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Human Right Cities - a practical way to learn and chart the future of humanity

…Develop a new political culture based on human rights.-Nelson Mandela

Recent reports (in PDF format): Human Rights Learning and Human Rights Cities: Achievements Report | Integrating the learning about the MDGs in the Learning About Human Rights As a Way of life, in Human Rights Cities And A wide array of seminars and workshops PDF file

PDHRE was founded in 1989 as a non-profit, international service organization with a deep belief in the power of human rights learning for economic and social transformation. PDHRE has worked directly and indirectly with its network of affiliates and partners in over 60 countries around the world to develop and advance the learning about human rights as way of life. It enables women and men to re-imagine their lives and discover their own power to define the destiny of their community. Participating in the planning of their future, the human rights framework provides them with the guideline to pursue their hopes. In pursuing its work in the field, PDHRE is constantly revitalized by actions being taken in the community to create a space for a meaningful change as a result of internalizing the praxis of human rights. Assuming social responsibility, people move away from humiliation to belong in their community in dignity with others.

In order to create an infrastructure for the learning/acting process in the communities, PDHRE is engaged in training trainers and facilitating seminars, workshops and dialogue at the grassroots level in the context of people's evident desire for social justice and democracy. PDHRE is guided by the core belief that through human rights learning, everyone can be a mentor and a monitor and take control over their lives.

To achieve its vision and mission in a practical way, PDHRE has been facilitating the development of Human Rights Cities around the world.

What are human rights cities? Imagine living in a society where all citizens have made a pledge to build a community based on equality and nondiscrimination; --where all women and men are actively participating in the decisions that affect their daily lives guided by the human rights framework; where people have consciously internalized the holistic vision of human rights to overcome fear and impoverishment, a society that provides human security, access to food, clean water, housing, education, healthcare and work at livable wages, sharing these resources with all citizens-- not as a gift, but as a realization of human rights. A Human Rights city is a practical viable model that demonstrates that living in such a society is possible!

Voices from the Human Rights Cities

"When I learned that education is a human rights I learned that I must claim my human rights, so that in dignity I can support myself and my parents when they are older." (Child from HR City-Nagpur,India)

"If you know human rights, you know that health, water and food are included, and it makes me feel good for my family and all the people..." (Women from HR City Thies, Senegal)

"What we learned about human rights allowed us to reduce misunderstandings among ourselves. Before, we married women, and looked at them as slaves. Now we understand, we each have roles in the family. Women now understand they are equal, ands men agree with it." (Man, HR City Kati, Mali)

"We want human rights to be discussed in the newspapers, radio and television to motivate people to take actions for human rights for all the people in the city." (Women from HR city Rosario, Argentina)


-Two billion people live in cities today. Cities are a microcosm of a state.
-Four billion women and men, youth and children will live in cities within 15 to 20 years.
-With the multitudes of people and issues interacting and interrelating there is no inherent knowledge, support systems, or guidance of how to live with one another and how to practically abide by moral values in today's fast changing world.


The Human Rights Cities Program

PDHRE, the executing agency, works to develop and implement the Human Rights Cities Programme by, for, and with the inhabitants of the city and the local authorities to:

* Instill a sense of ownership of human rights as a way of life, leading to action for the realization of all human rights in the city, to benefit all its inhabitants: women, men, youth and children

* Enhance actions that promote democracy as a delivery system of human rights in order to achieve sustainable development, peace, economic, human security, and social justice.

* Capacity building to strengthen activities that ensure community development and accountability guided by the comprehensive human rights framework. Individuals and groups taking part in the action.

* Become a beacon of light for communities all around the world to witness practical ways the human rights framework can make every citizen a creative partner of sustainable change

The city, its institutions, and its residents, as a complex social economic and political entity, become a model for citizen's participation in their development. This process leads to the mapping and analysis of causes and symptoms of violations such poverty and the designing of ways to achieve well being in their city. Appropriate conflict resolution is an inevitable consequence of the learning process as women and men work to secure the sustainability of their community as a viable, creative, caring society.

Human Rights Cities as developed by partnerships from around the world are based on the premise that all people wish and hope for social and economic justice. It stands on the conviction that for the moral, political and legal tenets of human rights to be effective, citizens of all countries must know and adopt this inclusive framework, giving momentum to attain a better life for future generations.

Human rights learning and socialization highlights the normative and empirical power of human rights as a tool in individual and collective efforts to address inequalities, injustices and abuses at home, in the work place, in the streets, prisons, courts, and more. Even in "democratic" societies, citizens and policy-makers must learn to understand human rights and the obligations and the responsibilities that they entail in a holistic and comprehensive way. They must learn to enforce human rights effectively and efficiently. This is the promise and responsibility their governments have undertaken when ratifying various human rights Covenants and Conventions.

In the cities, strategies and methodologies are designed to have governing bodies, law enforcement agencies, public sector employees, religious groups, NGOs and community groups, those working on the issues of women, children, workers, indigenous peoples, poverty, education, food, water, housing, healthcare, environment and conflict resolution, and all other non affiliated inhabitants, join in the learning and reflecting about human rights as significant to the decision-making process and towards societal development.

Steering committee representing all sectors of society develops specific programs for various audiences. The plan includes the examination, with a gender perspective, of laws, policies, resource allocation and relationships that prevail in the city. For that purpose, they create a vertical and horizontal progressive learning process. Step by step, neighborhoods, schools, political, economic and social institutions, and NGOs, examine the human rights framework relating it to their traditional beliefs, collective memory and aspirations with regard to environmental, economic and social justice issues and concerns. As agents of change they learn to identify, mentor, monitor and document their needs and engage in on of the most important action in the city: developing an alternative participatory budget, moving power to human rights…from Charity to Dignity.

Activities in the Human Right Cities are being publicized throughout their country, expecting to radiate knowledge and serve as a model for stabilizing democracy and building good governance, and most important people experiencing the power that each individual has to make a difference.

The program includes the development of 30 human rights cities and the training of 500 young community leaders at four Regional Learning Institutions for Human Rights Education.

As of January 2007, 17 cities are already in development and 100 community leaders have been trained. The current Human Rights Cities are progressively fulfilling the original objectives and goals that PDHRE had set forth..

With the visionary and dynamic personal leadership of its founder Shulamith Koenig - the 2003 recipient of the UN Human Rights Award, PDHRE's prominent Board of Directors, and its activists in the various regions, the organization is facilitating and supervising the human right cities program based on the holistic and practical vision of human rights. (More cities other then the listed below are now in the first development stages: in Chile and Columbia, )

Human Rights Cities (as of May 2007)

Rosario - Argentina
Graz - Austria
Santa Cruz - Bolivia (in formation)
Bihac - Bosnia
Porto Alegre - Brazil
Edmonton, Winnipeg - Canada (in formation)
Temuco, Valparaiso - Chile (In formation)
Bongo, Newton, Wa, Nimamobi, Walewale - Ghana
Nagpur - India
Korogocho - Kenya
Kita, Kati, Kayes, Sikasso, Timbuktu - Mali
Bucuy Municipality - Philippines
Musha - Rwanda
Thies - Senegal
Mogale - South Africa (in formation)

Kaohsiung - Taiwan

One case study amongst many, Human Rights Learning In Action, Rosario, Argentina: Rosario, the first Human Rights City initiated in 1997, a learning program was devised to overcome a major issue of police discrimination in the community. Once the particularities of these discriminatory actions were identified by the steering committee, police training was developed and facilitated by PDHRE and the leaders of the community. After several human rights training sessions led by local educators and human rights activists, the director of the regional police academy said in an interview, with much conviction: "there is no other option but human rights!". He was speaking of a world void of humiliation and pain so grossly experienced in his country. As a result of the on going trainings, the police are engaged in a dialogue with vulnerable groups and individuals in the city and are collaborating in human rights education and learning activities in the neighborhoods. It is a rewarding experience, which is reflected in the continuous human rights training in the city. It has also become a mainstay-training program for the police in the region of Santa Fe where Rosario is its capital. -more is told in our website: www.pdhre.org

To effectively continue with the development of human rights cities we are looking forward to discuss possibilities of funding this very unique, proactive initiative, working at the community level.


Developing Human Rights Cities is building infrastructures for conflict prevention, human security, participatory democracy, sustainable development and creating a space
for active civic engagement at local, national and global level.


For more information:

PDHRE, 526 West 111th Street , Suite 4E , NY, NY, 10025 * Tel: 1- 212-749-3156 * Fax 1-212-666-6325
Email: pdhre@igc.org * Web Site: www.pdhre.org

PEOPLE MAKING A DIFFERENCE, PAFTICIAPTING IN THE DECSION THAT DETERMINE THEIR LIVES THE HUMAN RIGHTS A PLEDGE TAKEN IN CITIES:

We are the human rights generation
We will accept nothing less than human rights.
We will know them and claim them,
For all women, men, youth and children,
From those who speak human rights,
But deny them to their own people.
We will move power to human rights"

Shulamith Koenig - PDHRE, Founding President


Learning about the holistic yet practical vision of human rights as a moral and political way of life, protected by international law.-moving power to human rights. .
A presentation by Shulamith Koenig at a seminar held at the UN
Most of the women , men , youth and children in the world - six billion of us- for whom the holistic human rights framework was created --with great efforts and moral authority by all nations-- do not know about the relevance of human rights to their lives. They are not aware of the extent that their government made commitments and undertaken obligation to implement human rights, but are slow in doing so. This presents a serious obstacle to the realization of human rights as away of life and to the promotion of human rights as a proactive strategy for economic social and human development with a gender perspective, conflict prevention and human security. These goals and concerns can not be realized without people consciously claiming them as their birth rights. With humility and conviction it must be said that to achieve economic and social transformation and weave -per Nelson Mandela- a new political culture based o human rights- the learning about the non compartmentalized but, indivisible and interconnected human rights through all sectors of society, is the path that must be chosen. it is a cross cutting issue of global challenge and an imperative for the future of humanity..
THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION.
The human rights framework is a guideline for our moral political and legal concerns and choices.

I will never forget the story about a ceremony proclaiming an end of FGC, held in Malikunda, a Senegalese village. Journalist and photographers came to document the event. . A little girl ran unto the stage, her mother calling after her: "Seng Seng!" - "What is Seng Seng?" a curious journalist asked: "Human Rights" answered the mother. "Why are you calling her human rights?" "Because she is the first girl in the village that was not cut".-answered the proud mother. This pride was the result of meaningful human rights learning. Hundreds such ceremonies have been held since this first one in Malikunda, all as a result of women and men alike learning about human rights as away of life and towards the realization of HR-belonging in dignity with others.

The facilitators of this human rights learning process in Senegal, from TOSTAN -a local organization, inherently knew that the learning about the universality, indivisibility and interconnectedness of human rights as informing and promoting human dignity of all people, regardless of "cultural obstacles", was the way to have women and men join in stopping FGC . The very same women in Malikunda came to their husbands to ask for land to grow vegetables; "Land is a human right" they argued and got it! The ability of the facilitators to bring forth human rights as a holistic vision enables the learners to understand all the aspects of their lives within a human rights framework and chose it as their guideline for changing their lives.

As human rights educators there is a very important choice we have to make and stick with it: Are we going to teach human rights, or are we going to facilitate the learning so that our students, energized by their aspirations, discover the meaning of human rights to their lives?..-Are we going to rehearse human rights articles, norms and standards relating them to countless violations, which compartmentalize human rights? -- Or are we going to enable our students imagine and re imagine human rights as the road they must take towards the realization and enjoyment of social change and meaningful transformation in their lives and the lives of their families and communities. And last but not least: are we going to have our students learn, from the outset, that human rights are about all the aspects of their lives: civil, cultural, economic, political, and social, asking them to give examples about these interconnected aspects which promotes systemic analysis and critical thinking . And some suggestion: never speak of "rights", but only of "human rights" even if your students are lawyers. They too need to know that human rights ARE a magical horizontal, egalitarian concept from which specific rights are derived. "Rights" are vertical can be given and taken which human rights cannot we all being its owners.

Needless to say that be it in a school situations, where I find myself from time to time or mostly in my work in communities, I choose to discuss dignity, "us" and the "others", the realization of human rights in the context of "being born equal dignity" ( which I find most people . young and old intrinsically understand and it gives them much joy). I speak of unconditional love, about equality - never equity- and lack of discriminating and about the holistic vision of human rights that affirms us as full and viable human being capable to participate in the decision that determine our lives, women and men alike.

There are few soul searching questions we must answer when we embark on being human rights educators. What IS human rights? and: what ARE human rights?...-why human rights. Based on 17 years of experience in the learning about human rights at the community level I know: IT IS a powerful tool that allows people see how the patterns of oppression shape our ideology, attitudes and behaviors and more important restructure the relationships with governments. Moreover, human rights learning facilitate systemic analysis…--focusing on our commonality as human beings as well as our differences, to view them as joy and not as a liability.

 

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For more information, please contact PDHRE:

The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE)
526 West 111th Street, Suite 4E
New York, NY 10025
Tel: 1- 212-749-3156
Fax 1-212-666-6325
e-mail: pdhre@igc.org