Accountability in Action – Human Rights Action Plans of Local Governments: 4th Academy and Conference “Human Rights Go Local – What works”

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From 5 to 8 February 2024, the fourth edition of the Academy and Conference “Human Rights Go Local – What Works” was convened online. The Academy and Conference Series aims at demonstrating and synthesising innovative approaches and proven practices for protecting and promoting human rights at the local level, with the goal of making cities and human settlements more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

At this year’s Academy, representatives of international organisations, local authorities, human rights practitioners from all relevant sectors and members of the next generation came together to address the central role of local human rights action plans in promoting accountability. A total of 81 participants used their wealth of knowledge to exchange on the development and implementation of human rights action plans. They discussed practical aspects of anchoring human rights in local action plans, designing and implementing participatory processes for this purpose and ensuring effective monitoring of local human rights action plans. Through this collaborative dialogue and exchange, the Academy equipped local governments with the necessary tools to promote accountability effectively and efficiently.

The new edition of the publication series “Human Rights Go Local”, which is jointly published by the UNESCO Chair on Human Rights and Human Security and the UNESCO Category 2 Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights at the Local Level, was presented to the public at the Academy. The 5th volume of this series, entitled “Accountability in Action: Human Rights Action Plans of Local Governments“, explains how human rights action plans can make a real difference at the local level. It describes in a very practical way what local governments need to successfully develop and implement an action plan based on a human rights-based approach. The publication also provides examples of local human rights action plans and describes key factors that are essential to strengthen the capacity of local governments to promote accountability.

As in previous years, the main output of the Academy was the adoption of an Outcome Document. It is a collection of 14 encouragements with which the participants of the event aim to motivate local governments worldwide to adopt effective human rights action plans to strengthen their accountability. The encouragements will further be complemented with explanatory remarks so that they can also serve as concrete guidelines for the effective and sustainable integration of human rights into local action plans.

At the culmination of several intensive days of the Academy, the closing Conference took place on February 8, 2024. This year’s hybrid Conference was hosted in the Styrian television studio of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation and broadcasted live via Zoom. A total of 50 invited guests attended the Conference in person at the television studio, while an additional 350 attendees from 44 countries joined online.

The Conference commenced with a warm welcome from Renate Kicker and Klaus Starl of the International Centre, followed by Wolfgang Schaller, editor-in-chief of the Styrian television studio, and Peter Riedler, rector of the University of Graz. This set a tone of collaboration and shared commitment towards advancing human rights at the local level. Attendees were privileged to witness official opening statements by Elke Kahr, Mayor of Graz, along with dignitaries from the Federal Republic of Austria and the Federal Province of Styria.

A highlight of the Conference was the thought-provoking keynote speeches reflecting on 75 years of human rights treaties delivered by ADG Gabriela Ramos of UNESCO via video message and Marc Cools, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, who attended in person.

The heart of the event was the session dedicated to the Academy’s Outcome Document and the exploration of Human Rights Action Plans and their role in promoting accountability at the local level. Facilitated by Helmut Tichy, this high-level discussion featured a diverse panel of experts, including Elke Kahr (Mayor of Graz), Robert Lewis-Lettington (UN-Habitat), Pradeep Wagle (OHCHR), Najat Zarrouk (ALGA of UCLG-Africa), Evein Obulor (ECCAR), and Alexander Lesigang (Austrian Association of Cities and Towns), alongside online discussants Elliott King (Councillor of Swansea Council, UK), Adele Dunstan (City of Swansea, UK), and Aly Raposo (City of Winnipeg, Canada). Their shared perspectives and practical insights illuminated the importance of capacity-building, networking, and sharing best practices in advancing human rights agendas.

You can view the Conference here:

In conclusion, the “Human Rights Go Local” Conference served as a beacon of hope and empowerment, showcasing the transformative potential of Human Rights Action Plans in promoting accountability and advancing human rights for all at the local level.

As we reflect on the lessons learned and the connections forged during this year’s Academy and Conference, let us continue to work tirelessly towards creating a world where human rights are upheld, respected, and protected in every corner of society.

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