Human Rights Cities explained – why do we need them?

Date, time: 10 December 2020, 9.00-10.15

Venue: Zoom 


In June 2018 Bergen became a human rights city (HCR) joining more than forty other cities across the world. While there are many definitions of the concept of human rights cities, they are often defined as communities where everyone from ordinary citizens to policy-makers and local officials actively strive to protect and improve the lives of the city’s inhabitants. However, the actions taken after becoming human rights cities are highly context specific and the lack of guidelines has led to different focus areas and individual experiences for the current HCRs.

As HCRs become an ever more popular concept this seminar aims to look at what human rights cities are and what they do. Why are cities choosing to become human rights cities and what are they accomplishing by doing so? While it is clear that HCRs are especially concerned with human rights, what differentiates them from other cities? Why do we need cities that specifically work on human rights? Do not all cities, certainly in western democracies, strive towards upholding human rights? What processes have the individual cities been part of, and what actions have been taken after the new title? And what are the consequences for the city and its people once they declare themselves an HCR?


Join this seminar in which we will hear from four European HCRs as they tell us about their experiences. We will hear from representatives from Graz, Austria (the first European HRC); Lund, Sweden (Ulrika Dagård, Strategist Socal Sustainability and Human Rights); Utrecht, Netherlands (Hans Sakkers) and Bergen, Norway (Lubna Boby Jaffry Comissioner for Work, Social Services and Housing). They will talk about their work as human rights cities and join in a conversation moderated by Jostein Kobbeltvedt from the Rafto Foundation on Human Rights.


The 10th of December is the UN Day of Human Rights, a perfect day to focus on the work cities are doing to promote human rights at the local level and to highlight the function of human rights cities.