National Human Rights City Network

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About the National Human Rights City Network

The National Human Rights City Network is a member-led and organized initiative of the US Human Rights Network, supported by the USHRN Coordinating Center, it works to strengthen relationships among human rights city organizers, including grassroots and local advocates for human rights cities, national and international human rights advocates, scholar-practitioners, and others working to advance human rights in the places where people live. The Human Rights Cities Network also works to advance knowledge about effective models and practices for local implementation of human rights and to improve methods for reporting and sharing this information.

Human rights cities represent an important innovation in the human rights movement, and it engages local activists in the work of translating and implementing international human rights in local settings. Human rights cities help create an infrastructure for the universal realization of the full spectrum of human rights by deepening democracy and promoting social justice. Dozens of cities all over the world have adopted this approach, but it has received relatively little movement, media, and scholarly attention, and there has been limited coordination across such cities (LINK:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Rights_City).

Human rights city organizers in the United States have convened two national gatherings Human Rights Cities, in Pittsburgh in 2015 and in Washington, DC in 2016. A national human rights city steering committee was formed after the 2016 meeting in Washington DC, and that group has been charged with developing a coordinating structure for the National Human Rights Cities Network in the United States and with planning a follow-up convening in 2018 in Jackson, MS.

The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) was an initiator of the concept of the human rights city and helped facilitate the development of Human Rights Cities around the world beginning with Rosario, Argentina in 1997 and the first US human rights city - Washington, DC in 2008. The organization still continues to advise the human rights city movement and this network.

National Human Rights City Network Steering Committee members:*

  • Vickie Casanova Willis, National Conference of Black Lawyers
  • Joshua Cooper, Director, Hawai'i Institute for Human Rights
  • Rachel Fowler, Turn South: Southern Women for Change
  • Alex Frazier, Youth Representative
  • Rebecca Landy, US Human Rights Network
  • Onaje Muid, International Human Rights Association for American Minorities
  • Jean-Louis Peta Ikambana, American Friends Service Committee & Washington DC Human Rights City Steering Committee
  • Francisco J. Rivera Jurist, International Human Rights Clinic, Santa Clara University School of Law
  • Michael Santos, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
  • Salvador Sarmiento, Washington D.C. Coalition for Immigrant Rights and Sanctuary City Effort
  • Michael Scott, Equity Matters
  • Jackie Smith, Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance

 *Institutional affiliations listed are for identification purposes only


Join the Listserv! To receive information and updates from the Human Rights Cities Network, including about the next convening planned for 2018, please sign up for our email list here. The email address for list members is: NatHRCityNetwork@salsa3-lists.salsalabs.com 

The Human Rights Cities Network supports grassroots efforts for People-Centered Human Rights, where cities and other local communities commit to using the international human rights framework in local government, and engage in active, community-led processes of human rights learning. We invite grassroots leaders and other human rights defenders who are committed to building a locally-based grassroots movement of and for human rights cities to join the network.

If you live in a human rights city and/or are working towards human rights framing in your local landscape, please contact the National Human Rights City Network for more information at: nathrcitynetwork@ushrnetwork.org

What is a Human Rights City?

  • A Human Rights City is a municipality that refers explicitly to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards and/or law in their policies, statements, and programs. Analysts have observed growing numbers of such cities since 2000. The Human Rights City initiative emerged from the global human rights movement and it reflects efforts of activist groups to improve respect for human rights principles by governments and other powerful actors who operate at the local/community level. Because of their focus on local contexts, human rights cities tend to emphasize economic, social, and cultural rights as they affect the lives of residents of cities and other communities and their ability to enjoy civil and political human rights.
  • Human rights advocates describe a Human Rights City as - One whose residents and local authorities, through learning about the relevance of human rights to their daily lives (guided by a steering committee), join in ongoing learning, discussions, systematic analysis and critical thinking at the community level, to pursue a creative exchange of ideas and the joint planning of actions to realize their economic, social, and cultural as well as civil and policitcal human rights. Formally designated Human Rights Cities thinking at the community level, to pursue a creative exchange of ideas and the joint planning of actions to realize their economic, social, political, civil and cultural human rights. This framework has generated various practices in different cities.

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