Human Rights Cities
Knowing, Claiming and Securing
The Vision | PDHRE, Moving Power to Human Rights | Knowing Claiming and Securing Our Rights to Be Human | The Concept of the Human Rights Cities, Step by Step | Human Rights Cities in Development: Rosario, Argentina | Thies, Senegal | Nagpur, India | Kati, Mali | Dinajpur, Bangladesh | Graz, Austria | The People of Abra, Philippines
HUMAN RIGHTS CITIES
I. ROSARIO, Argentina -The first Human Right City! -population one milion
-Being facilitated by Instituto de Genero y Desarrollo and PDHRE.
Rosario’shistoric proclamation highlights the opportunities available to ordinary citizens and community activists to use the powerful space for action made available by human rights norms, standards and instruments that the Government of Argentina had ratified.
A Citizens' Committee was established in which all sectors of society are represented. Committee members are attending ongoing human rights seminars…-- learning which they share with their constituencies. These include a wide range of activities to promote specific economic and social change. The committee has started to analyze and examine the interconnectedness of human rights violations and realization in the city and has initiated various neighborhood dialogues about social and economic justice and good governance within a human rights framework.
A designated sub-committee is continuously examining governmental obligations and commitments under international law, and defining various solutions to problems in Rosario of poverty, unemployment, violence against women, malnutrition, marginalization, education, police brutality, gay and lesbian issues, and the relationship with the business and industrial community. A volunteer group, comprised of human rights experts, educators, lawyers, and members of the media is available to support the committee in its work, responding to the self-defined needs and requests of the community.
The guiding principles of this process, are: accountability, participation, reciprocity, transparency and a commitment to eradicate poverty (identified as a human rights violation in the UNDP 1999 Human Development Report) by attending to human needs such as food, health, housing, education and work at livable wages. The committee is holding on-going training of trainers programs with, by and for, municipal workers, police, judges, business people, teachers and health care workers. They are devising creative forms of monitoring and advocacy such as testimonies, city hall meetings, street theater, and community discussions.
It is expected that they will lobby for amending local and national laws, and for an allocation of financial resources that ensures the on-going city development plan will meet the needs of the community.
Work with the police has been particularly rewarding. It is reflected in ongoing human rights training which have taken place in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 and have become a mainstay-training program for the police in the region of Santa Fe where Rosario is its capital. As a result of the trainings, the police are engaged in a dialogue with local gay, lesbian and transvestite groups to stop the discrimination against them, and to collaborate in human rights education in the neighborhoods.
After Training Session with police cadets, who came from the entire region of Santa Fe, the director of the Police Academy in concluding his remarks said:
As the educational process progresses the committee will attend to developing a "strategic plan" that will address all actors, state and non-state, affecting human rights violations and realizations in the City. They may develop a human rights court and mechanisms of checks and balances, as well as a human rights ombudsperson office.
Shadow report. In the year 2000, a new and broader way of approaching monitoring duties was introduced. The people of Rosario were asked to collaborate in the preparation of a chapter of the Argentina Shadow Report, on Political and Civil Rights. Those involved had to learn about the Covenant, analyze General Comments, and document its relevance to the City of Rosario. They have exercised their citizenship trough the following up of the commitments Argentina made in the international arena. In this way, the process linked the local, national and international spheres. One representative of the "Human Rights City" went to Geneva to present the report.
Human Rights Education
With primary school children in the Toba and Ludueña neighborhood.
A group of young people from the Toba and Ludueña neighborhoods had maintained close contacts and worked in the neighborhood for about four years. The community organization is sustained by a group of ‘self-organized mothers’. Groups of children, originally all boys, but girls joined the group later, from vulnerable situations, many of them with relatives in jail, meet once a week, with continuous conversations between meetings. A flexible and permeable attitude was being cultivated to adapt to the concrete demands and needs of the group. Many of the originally planned activities had to be re-thought and re-designed when it became clear that most of the boys lacked the oral and written fluency to deal with abstract materials, leading to body-based activities, dynamic corporeal games, and the creation of a base of trust and empathy. The work’s impact was vastly increased by group work.
Other activities in 2000 included: Monthly meetings of the Human Rights Community Steering Committee, 12 sessions of Movie-Debate starting with The Salt of the Earth (a US movie, originally banned in the US, addressing ethnic, national, gender and class discrimination. The issue of Censorship was discussed while learning about the 10 people who were involved in producing the movie were jailed for five years.) And: Human Rights Seminar for Police High Officials, Human Rights education program with the Tuba Indigenous Community, Human Rights Seminar for Municipality officials.
CURRENT ACTIVITIES AND PLAN OF ACTION
The steering committee, encouraging this initiative since 1997, is together with many other human rights groups and organizations in the region working to promote the respect for economic, social and cultural human rights. One of the major challenges is to apply the human rights framework on NAFTA. Members of the steering committee participated in the Porto Alegre World Social Forum in Brazil, in February 2001. They brought back to Rosario the enthusiasm of human rights activists in Porto Alegre for a stronger participation of the local community in shaping the municipal budget. These experience lead to the preparation of a plan of action that promotes the creation of community spaces for the debate:
-Education of Human rights in a fully comprehensive holistic way.
The present challenges are to promote participation in the local decision making process, and to link this participation with monitoring activities. Continuing human rights activities in the neighborhoods is expected to enhance this process.
Disseminating Human rights educational materials and organize learning activities was the first step. The second step, involves monitoring actions for the purpose of analyzing how The Government of Argentina fulfills its obligations. Specially, how the funds of the local budget are distributed, and how this distribution respects the need to promote gender, ethnic, racial, economic and social equality, including positive actions to achieve equality. The third step will call on organization for participation in the decision making process. During the years2001 and 2002, all activities will consider these perspectives.
A strong promotion of social citizenship will include seminars about the indivisibility and universality of human rights. The Interconnectedness of Political Civil, Economic Social and Cultural Human Rights are some of the concerns. A gender approach will permeate the learning and training process. A special Commission will study the local budget, analyzing the direct benefit to women and men in the community and investigating if social, ethnic and gender equality is respected in the allocation of resources. Hearings with the local authorities to discuss the findings of the Commission will be held.
The Axial points for the debate are:
-The transformation of reduced civil and political citizenship to an inclusive social citizenship…-- incorporating, in the debate: discrimination and domination mechanisms; the interconnectedness of all human rights to overcome the evil division of human rights in categories with different hierarchies and the importance of implementing human rights mechanisms. And more; Citizenship Vs. Charity; the access to food, housing, education, healthcare and work at livable wages…--sharing these resources, not a gift but the full realization of their human rights and learning how to monitor international instruments at the local level. Very often, international regulations are seen far away from the local arena.
-The connection between international human rights treaties and
the exercise of
-Developing participatory municipal budgets: working to devise a process of monitoring the budget and combining it with the decision-making process; examining the percentage of the municipal budget -from 10% to 15%- that is not previously committed to enhance the fulfillment of economic and social concerns of the people of the city of Rosario.
II THIES, Senegal
- Being facilitated by TOSTAN AND PDHRE , -population 250,000
TOSTAN, the facilitator of the human rights City was initially developed in the 1980s as a non-formal basic education program taught in local languages using the African oral traditions of songs, poems, theater, and music. The curriculum included reading, writing and math plus modules in problem solving, health and hygiene, financial and material management, leadership and group dynamics, and the conduct of feasibility studies. In 1994, additional modules were created in women’s health and early childhood development based on a human rights framework. The outstanding success of that approach in instilling confidence and changing behavior has led TOSTAN in recent years to emphasize human rights in its program of non-formal education and to the development of a human rights city in Thies, Senegal.
Steps towards developing a sustainable human rights city in Thies Senegal started in 1998 with ten villages declaring themselves "Human Rights Villages". The objective was for people to learn and understand the philosophy and principles of Human Rights. By knowing the human rights framework they could assess the different violations in their neighborhoods, and organize themselves and create plans of action. Years of intensive, holistic learning about human rights, in these villages, lead to abandoning the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) and to the now famous Malicounda Declaration - A Declaration to stop the practice of FGC.) Since 1998, more than 280 villages have declared themselves "Human Rights Villages" as part of the FGC Declaration. One of the early effects of the process had women claiming: "Land is a Human Right" and obtaining parcels of land to grow crops of their choice.
The first phase of developing the city of Thies as a human rights City was initiated in early 1999, involving eleven neighborhoods from the 56 in the city. Facilitators were selected from each of the neighborhoods to participate in a training program on human rights and community organizing. This has resulted in numerous activities being undertaken in each of the neighborhoods to assess the immediate human rights needs of its members. Highlights of such activities include:
Children between the ages of nine and eighteen, upon learning about education as a human right, realized that many of their friends did not go to school because they were not registered at birth. In response, they created small teams that went from house to house in the eleven neighborhoods, retrieved the necessary information and registered the 2,745 children they had identified. Next, a committee of these young activists went to the Mayor’s office to request that more schoolrooms to be made available for these children.
Neighborhood members acting on the belief that work is a human right identified the extreme poverty of widows in their community and pooled funds to buy sewing machines and millet grinders for these women, together with training and small loans to open their own small businesses. Four education and vocational centers have been opened for several hundred young women who had not attended school. Each center has a small store where cloth, food, and crafts made by these young women are sold (proceeds go to the maker of the item). As part of their learning about rights and responsibilities, each of the young women attending the "schools" has to pay 300 CFA to become a "bone fide" student.
Women and men in several of the neighborhoods learning about health as a human right joined hands to clean up the mountains of garbage and established norms for garbage disposal and informed the community accordingly. They also called on the Mayor’s office to assume responsibility for garbage collection.
The facilitators call periodic meetings for neighborhood dwellers to identify various human rights violations in the community and discuss what actions to take. This has led to groups of men and women intervening in families regarding inheritance issues and violence against women.
Now in its second year, an additional 26 neighborhoods have been included in the human rights city programs, bringing it to a total of 37 neighborhoods. Activities are underway to transforming individuals, families and communities through the TOSTAN human rights approach. Fully two-thirds of the neighborhoods of Senegal’s second largest city are committed to empowering and bringing about social transformation in the lives of men, women and children.
PROGRAM GOALS ARE:
-The organization of functional committees to analyze problems and initiate projects to solve them, respecting the Human Rights of all members.
-The application of the concepts in daily life, with people attempting to align their mentalities and behavior more closely to Human Rights ideals.
To reach these goals, numerous learning sessions are being held in the neighborhoods followed by support to neighborhoods as the people themselves develop and implement action plans in the context of the human rights framework.
To initiate the second year program, community activists contacted local authorities to share the program with them. Many meetings were held with several NGOs, the Police, the Governor of Thies, and the local authorities from the Rural Council and the Mayor’s office. Project coordinators visited many neighborhoods to make the selection of the additional ones. After numerous meetings with the heads of neighborhoods, women’s groups, sports associations and more, twenty-six neighborhoods were selected. Facilitators were selected and trained in several intensive sessions drawing from the experience in the 11 neighborhoods. Volunteers from the 11 neighborhoods are working with them..
After the training, facilitators and project coordinators met with representative groups from each of the 26 neighborhoods to explain the program and answer questions. Pilot committees were formed in each neighborhood and lists of participants were established for the human rights training. Although there are official lists of participants, it was made clear that all people are welcome to attend the class meetings. As is usual in Senegal, most of the social mobilization meetings began late, but this in no way hampered the enthusiastic response. Two communities presented initial challenges. In both Payenne and Darou Salam, before they received clarification, local power brokers viewed the Human Rights program as a threat. At the introductory meetings in both neighborhoods, the coordinator explained the non-political nature of human rights training and the concerns dissipated.
This preliminary phase ended by the facilitators and coordinators discussing issues of mutual concern and the impact of the preparatory phase. They noted the readiness of the selected communities to begin the Human Rights training.
The program was started with Facilitators in each neighborhood asking the participants to develop a collective vision for the community challenging them to identify the role of education in contributing to meet objectives to reach that vision. They discussed each participant’s own responsibility, the need to respect human dignity and the need for sustainable development for the benefit of all. The international instruments for Human Rights are being studied at present.
Participants are also learning techniques for discussion and mediation. The average attendance at each neighborhood class has been about 50 residents who form the core of the group. Sometimes, as many as 100 people, show up for a meeting. There is sustained, active interest in the program in all 26 neighborhoods. Local religious leaders including priests and Imams who have publicly declared that Human Rights are consistent with their understanding of religion have attended several class meetings. In one community, the Marabout recommended to his son that he become a member of a steering committee. That son is now an active participant. While stressing the non-sectarian nature of Human Rights-based activities,
During a meeting in Ngenthe Serere, twenty-two children between the ages of 8-15 presented a short play based on a child’s right to peace and security. The interest and involvement of adolescents in Human Rights training is exceptional and an exciting trend. The youngsters are actively listening, discussing and proposing ideas; they are participating along with adults in group activities and generating projects of their own.
As an example of the immediate impact of the training, a group in Thially and another in Abattoir had a longstanding -five-year- dispute. After a discussion of conflict resolution and human rights they were able to solve the problem; it no long exists. Other example of problem solving occurred in the Dioung neighborhood. Lacking skills in the conduct of meetings, a sports association initially reported difficulty in attracting participants. Through Human Rights training, they have learned how to conduct meetings; their programs are now well attended. In that same neighborhood, a group of women concluded that attendance at their meetings would be enhanced by tea-debates. They now serve tea to their attentive audiences.
The need for developing income-generating small business projects has been a persistently expressed theme in the Human Rights in the neighborhoods. Believing that "human freedom must go hand in hand with economic freedom." (Amartya Sen). Several villages requested our assistance for their proposed income generating project -- As human right! For that purpose small loans, totaling $US 35.00 per person, to groups of at least eight persons, have been awarded in thirty-one localities. Loans have been repaid every eight months at a 95% success rate. The fund was capitalized at approximately US $10,700 two years ago. The return to beneficiaries is calculated at $12,800. Funds from profits are being expended on projects including health, food, clothing and the raising of small animals.
On December 9, the human rights city participants joined to mark the fifty-second anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Over 1000 people were in attendance. One woman who had participated in the training explained to the hushed crowd how much change she has noticed in her neighborhood.
She emphasized all the new activity being generated to identify and start up revenue-generating projects despite the absence of funding.
The activities now scheduled in Thies include:
training in the neighborhoods.
-The further development of Action plans and its implementation .
-A three month media and neighborhood campaign on human rights.
-City-wide march for human rights in June and an evaluation of program
III. NAGPUR, India
-Being facilitated by YUVA and PDHRE, -population 2.8 million
In December 1999, the city of Nagpur, India was inaugurated as a Human Rights Sensitive City by PDHRE’s local partner, YUVA, in association with other local NGOs, CBOs, municipal officials, the office of the Mayor, lawyers groups, representatives from academia, business and various other professions and stake holders. Several in-depth training and dialogues followed the inauguration, which was heralded throughout the city with posters at major road intersections, with environmentalists, educators, economists, women’s organizations and local youth groups. Each session concentrated on the practical challenges of making Nagpur a human rights sensitive city. The three-day event concluded with a Rally led by some of the poorest slum communities in the city, and a city-wide one day meeting of women organizations who came together to reaffirm the commitment made and to join in defining the needs for the realization of human rights. A citizen’s committee has now been formed to follow processes and methodologies similar to those being undertaken in Rosario.
The continuous degradation and dismal performance of the human rights record especially in urban centers can be attributed to the stresses of urbanization. Urban settlements have become the primary centers for the struggles for development. On the threshold of the next millennium, one observes the creation of a new urban world wherein old cities are bursting and new ones are being created at an unprecedented speed. And old and new ones are growing to size that defy the imagination. At the dawn of the next century, half the humanity will live and work in the cities and towns, while the other half will increasingly rely on these urban centers, which can least, afford to take care of them. Cities and towns are seriously affected by grave development problems like overcrowding; environmental degradation due to excessive production and consumption leading to pollution of air, water, solid and liquid wastes; social disruption; under employment; and poor housing; infrastructure and services. Most of the violations of human rights owe their origin to these issues.
Nagpur lies in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, situated in the very heart of India; 832 kms from Mumbai by rail. Though it is an educational, administrative and cultural center of the region, it remains economically backward. With the changing economic context and thrust towards exports, its resources of rich minerals like coal, manganese, forests, orange gardens and agricultural potential have been noticed. Industrial sectors have also emerged to exploit this rich and natural resource potential. Nagpur is also becoming a major distribution center in the tertiary sector (food, domestic gas etc.). This makes Nagpur one of the faster urbanizing cities of the State of Maharashtra. The winter session of the State Legislature is also hosted Nagpur, giving the city of political importance.
The city of Nagpur is also fast growing as an important metropolitan and industrial hub of the central India. The ever-increasing problems of degradation in environment, health, but also in civic life, legal and political issues seem to have surrounded the everyday life of a common man. What used to be stray incidences of violation of/or individual’s human rights has become a marked feature of everyday life. Some cases do come to the limelight and get redress, while a large number of these go Un-noticed, Un-reported and Un-attended. In short, the human rights record of the city is absolutely discouraging. There must be a concerted effort on the part of the citizen to bring to the notice all such cases of violations of human rights.
In this context, the concept and implementation of a Human Rights City of Nagpur became extremely crucial and critical. A human rights city is one all of whose members, from policy makers to ordinary citizen, learn about and adhere to human rights obligations. Relating human rights norms to their immediate and practical concerns, they join to make a commitment to enter into a community- wide dialogue for the purpose of developing the guidelines of their human rights community. All organizations - public and private - join to monitor violations and implementation of human rights at all levels of the society. They develop the methodology to ensure that human rights norms and standards bind all decisions, laws, policies, resource allocation, and relationships at all levels of the decision-making and problem solving process.
The primary objective of the human rights community was to transform the general public into educator, monitor and ‘documenter’ of human rights in the city of Nagpur by launching a massive awareness campaign. This community can help ensure that the government will fulfill their human rights obligations to their people. The creation of a human rights community in Nagpur would mean:
YUVA, Nagpur facilitating the activities in the city has been working for more than 15 years in the field of Human rights to obtain social and economic justice, equality and empowerment. These activities will be fully integrated into the program of the human rights city: Some these are:
ACTIONS BEING TAKEN TO DEVELOP A SENSITIVE HUMAN RIGHTS CITY
Identification of targets groups and issues in the city
Child Human Rights * Physical and mental abuse * Labor Human Rights * Trade Unions
Planning Human Rights (HR) Activists
Initial process was to list HR activist, already involved with community work through information available in print media, through known contacts, visiting university - HR departments, university libraries, advocates working on issues related to Human Rights etc. This led to Individual and group meetings to understand their levels of interest. What emerged is a group of committed people who joined to work on the concept building process. The process then moved in the form of a study groups with expert inputs coming in, leading to the formation of a core group.
Identification of stakeholders
The next critical step was identification of stakeholders and sharpening the approach on involvement of various stakeholders. Again the core group took the initiative to list down the names of all stakeholders as follows: NGO community, CBOs, HR activists, Women in development, Environmentalists, Lawyers, Doctors, Journalists, Academicians, Institutions, Corporations, Media & Press, Handicapped Children, Youth, Vendors, Slum dwellers, Unorganized sector, Organized sector, Trade unions, Bureaucrats, U.L.S Bodies, Counselors, Corporate sector, financial institute, Elected representatives, the government of Nagpur, a wide range of NGOs community and religious leaders, educators and media workers, all persons in positions of political, cultural, economic and religious leadership, women in development, as well as activists working on housing, food, health, education, development and peace issues, involving women, children and men. Youth group activists with the ability to mobilize young people throughout the country; including students as well as unemployed young people and those working in the self-employed and agricultural sector. People involved in communication; the media and traditional communicators (grits and hunter societies, chasers). Educators in the formal and nonformal sectors. Union organizers, Members of the judiciary, Health workers, especially those involved in areas of women and children's health care.
Criteria for Selection
The process of developing a Human Rights City was to fully involve all sectors of society working on issues that are meaningful to the daily lives of the people of the community. Full representation and participation of all sectors was the central element of the plan.
Against this background, a half-day dialogue was organized in Jun ’99 to facilitate collaboration between Government organization, NGOs, CBOs, professionals, HR activists and all the stakeholders at city level and accommodate a more holistic approach. One of the rationales of this dialogue was to educate the people on the human rights and then to campaign for the safeguard of human rights. The dialogue was attended by participants representing the NGOs, CBOs, lawyers, environmental groups, people from electronic and print media, retired professionals from government and public sector undertakings, Labor unions and academic institutions.
This dialogue proved to be very valuable and gave inputs to strengthen and accommodate a more holistic approach to the Human Rights Community Process.
Some of the responses from the participants during the dialogue were:
At the end of the dialogue, a working group was formed, to take the process forward. Through this dialogue also emerged the idea of celebrating Human Rights Day in December 1999 on a large scale. It was also suggested that Ms. Shulamith Koenig of PDHRE would be visiting India during that period and that she could be attending the Programme.
Activities of the Working Group
Working group had regular meetings once in a week or fortnight to plan for the future plan of action. These meetings with lot of ardor culminated into the plan for preparation of appeal letters and they took the responsibility of distribution of these to nearly 5000 people. Appeal letter gave the details of the ‘Sustainable Human Rights Community" and the possibilities of participation and involvement’ in this process. Regular meetings resulted in mass awareness campaign, sending appeal letters, preparing reading material and reaching out to people through press and media.
After the distribution of appeal letters, immediate preparation of basic human rights materials together with local activists and CBOs (community based organizations) was initiated. The material was developed in Hindi and Marathi (local languages). These materials include:
Media. The press and media play a vital role in the dissemination of information about human rights. Media people need to have adequate knowledge of human rights issues, laws and forums. Informal l (Future discussions were planned.)
DAY 2 Human rights conventions
The Convention was organized specifically for the urban poor: to awake awareness, to increase
Their involvement and participation as well as future steps towards the spread of this campaign inthe city of Nagpur. About 700 slum dwellers involved in the housing rights, food security rights, child right and women right, unorganized daily laborers and Women organizers put forth their issues. The people responded with a few bold points regarding their problems, desired for their future and action plans. They publicly took the responsibilities to spread the knowledge of human Rights within the city.
The people enthusiastically presented their views about the human rights through Plays and Songsin local language, and took a Pledge
" We will accept nothing less than Human Rights,/ We will
DAY 3 Stakeholders
subject. The workshop focused on suggesting steps to create mechanism for taking the process forward. Participants responded in a positive manner by accepting the responsibility of information dissemination and the preparation of reading. Materials.
In addition to the specific efforts of rule making and standard setting, as well as intergovernmentalco-operation with regard to the various agenda items of human security, there is a critical need fora long term pro active development strategy, based on a multi-generational process of human rights learning. We had provided an opportunity for elected representatives of people to interact and create links with Human Rights activist in order to achieve a common level of understanding.
Success and Impact
Eight groups have been formed; a Plan of Action based on their in puts has been prepared. A wide response was received via Telephone and Letters from the local people who are affected by the violation of human rights. The State Government has committed itself to set up a State Human Rights Commission. Some groups have supported the mission of the project enthusiastically and have mobilized successfully. Several City Counselors supported the campaigners. Awareness was created with the support of local cable TV Channel.
DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ACTION PLANS
The following Implementing Committees were established:
In addition to the above planned processes, the Human Rights City Secretariat has planned the following actions:
HUMAN RIGHTS DAYS
To raise public awareness and call attention to specific human rights issues in the city of Nagpur various celebrations were held through out the city. These were:
* Food Security Day: 17 Sept. 2000 * Housing Rights Day: 2nd Oct. 2000
* Child Rights Day: 14 Sept. 2000 * Youth Rights Day: 12th Jan. 2001
* Unorganized Workers Day: 1st May, 2001. * Environmental rights Day: 6th June. 2001
Future plans: Support and Solidarity in the City
Open Forums amongst the citizens
Preparation of a human rights charter for the city of Nagpur
Developing a Human Rights Citizen Forum
Establishing of a Human Rights Court in the city
Establishing a Human Rights Commission for the city of Nagpur.
Attending to the legal structure and implementation of the plans of action.
Establishing of a Fact Finding Committee
Creating a legal base for the city
Establishing a Fact Finding committee
Public Interest Litigation
Research on facts and figures of human rights violations and realization
Case studies and reporting
Documentation of the process
For more information, please contact PDHRE:
The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) / NY Office
The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) / NY Office