Local Government and Human Rights: A progress report by the Advisory Committee for the Human Rights Council

unhrc-logoThe Advisory Committee for the Human Rights Council presented its progress report on the role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights (A/HRC/27/59)  for the 27th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, on September 4, 2014. Local Government is one of the seven thematic issues the Advisory Committee is currently working in relation to Human Rights.The report was based on research findings by the Advisory committee and questionnaires disseminated to various stakeholders that include, States, National Human Right institutions, Human Right CSO’s, local authorities, regional and international organizations.

The report begins with establishing the difference of local governments in structure and function in different countries, but asserts that their main role is to “promote sustainable and successful development of their territory, in the interests of their citizens; […] organize, commission, finance and deliver essential public services, both universal and targeted to those most in need; and [..] act as the democratic voice and advocate for their communities.

The importance of legislation and inclusion of mandates in legal frameworks is noted as an effective way to  ensure local governance and efficient implementation. The report recommends, having a constitution that recognizes and guarantees local government is better than a legislation passed by a national council for an adequate implementation of local government. Also, regulations delineating the scope and responsibility of local governments are essential to protect the abuse of power.

For local government to take precedence in protecting human rights, the report recommends the preferability of having  a legal provision that “obliges local government to protect and promote human rights”. This insures that local authorities are well aware of their responsibilities regarding human rights towards their constituents, and gives the right to the right holders to demand their human rights.  Local Government plays a major role in the protection and promotion of human rights since they are close to the citizens’ everyday life and carry out decision that are directly linked to human rights. However since the human rights framework is not taken into consideration in local decision makings the role of local government as the leading force for human right protection is not yet established.

The report cites the “Human Right City” initiative by People’s Movement for Human Rights Education, a non-profit international service organization, as an example and model for localizing Human rights. The initiative recognizes cities as the hub for the promotion and protection of human rights, and the need for inhabitants of a city to learn and understand international human rights norms for their realization. Local ombudspersons, consumer complaints boards, patient injury boards, anti-discrimination agencies, are recommended as some of the mechanisms for protection and promotion of human rights on local level. CSO’s are also noted as catalyzers in the process of localizing human rights. They play a major role by pressuring and  monitoring local governments, and building their capacity for efficient protection and promotion of human rights.

The report concludes its findings by citing  best practices  in regards to mainstreaming human rights into local government, and relating to specific human rights or groups. The best practices are based on feedbacks through the questionnaire the Advisory Committee disseminated as part of its research.

Read the full report here.

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