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2024The 14th WHRCF Concept Note

28 May 2024
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Concept Note

“Civic Space and Human Rights Cities”


Background


Civic space is an important bedrock of human rights cities. Civic space is an environment where people can freely participate in all political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of life. Free and open civic space is a prerequisite for social action and the development of science and technology. However, civic space is currently facing repression, not just in authoritarian regimes but also in democratic societies. Restrictions on access to information and freedom of expression within civic space are significantly hindering society and human rights activities.


According to recent findings by CIVICUS Monitor, 86% of the world’s population live in countries with restricted civic space, and almost a third live in countries with civic space rated as “closed”, representing the most severe level of restriction on civic freedoms. Reduction and repression of civic space undermines the values of participation, solidarity and freedom that are upheld by human rights.


Human rights cities are made stronger when broad citizen participation in civic spaces is ensured. Open civic spaces where people can communicate and express diverse opinions can vitalize cities and strengthen both democracy and human rights. In this regard, the United Nations, alongside other international organizations, emphasize the expansion of civic space and active civic participation. Local governments striving to actualize human rights cities should also take a special interest in expanding civic space and democratic governance in order to promote human rights.


The 14th World Human Rights Cities Forum will draw attention to the current rapid deterioration of civic space on a global scale, which is undermining the core values of human rights: civic engagement and the promotion of rights. The Forum will highlight the efforts being made by human rights cities to counteract this reduction and repression of civic space.

 


Theme


Under the theme of “Civic Space and Human Rights Cities,” participants of the 14th World Human Rights Cities Forum, including local governments, civil society and international organizations, will gather to examine key human rights issues surrounding civic space and comprehensively discuss ways to create, protect, and expand civic space as the basis of the sustainable growth and inclusive governance of human rights cities. These discussions aim to identify the optimal connection between civic space and human rights cities, and also find ways for mutual development. To achieve this, the Forum discussion will center on four main points, seeking to develop global consensus and practical measures to protect and broaden civic spaces.


 

Main Agenda


First, how is civic space constituted in the context of human rights cities?

Civic space is characterized by respect for people’s right to participate and by robust protections for the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, enabling individuals and groups to contribute to societal dialogue and to foster civic engagement without fear of repression or violence. Acknowledging civic space as the basis of democracy and human rights, the Forum will explore key components that civic space should incorporate in the local and urban context.


Second, what are the major challenges facing civic space on regional and city levels?

The Forum will examine diverse challenges facing civic space: financial and political groups that reduce civic space and silence critical voices; repression of civic society and human rights defenders; the use of digital surveillance and online attacks; misleading information and fake news online; and the impact these phenomena have on human rights activism and the growth of human rights cities.


Third, what are new strategies for human rights cities to create, protect, and expand civic space?

The Forum will explore examples of community activism and city policies designed in response to current challenges, seeking to reclaim the right to participate in social discourse and to increase areas of public involvement. This includes sharing creative ways on how people can engage in their communities and use digital platforms for activism to contribute to the expansion of civic space in human rights cities from a multi-layered perspective.


Fourth, how should the multilateral and multi-stakeholder collaboration regarding civic space in cities and territories be structured at the global level?

Collaboration among human rights cities, civil society, international organizations, and other stakeholders is crucial to protect and promote civic space at both local and global levels. It plays a pivotal role in establishing a supportive and conducive environment that institutionalizes and fosters local democracy, participation, and decentralization, along with other democratic mechanisms. The importance of civic space will be identified through joint initiatives. Innovative approaches will be examined through citizen participation. Policies and practices for civic space expansion will be explored among the participating human rights cities.



WHRCF SECRETARIAT
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Copyright WHRCF All rights reserved.

WHRCF SECRETARIAT
1-2F, 5, Jungang-ro 196beon-gil, Dong-gu, Gwangju 61475, South Korea
Tel: +82-62-226-2734
Fax: +82-62-226-2731
E-mail: whrcf@gic.or.kr
Copyright WHRCF All rights reserved.