Introducing: Human Rights Cities Network (HRCN)

29 November 2023 | Members' Corner

Editor’s note: At the General Assembly in September, Human Rights Cities Network (HRCN) became a member of the European Civic Forum. This article presents HRCN and their objectives.


Human rights and participative democracy are at the centre of our work


We focus on 5 strategic objectives:

  • Creating synergies between international institutions, academics, and cities’ actors
  • Expending knowledge on human rights city standards and practices by documenting local experiences and informing on new trends
  • Facilitating dialogue and collective reflection to develop methodology, tools and guidelines
  • Providing learning capacities through specific expertise or customised services
  • Advocating for a human rights agenda from the local to the global level to support the development of a human rights cities’ movement

How we work

The network connects inspiring cities’ initiatives in Europe, encourages human rights-based local policies, and reinforces the development of the human rights cities’ movement at local, regional and global level. By doing so, the network fosters a human rights city community of practices.

The “guest members” of the network are cities committed to promote and protect a culture of human rights. Today, six European guest member cities form a pool of inspiring “model cities”: Graz in Austria, Utrecht and Middelburg in the Netherlands, Nuremberg in Germany, York in the UK and Lund in Sweden.

Expending the network means encourage more municipalities and urban communities to co-create a space where human rights values and principles are turn into concrete habits improving the quality of life of the population.

Our governance

The network is governed by a core team of experts, supported by an advisory board of senior human rights specialists, including notably Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

The activities of the network are supported by specialised expertise or external consultants according to the needs. The HRCN shares knowledge on what constitutes a human rights city and connects actors to make sure good practices are accessible to all through an innovative website.

  • Human rights cities practitioners
  • Civil society organisations and their members, human rights defenders, grassroot movements and local associations
  • Local authorities and public services
  • Associations of mayors, municipalities and local authorities
  • Academic institutions
  • National, regional and global human rights institutions
  • International organisations

The HRCN is a member of wider networks of civil society organisations promoting democracy in Europe such as the European Civic Forum (ECF), the European Association for Local Democracy (ALDA), and the Recharging advocacy for Rights in Europe (RARE) programme.

The network is also taking part to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) experts’ group on human rights cities, as one of their partners, and contributed to the report on “Human rights cities in the EU: a framework for reinforcing rights locally” published in 2021. This framework was complemented with a guide on “How to make human rights part of everyone’s daily life – a guide for local authorities” in 2022.

In addition, the network is cooperating with other organisations such the Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM), the European Capital of Democracy (ECoD)  and the Global Cities Hub Geneva.