Expanding our scope

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The ETC’s development to hosting the International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights on the Local and Regional Levels

The ETC – a local actor with global outlook
The local and regional implementation of human rights has been at the heart of the ETC’s agenda since its establishment in 1999. In 18 years of activity, the ETC has successfully positioned itself as a forerunner in the field, offering trainings and intensive research on the local, national and regional levels.

Several partnerships have been carefully nurtured over many years and have seen great outputs both in theoretical and practical terms – the ETC has published dozens of research papers, conducted a plethora of trainings, contributed to the discipline of human rights education, and taken an active stance in representing the importance of human rights as a “lived experience” in various spheres.

In 2016, the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and Human Security was established at the University of Graz in close cooperation with the ETC. Similarly, efforts towards establishing and furthering the Human Rights City of Graz have been realised in partnership. In the years since its inception, over 100 local authorities have been advised by the ETC, particularly relating to inclusion, anti-discrimination, and equality. The ETC can be said to have established itself as a major player in the field of human rights implementation on the local and regional levels, and is well-respected for its expertise, interdisciplinary methodology, and human rights-based approach. It has contributed extensively to local institution-building on human rights and has a proven track record in human rights education and scientific research.

With changing global dynamics come changing responsibilities
In line with recent international developments, the ETC must therefore re-focus and adapt its scope of activity to current needs and happenings. Together with several stakeholders, increased efforts have been undertaken to further the implementation of human rights within the country, and also globally. This stands in close relation to advancements on the global level, such as the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, as well as the New Urban Agenda. The New Urban Agenda can be seen as a framework that lays out how cities should be best planned and managed to promote sustainable development and urbanisation. In line with this, the Agenda 2030 posits a total of 17 goals that outline global spheres of activity to address sustainable development, one of which is directly addressed to local governments (SDG 11).

Looking ahead
In order to meet these requirements, the operational goals of the ETC have been re-focused in the framework of the International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights at the Local and Regional Levels. This brings increased efforts towards capacity building on the local level, together with becoming a resource base for information and active global proponent of a human-rights based approach in local and regional governance. The current International Centre builds on the ETC’s expertise and will contribute to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and Agenda 2030 through research, capacity building, information sharing, and international cooperation. The focus will be put on urban inclusion related commitments of the New Urban Agenda. Again, these undertakings are firmly grounded in the plethora of interdisciplinary research on the local implementation of human rights, conducted on all levels.

We see ourselves as confirmed in our previous outlooks, and strengthened in our future plans to play a part in helping to realise the local and regional implementation of human rights. Still, we also recognise that our commitment must adapt to changing global dynamics, take a pragmatic approach, build new networks, and uncover new areas of activity.

Changing dynamics also merit new approaches
Space has been created for a Human Rights Lab – an innovative platform where new methods to education and capacity building can be developed, tested, and evaluated. In the lab, the goal is to create appropriate instruments and training methodologies for improved capacity-building in various contexts.

At the same time, intensive international partnerships are envisioned that see an increased focus on Africa and the Middle East. The first steps towards realising capacity-building in these regions have already been made. This cooperation will be taken further through the creation of a large-scale Forum, which will gather international, regional, and local authorities and organisations, networks, and civil society actors to advance the implementation of human rights at the local and regional levels.

Furthermore, the International Centre is in the midst of setting up a globally unique clearinghouse, including a systematic collection, analysis, and dissemination of good practices at city-level in the spheres of human rights education and local-capacity building. In order to contribute to this as a Centre, an increased focus will be put on research activities that build the knowledge base for these areas of work, mainstream human rights in monitoring and evaluation and support the implementation of a human rights-based approach on a larger scale of governance.

Finally, in late 2017, the UNESCO General Assembly unanimously voted to declare the establishment of an International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights on the Local and Regional Levels, under the auspices of UNESCO. The International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights at the Local and Regional Levels is thereby a designated UNESCO Category II Centre – an institution with the specific goal of capacity-building, knowledge sharing, and research. Several such Centres exist across the globe, but the Graz Centre is only the second worldwide to focus on human rights and the first focusing on the local level.

To sum up
After 18 years of intensive activity in the local and regional implementation of human rights, the ETC has grown to a flourishing International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights at the Local and Regional Levels, designated to host a UNESCO Category 2 Centre. The long-nurtured multi-governance, interdisciplinary, and human-rights based approach is set to expand from 2018 onwards, with strong support from actors at the local, federal, and national levels. Within a global, regional, local (municipal) and inter-regional scope, the work of the Centre will more broadly involve targeted research, capacity-building, clearing-housing, and international cooperation. We look forward to the challenge!

Klaus Starl, Director of the ETC Graz
Gerd Oberleitner, UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and Human Security