Pittsburgh delegation to Human Rights Cities Leadership Summit in Atlanta, May 2023

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As part of our work with human rights cities and human rights advocates around the country and around the world who are involved in the U.S.-Canada Human Rights Cities Alliance, we're bringing a team of more than two dozen Pittsburgh activists, youth, and policy experts to Atlanta for the 2023 Human Rights Cities Leadership Summit to learn, share, and network. Our travel is supported by a grant from the Heinz Foundation and is supported by The Global Switchboard

Taking Action

  • Developing and mobilizing for renewed Human Rights City legislation for Pittsburgh--We’re working with City Council leaders to develop legislation for possible adoption in January 2024 that would establish a task force to develop a blueprint for advancing human rights as a whole-of-government strategy. This would involve consultations with city agencies about human rights pertaining to various areas of policy. It would also require outreach and communication around human rights and the city and community obligations entailed in securing their protection.
  • We need task force members interested in policy and in public education and communication/ outreach/ media
  • Re-defining community safety and holding local authorities accountable to global human rights standards See our 2023 report to a UN investigation of U.S. law enforcement policies In September, the UN will issue a formal report on racial inequities in U.S. law enforcement, which is expected to lift up many concerns raised by community advocates and push for dramatic changes “to address legacy of slavery and redefine policing”. We want to hold a public forum or similar event to help educate our community about conditions here and about how U.S. practices are seen by the international community. We can explore human rights tools for shaping local policies and allocations of resources to address community needs.
  • Advocating for a Human Rights-based Housing Strategy and Action Plan for Pittsburgh --Housing rights are key to protecting all other human rights, and we will be exploring ways we can promote the advance of a human rights housing strategy as outlined through our long-term process of community dialogue and research on international human rights law.
  • Promoting a strategy for racial healing and reparations —The work of repairing the many dimensions of harm caused by legacies of slavery and colonialism requires all of us, and we want to expand a city-wide conversation on how we can collectively begin this work.

To get involved or learn more about this work, contact us at pghrights@riseup.net.

Resources & Background

Planners of the Leadership Summit identified three key, intersecting themes around which the Summit plenary sessions will be organized. These include:

Housing Justice

  • Pittsburgh advocates have been working to build a broad coalition calling on the city to treat housing as a human right, not a market-driven commodity. Market-led policies let developers decide who can live here and under what conditions. We believe that residents must be included in policy decisions that affect our communities, and are advocating for a Human Rights-based Housing Strategy and Action Plan for Pittsburgh, PA
  • We're excited to have the chance in Atlanta to see UN Housing Rights leader Leilani Farha, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Adequate Housing, who will be speaking at the Summit. Farha visited Pittsburgh in April, 2022
  • Leilani Farha's work to address the impacts of global financialization on housing insecurity appears in the documentary film, Push, which will be screened during the Summit, and is available for viewers to watch free online between May 13-27. Request access at: https://forms.gle/ZrmMMmaCoDthX46G8

Community safety, police accountability, & resisting the militarization of police

  • UN Fact-Finding Mission Addresses U.S. Police Violence & Human Rights Violations--In response to the global uprisings protesting the deaths of George Floyd and other people of African descent at the hands of police, the United Nations created the International Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement, also known as the “George Floyd Mechanism” or EMLER. The EMLER visited the United States April 24-May 5 for fact-finding on systemic racism, including its root causes in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, excessive use of force, racial profiling and other violations of international human rights law by law enforcement officials.
  • Atlanta's "Cop City" protests reveal larger problem of police militarization

Reparatory Justice & Ending Systemic Racism

  • Scholar-activists at Pitt have teamed up with community leaders to create a Working Group on Historical Truth Telling and Reparations. This team convened a conversation with Pittsburgh organizers on contemporary struggles for reparations in our city and compiled this report based on input from leaders including Randall Taylor, Khalid Raheem, and Rev. Dale Snyder (Bethel AME Church). This Working Group will support our follow-up work to bring back lessons from the Summit and build support for reparatory justice initiatives in Pittsburgh.
  • In fall, 2022, Pittsburgh human rights activists hosted Justin Hansford, member of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (UNPFPAD) and director of the Thurgood Marshall Center for Civil Rights at Howard University. Hansford helped Michael Brown's family members bring their appeal for justice to the United Nations. This panel conversation brings together Black community leaders, advocates, and educators to discuss how we can make use of global human rights as tools to promote racial equity and fight white supremacy. 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.
  • 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.