Can cities claim to be places of solidarity, proximity and dignity, laboratories of integration and respect, spaces of permanent creation, open to both individual liberties and collective rights? Or are they destined to succumb to the short term demands of ever changing national social and economic circumstances?
That was the heart of the 2-days debate which took place in Geneva, at the CICG, on 8th and 9th December 2008, during the 6th Conference of the European Charter for Human Rights in the City, which this year fell on the same day as the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
The Conference, organized by the City of Geneva and the Geneva academy of international humanitarian law and human rights, welcomed mayors, elected officials, representatives of local associations and civil society to discuss the challenges that municipalities face when it comes to concrete human rights: the right to work, the right to food, the right to housing, the right to protection, the right to education, the right to healthcare, as well as the rights of migrants and minorities.
"In Europe, three out of four people live in city; in the world, they are one out of two" stated Ms. Micheline Calmy-Rey, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation. "In cities social differences appear more clearly and requests are more disparate. It is therefore essential that the fundamental rights of 'urbans' are known, both by residents and their authorities."
As "everything, or almost, had been said and everything, or almost, still remains to be done", participants committed themselves to ensuring that the prescribed rights recognized by the Charter are transformed into effective rights, as part of action plans that have clear objectives and measurable targets.
The ICV Swiss team was pleased to be involved in the logistic support of this event by providing around twenty volunteers who looked after the reception, the room supervision and the cloakroom.