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FOCUS September 2016 Volume 85

6th World Human Rights Cities Forum


The 6th World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF) with the theme “Building Human Habitat Friendly Cities: Urban Development, Housing and Environment” was held in Gwangju city in the context of the agenda preparation for the United Nations (UN) Habitat III Summit to be held on 15 to 17 October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador. As the third conference of the United Nations, after Habitat I (Vancouver, 1976) and Habitat II (Istanbul, 1996), Habitat III aims to set a New Sustainable Global Urban Agenda, in a world where 55 percent of the population live in cities and where urban dwellers will represent more than 66 percent of the world population in 2050. As a result, the international community expects the Habitat III Conference to set the basis to address the challenges of a sustainable urbanization of the planet. To that end, the New Sustainable Global Urban Agenda should concretize and fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 and the COP21 Agreement of Paris in December 2015.

6th WHRCF Goals and Program

The 6th WHRCF had the following main goals: 

a) To expand the human rights cities’ movement worldwide in order to promote solidarity and mutual cooperation among them. It is believed that human rights mainstreaming through the human rights-based approach if rightly and fully implemented at all stages of a human rights city including budgeting, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, can and must be a key to successful innovation to make a city a common space for solidarity for all beyond local and national boundaries;

b) To make concrete proposals to contribute to human rights-based approach at the Habitat III Summit;1

c) To exchange concrete experiences related to human rights mainstreaming in local administration and human rights implementation mechanisms at local level;

d) To develop knowledge on human rights and particularly in new fields such as environmental rights where local governments can play an important role; and

e) To strengthen the cooperation between local governments, civil society organizations, national institutions and international and regional protection of human rights bodies.

The Mayor of the Gwangju city, Mr Janghyun Yoon, along with the Governor of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, Mr Heeryong Won, and the Mayor of Seongnam City, Mr Jaemyung Lee, presented in the conference their experiences in implementing local government human rights programs.

Workshops were held during the two-day conference on various themes consisting of the following: 1) City and Gender; 2) City and Child/Youth; 3) Disabilities and Human Rights; 4) the Elderly and Housing; 5) City and Environment; 6) Social Economy; 7) Urban Regeneration; and 8) Education Policy and School Autonomy.

An expert workshop on "Local Government and Human Rights Guidelines" reviewed the recommendation of the 4th WHRCF on developing2 

    guiding principles for local government and human rights, taking into account various standards related to the role of local government and city in implementing internationally recognized human rights. Such guiding principles, once adopted, will be a useful instrument to clarify the role of various actors and institutions, and to develop concrete strategies in implementing the recommendations of the present report and other recommendations from special procedures of the Human Rights Council, its UPR [Universal Periodic Review] mechanism and UN treaty bodies.

The expert workshop reviewed national experiences on human rights cities and recommended concrete measures that would help local governments adopt human rights city measures or sustain programs that are being implemented.

The Asia Local Democracy and Human Rights Cities Network (Asia LDC Net) was established by civil and social organizations from the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and Korea during the conference as a response to the importance of building a cooperative network among cities.


WHRCF 2016 Declaration

The participants of WHRCF 2016 adopted a declaration at the end of the conference that states the following commitments:3

1. Promise to lead the way for human rights cities, through stronger solidarity and tolerance, to help humanity regain freedom from the fear and terror arising from religious and racial conflicts;

2. Envision the local communities where human values are most respected as a goal for future cities, and recognize that citizen's participation and happiness are prerequisites for urban development;

3. Contribute to the spread of the concept of “local governments and human rights” currently under discussion at the United Nations so that it becomes general guiding principle in every city and request members of the United Nations Human Rights Council, including Republic of Korea, to adopt a resolution during their upcoming session in September calling for the research of guiding principles for local governments and human rights as a follow up effort of the 2015 report;

4. Endeavor to facilitate identification and sharing of detailed cases of human rights city policies and further institutionalize the concept through WHRCF 2016; and

5. Execute an objective assessment of the discussion results and tasks of WHRCF 2016 and use the assessment results as basis for WHRCF 2017.

The WCHRF 2016 had more than one hundred participants from thirty different countries and sixty two cities, in addition to those from Korea.

For further information, please contact: Korea Human Rights Foundation (KHRF), 4th Fl. Changbi Seogyo Building, 7 Worldcup-ro 12-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea 04004; ph (82-2) 363-0002; fax (82-2) 363-0208; e-mail: khrf99@gmail.com; www.humanrights.or.kr.



1    The WHRCF 2016 program and final declaration were presented as input to the process of defining the New Habitat Agenda. A delegation of cities, in alliance with the Indonesian Human Rights Cities Movement, brought the proposals at the Surabaya Preparatory Committee of the UN Habitat III.

2    Paragraph 78, Gwangju Guiding Principles on Human Rights City adopted on 17 May 2014 at the 4th World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF). See Concept Note and Program of the Expert Workshop on Local Government and Human Rights (24 May 2016).

3    Full text of the declaration available at the World Human Rights Cities Forum 2016, www.whrcf.org/page.php?page_code=E40200&act=view&idx=29.

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