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Developing Sustainable
Human Rights Cities

In 1997, more than 100 people including NGOs representing the academic and religious communities, women's, children's, labour, disabled, and indigenous groups, and many other community activists gathered with members of the Rosario municipality for a special meeting at City Hall and signed the following proclamation:

Rosario, A Human Rights Sensitive City: 1997-2000

In the city of Rosario, on June 30th, 1997, gathered in the Carrasco Hall of the City Hall, in a special session of the advising council of the women's department, with the presence of Shulamith Koenig, Executive Director of the People's Decade of Human Rights Education, the women and men that are signing below manifest their commitment to build a human rights community in Rosario. Such a community must promote, among women and men that live in the city, respect for human rights, equity and peace, activities which are inscribed in the Framework of the UN Decade For Human Rights Education, 1995-2004.

This historic 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. The government of Argentina, having ratified all the major human rights instruments with the same standing as its constitution, undertook an obligation to promote, implement, and enforce political, civil, economic, social and cultural human rights of all women, men, youth and children.

The people of Rosario, in the process of developing a Human Rights City, are undertaking a wide range of activities to enable community members to learn, monitor and take actions that will weave a human rights way of life in their community and bring about economic and social change necessary for sustainable development

In the last year, plans have been drawn to implement this commitment. A Citizens' Committee was established in which all sectors of society are represented. Committee members are attending human rights seminars to learn about all aspects of human rights as they relate to the life of the people in the city and are sharing it with their constituencies. Furthermore, the committee had started to analyze and examine the interconnectedness of human rights violations and realization in the city and is initiating various neighborhood dialogues about social and economic justice and good governance within a human rights framework. A sub-Committee is 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 (which has been 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.

As the educational process progresses, they will work to develop a "strategic plan" that will address all actors (state and non-state) affecting human rights from the community, national and international levels. They may develop a human rights court and mechanisms of checks and balances, as well as a human rights ombudsperson office.

Work with the police has been particularly rewarding. After a training session with police cadets from the whole region of Santa Fe, the director of the Police Academy in his concluding remarks noted, "There is no other option but human rights". After several trainings, the police are now 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.

This first-year programme has been supported by a one-time small grant from the Ford Foundation through PDHRE but larger longer-term funds are now required to sustain this process towards building a Sustainable Human Rights Community in Rosario.

In 2000, thanks to the initiative of the Human Rights Sensitive City we introduced a new and broader way of approaching  monitoring duties. We called people involved in that initiative and asked them to share efforts in preparing a chapter of the Argentina shadow report, looking at what was happening in our city. (Of course this proposal had side effects, as for instance, that they had to read the Covenant, to analyze General Comments, etc.)

Then, the information was edited and integrated to the one coming from other provinces. This proposal let all people involved the possibility of knowing more in depth the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the existence of the Committee; and the opportunity of exercising citizenship rights trough the following up of the commitments our state made in the international arena. In this way, we also linked the local, national and international spheres. One representative of the "Human Rights Community" (Viviana de la Siega, from the ombudsman office) is going with me to Geneva to present it.

The following is a brief overview of activities in 2000:

* Monthly meetings of the Human Rights Community Steering Committee.
* 12 sessions of Movie-Debate: The salt of the Earth (US movie, forbidden in the US, where ethnic, national, gender and class discrimination is addressed)-   We also passed the video that tells how the 10 persons involved in the movie went to jail during 5 years because of this film, to discuss censorship. We selected other movies with the same quality. (from January till September)
* Human Rights Seminar to the High Officials of the Police- Provincial Police High Studies Institute- September 2000.
* Human Rights education program with the Toba Community - April till now-
* Human Rights Seminar for the Municipality officials. (May)
* Human Rights education program with primary school children in the Ludueña neighbourhood.


For more information, please contact PDHRE:

The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) / NY Office
Shulamith Koenig / Executive Director
526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025, USA
tel: +1 212.749-3156; fax: +1 212.666-6325
e-mail: pdhre@igc.org