Nowadays most of the global population lives in urban areas, which puts the cities at the forefront in promoting human rights, innovation and progress in the society. Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals states ‘make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’. The role of the cities in this context is tackling poverty and providing equality measures for social justice and education.
There is not yet a clear guideline at local level regarding human rights, although cities such as Vienna are committed to helping the design and implementation of a human rights centred approach across a wide range of policy areas, to improve people’s lives. With the declaration of Vienna as the ‘City of Human Rights’, the city administration commits to respect and protect human rights in all areas of its competence and wants to serve as a role model at the local, national and international levels. It is a unique example of a city that has established a ‘Human Rights Office’ for coordination of this subject.
Vienna’s Human Rights Office has a main goal to implement the Vienna Declaration for all areas of action of the city administration. To pursue this aim, good governance and the holistic cooperation among political and administrative decision makers, the scientific community and civil society are essential; those are the elements that make the Human Rights City innovative.
The Vienna Declaration sets five strategic areas:
- The human rights approach, which is based on four pillars: transparency, accountability, non-discrimination and participation. The City of Vienna has a cross-cutting commitment to human rights in all its areas of competence, including the management of the Covid-19 crisis. The Human Rights Office acts as a connecting link between departments of the city administration, human rights organisations, NGOs and civil society.
- International cooperation and networking: the Human Rights Office is member of international networks. It hosts delegations, participates in international sessions, cooperates globally with the Human Rights Cities Network to exchange good practices and advise those who want to become members. It provides mutual support for capacity building in administrations and has an active role at the global level in cooperation with the UN, the EU and the Council of Europe.
- Human rights are promoted through learning activities such as conferences, events, training for city administration employees and cooperation with schools to build awareness among the younger generation.
- Dialogue with the civil society: the Human Rights Office promotes activities and new forms of participation, which aim to shape an urban culture on human rights such as round tables.
- Institutional provisions, action plans and monitoring include a steering group that has been established – ‘Human Rights City’ – which acts as an advisory board and provides strategic advice on the implementation of the declaration.
The outcomes of round tables, panel discussions, recommendations of the NGOs and civil society and other exchanges have been documented in policy papers. An action plan will be developed as a guideline for future activities.