The Policy Council on “The Right to the City and Inclusive Territories” convened on Tuesday, 9 February, to provide a space for local leaders to deliberate on key issues to address in 2021. The Policy Council is co-chaired by Armand Béouindé, Mayor of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Claudia López, Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, and Philippe Rio, Mayor of Grigny, France.
UCLG Secretary-General Emilia Sáiz opened the meeting, recalling that this Policy Council is the result of long-standing partnerships with civil society organizations and that, in its previous composition, it had triggered discussions on issues such as housing, digital rights, and human mobility and migration. Pointing to UCLG’s work on developing a “Pact for the Future,” she highlighted discussions held in the Policy Council will especially help shaping the Pact’s axis of “Caring for People.”
Co-Chair Rio emphasized the value of the 2011 UCLG Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City and noted the objective to revise the charter ahead of the UCLG Congress in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, in 2022.
Co-Chair Béouindé emphasized the need for local governments to enhance their capacity to address challenges, such as rising inequality in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted that cooperation in the context of the UCLG can contribute to this.
In a keynote address, Todd Howland, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), welcomed the partnership between OHCHR and UCLG as a valuable opportunity to identify good practices, better understand challenges, and ultimately contribute to improving respect for human rights globally.
Hannes Lagrelius, World Blind Union, provided a second keynote address. He underscored that true inclusion cannot be achieved without ensuring accessibility. Pointing to the UCLG Policy Paper on Inclusive and Accessible Cities, among other frameworks, he said UCLG action on this issue can inspire its members to act accordingly.
In the remainder of the session, moderated by Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary-General of UCLG Africa, local representatives shared their perspectives on key issues related to the Policy Council’s thematic focus. Key points included:
- local governments, being closest to people on the ground, have a key role to play in ensuring respect for human rights;
- a new generation of rights is emerging, including digital rights;
- the COVID-19 pandemic highlights persistent inequalities, notably in terms of gender equality and accessibility for persons with disabilities;
- a new approach to migration governance is needed, centering on solidarity and respect for human rights; and
- local and regional leaders need to be supported in stepping up for human rights, including by better tackling online hate speech.
In closing, Secretary-General Sáiz said the UCLG Annual Retreat, taking place from 15-22 February 2021, will discuss many of the topics raised during the session, including how to further build on the 2014 Charter of Lampedusa and the 2011 UCLG Charter-Agenda on Human Rights. She said participants will also discuss new concepts, such as digital rights, and the evolving definition of citizenship given, among others, the migrant crisis.