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Human Rights Week of Action Blog Series: Post 9

Photo: Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance

December 10th will mark DC's 10th anniversary as a Human Rights City. In honor of this important milestone, AFSC DC is planning a Human Rights Week of Action December 10-14. This week will begin on International Human Rights Day (December 10) and conclude with a community open house at ONE DC's Black Workers and Wellness Center on Friday, December 14. This blog series is a part of AFSC DC's Human Rights Week of Action. 

Leading the Way in National Human Rights Cities Organizing

Author: Jackie Smith, Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance & National Human Rights Cities Alliance Steering Committee Member

The United States was late to the game in joining the global movement for human rights cities. After more than a decade of growth in this global movement following the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, the American Friends Service Committee helped lead work to make Washington DC the first Human Rights City in this country and to support and build the work of the DC Human Rights City Steering Committee. The AFSC was also was a catalyst for the Pittsburgh Human Rights City initiative, leading our city to become the 5th U.S. Human Rights City in 2011.

As we celebrate Washington’s 10th anniversary as a human rights city, it is worth telling the story of how this movement has grown, and how groups like AFSC have helped nurture work to build and support a growing movement working to take back our cities. What the human rights city framework does is help shift the discourse around economic development to prioritize human rights over economic growth and corporate investments. We’re changing the script for local policy and planning discussions and centering people and communities rather than profit margins and financial returns. As we say in Pittsburgh, “Human rights don’t trickle down, they RISE UP!”

Human rights city leaders in Washington DC have not only inspired work in this country to “bring human rights home,” but they have also supported work to build a national movement. In 2016, AFSC and the DC Human Rights City Steering Committee hosted a gathering of human rights leaders that led to the creation of the National Human Rights Cities Alliance, within the framework of the US Human Rights Network. The National Alliance has been growing, and we returned to Washington DC last summer to share lessons about human rights city organizing and to develop strategies for supporting local work around human rights. In light of the Amazon 2nd Headquarters competition, we discussed the problem of corporate influence in local politics and we continue to work with leaders in the human rights city of Seattle to develop our thinking about how best to counter this significant threat to local democracy and human rights. These conversations are continuing: human rights city organizers gathered recently in Greenville South Carolina and are planning meetings in 2019 to include Atlanta and other cities of the U.S. South. As DC moves into its second decade as a Human Rights City, we see promise for substantial growth and innovation in our national human rights cities movement! We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!