[URBANTH-L]NEWS: Human Rights Cities?

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Wed Jan 24 20:31:36 EST 2007

IPS News   1/24/07

Gavin Yates

NAIROBI - From Argentina to Senegal via India, Mali and Austria, a new model 
for community empowerment has begun to emerge.

>From its earliest beginnings in Rosario, Argentina, to newer developments 
here in Kenya at the 150,000 strong Korogocho slums of Nairobi, people are 
coming together to ensure that their basic human rights are upheld.

In Human Rights Cities, residents demand their basic human rights through 
advocacy, activities and awareness. At the World Social Forum on Tuesday, 
representatives from Human Rights Cities came from Rwanda, Ghana and Kenya 
to share their experiences of this way of living.

Improving slums

A representative from a Korogocho youth group said that before residents 
proclaimed that they would be a Human Rights City, the experience for the 
slum-dwellers was a harsh one: "People were being robbed for their clothes 
which were sold almost from their backs. But now people can walk at night, 
business is starting to grow and investment is coming in."

This experience of people reclaiming their communities from lawlessness has 
been replicated across the globe with one participant saying: "If you learn 
your human rights then you can claim them. If you do not you cannot go 

The concept of Human Rights Cities was formed by the People Movement for 
Human Rights Learning (PDHRE) based in New York. As of 2005, there were 15 
Human Rights Cities and communities in 11 countries, including a capital 
city - Accra, Ghana.

Individual projects have now taken on lives are their own and are completely 

A model for success

Raymond Atagobo is the Ghanaian representative at the WSF and he told the 
audience of the success of the four projects in his country particularly in 
terms of citizen advocacy. "When there are legal problems sometimes you have 
to use a lawyer but through our city of human rights we act can as a 
community and seek justice. You can depend on the power of the community. 
Recently 100 local people went to court and through numbers the application 
was granted."

Kathleen Modrowski from the PDHRE told IPS TerraViva that she believed that 
the Human Rights Cities project was a model for success.

"It really is creating a new dimension . in Rosario in Argentina we all know 
of the repression where people disappeared. Now people there know that human 
rights are our only option."

Even in Washington DC in the United States a City of Human Rights is being 
established. Modrowski explained why: "In Brooklyn NYC a young 
African-American has a 60 per cent chance of going to jail but only a 22 per 
cent chance of graduating high school. Life expectancy is 47 years old for 

Even in the so-called 'Land of the Free' it appears that active human rights 
is starting to become an essential for survival. 

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