The UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights and the conurbation authority of Plaine Commune, along with the towns of Saint-Denis and Aubervilliers (France), organized on 11 and 12 December 2012 the 1st World Summit of Local Governments for the Right to the City. The event was a real world platform of exchange of experiences among local government representatives, members of international networks of social movements and human rights experts.
The Summit was attended by around 200 participants and a total of 40 speakers from 16 countries, particularly Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, France, Mexico, Portugal, Senegal, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the United States of America.
The topic under discussion was the right to the city and which local policies can contribute to implement it. The experiences and initiatives presented were very varied and tackled the right to education, to adequate housing, to health, to non discrimination, to physical accessibility, to basic services and to employment, among other issues. Participants also discussed what possible tools would allow local administrations to permeate with an action framework based on human rights, and what possible protection mechanisms could be put into practice at local level.
Besides this, it was highlighted the need to build strategic alliances between local governments, civil society and social movements in order to face jointly the challenges which are posed today by urbanization. In this regard, representatives from both local authorities and social movements underlined it was critical to unite efforts so that the right to the city becomes a true pillar for local public policies, making it possible to move from diagnosis to an execution phase.
With this goal, participants discussed how to take forward the implementation of the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City and the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City. Regarding these two tools, it has to be noted that the adoption by UCLG of the Charter-Agenda motivated the shift that the Summit in Saint-Denis symbolized: moving from European events – focused on the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City – to international Summits – having as object of discussion not only the European Charter, but also the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City, as well as other municipal charters, such as the ones adopted in Montreal (Canada), Mexico City (Mexico), Gwangju (South Korea) or Vienna (Austria).
The 1st World Summit of Local Governments for the Right to the City ended with the adoption and reading of a final declaration containing the will of participants and of the Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) to keep working so that the right to the city becomes a reality in our cities and metropolises. In order to attain this goal, it was agreed that it is fundamental that local authorities adopt certain public policies. However, the necessity to have the international community recognize the role cities play in safeguarding human rights and right to the city, and to have UCLG considered a privileged interlocutor regarding urban issues, was also underlined.