center for Human Rights (Atlanta) & Steering Committee member, U.S. Human Rights Cities Alliance; Randall Taylor, Penn Plaza Support and Action Coalition

  • Taking Back our Human Rights: Black Pittsburgh’s Appeal to the World-Community Forum Summary Document, November 19, 2022. This document summarizes discussions at our community forum during Justin Hansford's visit, & it will guide our subsequent coalition building work aimed at centering the needs of Pittsburgh's Black residents and ensuring that no one is left behind as our city develops.

Ongoing Projects

  • Realizing Racial Equity in Pittsburgh- We're working with national and global human rights networks to engage United Nations and other global resources as we tackle systemic racism.
  • Shaping Mayor Gainey's Leadership Agenda- We are working to discuss ideas and build community support for initiatives that would advance equity and human rights in our city and help us realize the promise of the City's 2011 Human Rights City Proclamation.
This message follows up our earlier message to then Mayor-Elect Gainey on International Human Rights Day 2021 (Dec. 10), where we reminded him of our status as a human rights city and the prior commitments made by city officials to advance racial and gender equity and human rights.

For more information and opportunities to get involved, please contact us at pghrights[at]riseup.net.

Latest Updates

An Appeal to the World: Pittsburgh Advocates file report to UN Committee reviewing racial discrimination in the U.S.

Latest Housing Rights News

  • Community petition campaign to Protect Inclusionary Zoning & Demand Affordable Housing for All! In response to Pittsburgh’s chronic affordable housing crisis, the City Council recently passed a modest inclusionary zoning ordinance to require developers to designate at least 10% of units in developments of 20 or more units as affordable for low-income residents. The Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh (BAMP)—a special interest group made up of corporate developers—has sued the city to prevent the implementation of the ordinance, and community partners are working to fight this move as we defend the rights of all residents to affordable, safe and secure housing. Please sign the petition! here https://secure.everyaction.com/ymOliRNNIkKlrrqVBDdOkQ2] and help spread the word!
  • Global housing leader visits Pittsburgh: In April 2022, Pittsburgh welcomed global housing expert, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha to meet with city officials, housing advocates, students and other residents. We compiled this report on the visit, highlighting insights and recommendations from our discussions with Ms. Farha, who now leads global housing rights organization, The Shift. Here you’ll also find helpful links to learning resources and legal tools to help advance housing as a human right. (Download report PDF)

Recent Actions

====Other meetings==== [MOST NOW ONLINE DUE TO COVID19]

Human Rights & Anti-Racism Organizing

Historical Truth-Telling: Key to Human Rights & Racial Healing Today:Building a human rights city requires efforts to remedy past injustices and ensure that all residents have equitable opportunities to thrive. The International Decade on People of African Descent (2015-2024) and the 400th anniversary of the first auction of enslaved Africans in North America provides an opportunity for renewing conversations about how we can address persistent inequities resulting from the United States's brutal history of slavery and genocide against people of African descent and indigenous peoples.

  • Indigenous People's Day & Anti-racism work
Student human rights leaders compiled the following list of films, podcasts, and short articles and reports to inspire learning that acknowledges past harms and furthers a process of truth-telling and racial healing. Recording: Community Dialogue: Indigenous Peoples Day: Deconstructing white supremacy and celebrating Indigenous Peoples' history More Resources on Indigenous peoples and human rights

Past & Ongoing Projects

Statement to City Council: Human Rights City Alliance backs community organizations calling for pause in vote on ARP funds: Our message to Council reminds them of past commitments and priorities that must be addressed in ARP allocations while calling for transparent and democratic process for deciding how funds will be used.

Sign the petition for a more transparent, accountable, and democratic process for allocating public resources.

Learning from COVID-19:Shaping a Health and Human Rights Agenda for our Region
We can’t return to status quo if we are to prevent the multiple breakdowns and failures we’re now seeing with COVID-19. Resilience and long-term, community well-being requires dramatic improvements to public infrastructure and support for housing, food, & health security. We're working with diverse groups in the community to host this forum series and build a strong people’s movement to help us realize a society that prioritizes equity and the human right to health, so that every member of our community can live dignified lives. Click here for details, recordings and summaries of past discussions

Co-Sponsors: Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance, Atlanta Housing Justice League, Organization for Human Rights & Democracy, University of Pittsburgh Global Studies Center & Urban Studies Program, Student Human Rights Task Force- Pitt & The New School (NYC) Collaboration.
Further background and recordings at:Zero Evictions Days Resource page and webinar recordings Featuring dialogues with Leilani Farha, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Adequate Housing.)

Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance Steering Committee Members named to Mayor’s Community Task Force on Police Reform Community leaders Brandi Fisher, President and CEO of the Alliance for Police Accountability and Monica Ruiz, Executive Director of Casa San Jose, have been tasked with helping our city develop a plan to review existing policing practices and policies and make recommendations. Here is the outline of the City’s Agenda for Police Reform.

Bringing Human Rights Home

*UPR Pittsburgh Bringing Global Human Rights Home: Pittsburgh's Human Rights Assessment & the United Nations Together with human rights defenders around the country, Pittsburgh residents are working to bring the stories and accounts of human rights conditions in our region to the United Nations through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. Over 2019-2020, the United States human rights record will be reviewed by international representatives and human rights experts, and the UN will issue a formal report with recommendations to the US government for improving respect for the country's international human rights obligations. A key to the UPR's effectiveness is engagement from civil society, and we're working to provide opportunities for residents to learn about human rights and the UPR process as we generate ideas for how we can make Pittsburgh and Southwest PA places where human rights thrive.

Pittsburgh Activists File Report to UN on State of Human Rights in Region

Pittsburgh City Council Passes Zero Evictions Proclamation in Solidarity with Global Movement for Housing Justice

Housing Justice

  • Housing is a Human Right-Letter to Officials The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, recently directed letters to governments and corporate leaders around the world, pointing out how prevailing policies violate international human rights obligations. This page has details and a template for contacting your local leaders to remind them of their international legal obligations.
  • Housing Justice Pittsburgh Building community power to fight displacement and promote our "Right to the City."
  • Housing Summit 2018 Area organizations are working together to build a broad alliance for affordable housing in our region. Mark your calendars for our November 10, 2018 Housing Summit, and watch for a series of events and activities aimed to develop new strategies for addressing Pittsburgh's housing crisis.
  • Housing is a Human Right: Slideshow on international treaties and opportunities to promote the human right to housing

Learn more about how Amazon's bid to move to Pittsburgh would affect human rights here. Resources, data, and recordings of community forums.

International Human Rights Monitoring

This page links to work by national and international human rights organizers to use international treaties and United Nations human rights review processes to hold local and national officials in the United States accountable to our international human rights obligations.

News & Updates

Human Rights Budgeting-Ideas and Resources for transforming how our city plans: This page shares links and background resources about how activists around the world are working to change the scripts of local politics to prioritize human rights over economic measures of progress. We believe that urban planning and development should be explicit in its attention to human rights and equity. More democratic budgeting processes are key to making this happen, and that means we all need to learn more about how city budgeting works and how it could be re-organized to engage more of the people who live in our region.

Past Actions:

International Human Rights Day 2020 Public/Media Statement:
Pittsburgh Joins Global Efforts to Target Systemic Racism, Bring Human Rights Home [1]

Regularly scheduled meetings/ Local Human Rights Groups

Alerts & Updates

  • Campaign to Stop Plan to Increase Policing on Public Transit-- This campaign led by the Alliance for Police Accountability, Casa San Jose, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, and the Thomas Merton Center warns that the Port Authority's planned fare enforcement policy will unfairly impact communities of color, increase the problematic trend of criminalizing young people, and threaten immigrant residents.The campaign is calling for civilian fare enforcers rather than armed Port Authority Police and a citation process rather than a criminal process to deal with fare evasion (See FAQs for more information). Community organizations and individuals are asked to write letters to the Port Authority in support of this campaign (see sample letter).
  • PIttsburgh Public Schools Passes Sanctuary Resolution
  • Pittsburgh becomes 6th US City for CEDAW A broad coalition of human rights advocates helped advance a new ordinance enacting the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in our City, December 6, 2016. Stay involved in the work to carry out this commitment to better address needs of women and girls, families and communities in our city! www.pgh4cedaw.org

University-Based Projects

  • Pittsburgh area university faculty, staff, and graduate students are invited to join the University Human Rights Network. We invite volunteers from different campuses to help support work on your campus and coordinate with other campuses.
  • Pitt Human Rights Initiative
  • Campus worker organizing: Pitt faculty, graduate student workers, and other workers are organizing for their rights and to support and protect the right to education. Keep informed about the campaign on their website and Facebook page

How to get involved

Please get in touch if you're interested in some of these ongoing projects or in efforts to follow-up some of these past initiatives. We are an all-volunteer group and are working to create spaces for residents to work together to envision and build a different kind of city and region. pghrights [at] riseup [dot] net.

NEW Research on Pittsburgh and Human Rights Organizing:
Responding to Globalization and Urban Conflict: Human Rights City Initiatives Studies in Social Justice

Dangerous Times: Defending Human Rights
Values are fragile. Because the values of human rights depend foremost on the ability to empathize with others”to recognize the importance of treating others the way we would want to be treated ”they are especially vulnerable to the demagogue's exclusionary appeal. A society's culture of respect for human rights needs regular tending, lest the fears of the moment sweep away the wisdom that built democratic rule. Human Rights Watch "World Report 2017: Demagogues Threaten Human Rights-Trump, European Populists Foster Bigotry, Discrimination."

Defend Pittsburghers' Right to Stay in their City! Housing Justice
**Affordable Housing Initiative:** **Pittsburgh Housing Summit** (Resources and links to recordings of plenary sessions) "Don't evict Pittsburgh!" Housing is a human right! The essence of our city is people and communities--not buildings, businesses, and tourist attractions.Homes for All Pittsburgh

*The Human Rights City Alliance works to promote and support activities of all human rights advocates around the region. Please contact us about relevant events/activities to share: pghrigts [at] riseup.net .

About the Human Rights City Alliance

How to Get Involved


Link to more resources--toolkits, reports, and organizations supporting local human rights work

People-Centered Human Rights: Analyses from Around the Nation and World

OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute-Human Rights in Pittsburgh and Beyond, Resource Page

Past events

World Food Day 2015: Watch video recording of October 2015 panel on the Right to Food
International Workers Day March for Immigrant Rights 2016 Statement of Unity and Solidarity

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Website: pghrights.org Facebook: pghrights

e-mail: pghrights [at] riseup.net

Universal Declaration of Human Rights booklet with Pittsburgh's Human Rights City Proclamation

YWCA Pledge Stand against racism

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