Mayors, Human Rights and the UPR
The Coalition for Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recently published “UPR Tips for LRGs” to provide information to LRGs interested in promoting human rights through this unique mechanism. Being part of the Coalition, UPR Info contributed to the publication which describes the key role that LRGs cover in the UPR and provides a series of recommendations to both LRGs wishing to participate in UPR and States wishing to support LRGs participation in this process.
The publication was launched during the side event to the 42nd UPR Working Group session entitled “Mayors, Human Rights & the UN Universal Periodic Review” held on the 27th of January 2023. The event was an occasion to share good practices on how LRGs apply human rights at the local level and on how the UPR can represent an effective tool to bring a positive change on the ground.
Human Rights at the Local Level: The Role of Mayors
As highlighted by Mr. H.E. Federico Villegas, Ambassador of the Permanent Representative of Argentina, 80% of the violation of all human rights in all countries occur at a local and regional level. The Argentinian Ambassador provided an emblematic example on the contradictions that can occur in applying human rights law at the local level. While Buenos Aires has been one of the first cities that celebrated same sex marriages, in Mendoza organs of government in charge of enforcing the laws continue to endorse discriminatory behavior based on sexual orientation and gender identity and people risk to be arrested for cross-dressing.
During the event, some mayors also took the floor to highlight their contribution in advancing human rights situation in their city. Among them, Mr. Christof Meier, Zürich’s mayor, showed how the UPR and international obligations can help LRGs to overcome protection gaps in the national legislation. The Zurich mayor referred in particular to the case of undocumented migrants in Switzerland. No national legislation provides undocumented people with proper rights and access to public services as access to education and healthcare, but international human rights law does provide a framework for protection that can be applied. Major challenges, however, still persist especially in providing access to justice to undocumented migrants.
All the examples mentioned during the event demonstrate the importance of the role LRGs and mayors in working with the national government to help improving the human rights in the whole country. The coordination with CSOs is another key factor to consider.
As mentioned by Mrs. Nargiz Arupova, UPR Info’s Programme Manager, when CSO work to implement UPR recommendations they often seek the cooperation with LRGs. CSOs in Georgia, for example, organized councils of national minorities and conducted advocacy actions in local municipalities and in Parliament to contribute to the implementation of a UPR recommendations asking to strengthen the participation of national minorities and decision-making processes on national and local levels.
LRGs, mayors and CSOs will continue to develop this approach as they are well positioned to lead to concrete changes in terms of human rights in their country. Nevertheless, they will require measures and resources from the national government in order to fully implement the UPR recommendations.