For LRGs to engage with the UN human rights system, capacity building is good but not enough. A new status for LRGs at the UN is required.

On 28 August 2023, the Geneva Cities Hub took part in the OHCHR expert meeting on “Enhancing capacity-building for local governments to incorporate human rights into all their work”, organized in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 51/12. The GCH called upon States to establish a new status for LRGs at the UN, in order to facilitate their engagement with the UN human rights system.

The meeting provided the opportunity to hear from representatives of local and regional governments (LRGS) (Afadzato district – Ghana, Bogota-Colombia and Canelones – Uruguay) how they relate to human rights and what they do to implement them on their respective territories. Capacity building is clearly necessary to ensure that there is policy coherence across all levels of governments, that LRGs have a better understanding of human rights and the expertise to fulfil their responsibilities in a broad range of domains (housing, water and sanitations, anti-discrimination, education, health, right to peaceful protests, etc.).

While capacity building of LRGs is necessary, it is not sufficient. More entry points into the UN human rights systems are also necessary to fully engage LRGs and facilitate their contribution to international mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review, Special Procedures, Treaty bodies but also to national mechanisms such as the NMIRFs. Valuable concrete recommendations (participation of LRGs to States treaty bodies’ reviews or to country missions by Special Rapporteurs) were put forward by the New York City Deputy Commissioner on human rights and by Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing.

Further, in order to engage LRGs in a more sustainable and effective manner, the GCH put forward the bold proposal to create a new status for LRGs at the UN, so that they may take part in UN meetings with their own voice. A status similar to the ECOSOC NGO status, but however different, given the distinct nature of LRGs. LRGs do not belong to civil society. The GCH encouraged States to reflect upon creating this new status and stands ready to support those who will champion the issue.

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