Workshop Human Rights Cities 2015 Making the Global Local

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Making the Global Local: Human Rights CitiesConference & WorkshopMonday June 22-Tuesday June 23, University of Pittsburgh

Conference Summary Report


For decades, human rights activists have been making the local global, using human rights to frame (and sometimes to litigate) local issues of egregious domination and oppression. By adopting a globally-recognized discourse and through forming transnational networks, activists have drawn attention to their causes and helped to achieve meaning social change at the local and national levels. These efforts have typically been organized around particular human rights issues (such as human trafficking or political prisoners). Recently, however, local activists have begun to flip this model, making the global local by utilizing a human rights paradigm to frame and propel their local efforts around issues of social and environmental justice. The human rights frame helps to facilitate collaboration by highlighting the unity among various struggles and strengthening cross-issue networks among local activists. Instead of vertical, single-issue networks, activists have been developing horizontal, cross-issue strategies.

One innovation in this practice of making the global local is the idea of the human rights city. Communities around the world have declared their commitment to human rights and have begun to build institutions and practices to realize this commitment in part through transforming their governments and their communities. The idea of a human rights city is to create an infrastructure for the realization of all human rights for all members of the community through deepening democracy and promoting social justice. Cities all over the world have adopted this approach, but it has received relatively little scholarly attention. One of our primary aims in this workshop is to bring scholars and practitioners together to survey the state of the field and to identify crucial research projects that might help us to understand and advance these efforts.

In 2011, the City of Pittsburgh became the fifth Human Rights City in the United States through a Proclamation of the City Council. Since then, local activists have been working to develop strategies for turning this proclamation into a reality through the Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance. The workshop will create a space for dialogue among local activists, scholars, and local public officials. We will highlight how race, class, gender, and environment complicate human rights organizing and to think critically and creatively about how human rights cities can help to addresses these structural injustices normatively and institutionally. In doing so we hope to support the work of the Alliance in helping the City of Pittsburgh realize its stated aim of provid[ing] leadership and advocacy to secure, protect, and promote human rights for all people in the city and beyond.

Confirmed Participants

Raymond Atuguba, University of Ghana Faculty of Law (additional bio)
Viviana Della Siega, Institute of Gender, Law and Development, Rosario, Argentina
Michele Grigolo, Nottingham-Trent University
Rebecca Landy, US Human Rights Network
Paul Lappalainen, European Coalition of Cities Against Racism, Stockholm, Sweden
Adofo Minka, Cooperation Jackson
Ken Neubeck, Eugene Oregon Human Rights Commission, Professor Emeritus, University of Connecticut
Carl Redwood, Hill District Consensus Group (Pittsburgh) and University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work
Anja Rudiger, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI)
Rob Robinson, USA-Canada Alliance of Inhabitants, NESRI
Maigan van der Giessen, John Humphrey Center, Edmonton

Workshop Schedule

Session objectives and Guidelines for presenters

Resources and Background Readings

Further Reading

Workshop sponsored by: Global Studies Center / UCIS, Center for European Studies, & the Departments of Sociology and Political Science at the
University of Pittsburgh, in cooperation with the Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance