What is the “Human Rights City Project”?

 On November 28, 2011, the Eugene City Council unanimously voted to revise Eugene's 20-year-old Human Rights Ordinance to make it a duty of the Human Rights Commission to embrace the full range of human rights as enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This historic ordinance revision calls for the Commission to work with both City of Eugene government and the larger Eugene community to respect, protect, and fulfill the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural human rights spelled out in the Declaration.  Effectively addressing the full range of human rights is central to Eugene's aspirations to become a "Human Rights City," a city in which attention to such rights guides people's everyday relationships to the benefit of all.

While in the United States we recognize and embrace the importance of civil and political rights, other universal rights are not adequately acknowledged or addressed. For example, the human right to food, housing, health care, work, an adequate standard of living, and social security for those unable to work are internationally understood to be fundamental human rights.  These are rights we need to work on not only nationally, but at the state and local levels.

 

Our City government cannot possibly provide food, housing, health care, etc. to all those who are in need.  What, realistically, can the City do?

        City government must work within limits posed by existing human and financial resources and its capacity to act.  Nonetheless, the City can make a major contribution by consciously identifying and establishing ways to be supportive of the full range of human rights where this is possible in the course of its everyday operations.  

        The City can, for example, strive to systematically include human rights values   in proposing or considering new legislation; in the design, implementation, and evaluation of policies and programs; in the course of making budgetary decisions; and in developing and diversifying its human resources.  Bringing human rights considerations to bear on City operations, and doing so across all City departments, can open up ways for government to more effectively serve the needs of all the people of Eugene.  

The City has already begun taking path-breaking steps in this regard by adopting a five-year Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan and implementing use of the Triple Bottom Line Tool, both of which are helping to bring human rights principles and standards into City operations.  The Human Rights Commission is working closely with the City on these and other aspects of local human rights implementation. 

 

What international human rights principles and standards should City government strive to incorporate across its operations?

        --Be proactive in identifying and seeking solutions to human rights problems and issues

        --Address human rights violations even when these violations can be considered unintentional or inadvertent 

        --Establish mechanisms to insure active public participation in human rights problem identification and in establishing solutions 

        --Be transparent and open about all government decisions bearing on people’s human rights

        --Be held publicly accountable for progress in remedying human rights problems by timetables, benchmarks, and appropriate measures 

        --Provide education to all people about their human rights and how they can seek redress for rights violations 

 

What kinds of human rights issues might City government better address in the course of bringing human rights principles and standards to bear in its operations?

        The answer to this question requires ongoing community-City dialogue and collaboration, but such issues can include 

        --Police behavior

        --Affordable housing/homelessness

        --School achievement gaps

         --Issues faced by youth

        --Economic segregation in zoning/housing

        --Living wage

        --Hate crimes and discriminatory mistreatment

        --Immigrant rights

        --Hunger

        --Health care

        --Access for people with disabilities

        --Domestic violence

 

What are some of the benefits of Eugene becoming a “Human Rights City”?

        --Reduction of human rights complaints and costly law suits

        --Collaborative problem solving between the City and community groups,  reducing unproductive “we v. they” conflicts

        --An increase in “good government” best practices and effective government

        --A framework for the Sustainability Commission’s thinking about the “social equity” requirements for  sustainable development

        --National and international human rights recognition for leading by example

 

Where can I get more information?

         For further information, go to:

City of Eugene Equity and Human Rights Center


 

www.humanrightscity.com