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Background: Two decades of local government networking for human rights and the right to the city

Throughout two decades, the Committee has fostered local government debates on social inclusion, participatory democracy and human rights, achieving in perspective a noteworthy outcome - from the effective promotion of human rights and the right to the city in global agendas, to the strengthening of cooperation between worldwide cities.

The origins of the Committee lie in the first editions of the Forum of Local Authorities for Social Inclusion and Participatory Democracy (FAL): A space of reflection and debate composed by tens of local authorities held in parallel to the World Social Forums. In 2005, a year after the creation of the new international organization of local governments – UCLG – local authorities around the FAL decided to establish a more institutionalized working structure within it. This led to the creation of the Committee on Social Inclusion and Participatory Democracy.

Since its inception back in 2005, the Committee was present at various FAL editions and maintained dialogue with civil society participating in the World Social Forums. The Committee thus became essential for bringing debates taking place in these forums to the political debates held within UCLG, while undertaking its own initiatives based mainly on social inclusion and participatory democracy.

A third working area - human rights - would be formally added to the Committee's full name in 2011. The concept of human rights cities was extensively developed through two political documents promoted in the framework of the Committee: The Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City and the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City. As a consequence, the Committee adopted its current name: UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights.

After 2011, the Committee would start to promote World Forums of Cities for Human Rights like that of Gwangju or Nantes; promote the Inclusive Cities Observatory; and engage in an intense political participation in the framework of UCLG. Between 2012 and 2015, the Committee would facilitate the organization of two international seminars of local governments aimed at promoting the advance of an emerging concept: the right to the city.

« We are convinced that local governments are working on a daily basis, through their public policies and with the participation of their inhabitants, towards building inclusive, livable, fair, democratic and sustainable cities; to launching social organization processes, strengthening social cohesion and building active and responsible citizenship; contributing to build fair, inclusive and solidarity-based urban economies capable of guaranteeing productive inclusion and enhancing popular economic sectors. We want cities for all, based on social and spatial justice, without visible or invisible boundaries, and where collective wellbeing is guaranteed ».

By 2016, the Committee would play a key role in advancing the right to the city in global agendas for sustainable urban development, which by that time were in process of transformation. The Committee’s advocacy efforts would benefit from the emergence of a new organization gathering international civil society under the shared umbrella of human rights and the right to the city: the Global Platform for the Right to the CityBy fall 2016, the Committee took part - in Bogotá (UCLG Congress) and Quito (Habitat III) - in the two conferences that would come to recognize for the first time the right to the city in international high-level documents.

After Habitat III, the Committee’s strategy would focus on fostering the implementation of its achievements; that is, mechanisms to advance the vision of cities as common goods. The Committee would therefore open to areas such as the Right to Housing or migrations, while continuing to foster networking on the right to the city. Many Committee members would also pioneer a relaunch of local government networking on human rights, strenghtening the relationship with the UN Human Rights system.