5-6 October 2020 | Gwangju – UCLG ASPAC, in collaboration with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI) and the City of Gwangju, showcased insights from selected city representatives to localise the SDGs using the human rights-based approach on the second batch of Blended Learning Course (BLC) with the theme “The Blended Learning Course for Local Governments: Localising Human Rights in the SDGs Process” from 5 to 6 October 2020. Conducted in conjunction with the 10th World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF) held in Gwangju, 7-10 October 2020, the second BLC captured the commitment and progress made by selected city representatives in translating knowledge into their respective fields of work. The selected participants are from the City Planning Department of Nepal, the Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

UCLG ASPAC, represented by Secretary General Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi also led discussion on the Plenary 3 session on the 10th WHRCF, taking theme “Local Governments Building the Post-COVID-19 World: Public Services and Human Rights Challenges.” Insights were rich as the session presented a diversity of notable speakers.

Welcoming the city representatives was Mr. Morten Kjaerum, Director of RWI expressing his eagerness to follow the progress of this collaboration project and to hear more about the COVID-19 crisis and its relevancy to human rights. There was also Mr. Ali Imran, Team Leader of UCLG ASPAC SDGs localisation programme in Pakistan, saying that human rights approach to data should “disaggregate, align with human rights standards, include participation, and ensure data collection safeguards and accountability framework.” There was also Mr. Todung Mulya Lubis – Ambassador of The Republic of Indonesia to Norway, a Human Rights Lawyer and Legal Practitioner, who shared that “SDGs are “in essence, human rights being practiced.”

A Wide Range of Insights from Participants

The second BLC recorded wide-ranging insights from participants representing cities and their respective priorities.

Representing city of Banjarmasin was Mr. Sugito. For SDGs localisation, he focused on achieving Goal 1 (No Poverty) and emphasised on economic rights of people affected by COVID 19. According to him, the local government of Banjarmasin had taken several actions including designing policy for gradual reopening of economic centres with health protocols, facilitating assistance from ministry for markets, facilitating postponement of bank principal instalment payments, and providing economic and social assistance to affected communities.

Mr. Bikash Kumar Mishra, from Birgunj Metropolitan City, Nepal, shared about human rights protection during crises such as COVID 19. In his presentation, Mr. Bikash shared that the pandemic deepened and worsened the pre-existing human rights problems, particularly for the most vulnerable. He also shared challenges faced included absence of gender-disaggregated data and lack of feminist perspectives, among many others. As for the way forward, he mentioned integration of gender perspectives in developmental programmes, gender mainstreaming to participate in the developmental programme, and capacity building, among many others.

Ms. Nona Vanesa Santiago, representing city of Iriga, Philippines, presented an initiative on Integrating Rights Initiatives to Governance Approach (IRIGA) for SDGs – using Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material. This IRIGA for SDG IEC project focuses on institutionalising and strengthening participatory process to ensure collaboration and complementation through social media posting awareness raising seminars and development of IEC materials with local translation. It is about empowering the community to participate in the achievement of the SDGs at the local level. Ms. Santiago also shared success factors of the project, including partnership building with different stakeholders, promotion of the sense of ownership, local resources availability, as well as mentoring and coaching. Following up, she also shared the way forward included continuation of awareness-raising through IEC, advocacy and plan integration, formulation of the IRIGA SDGs framework, and sharing of responsibilities and resource mobilisation.

Representing city of Penang, Malaysia, was Ms. Zuraini Binti Mat Rasit. She presented the application of human rights-based approach in SDGs localisation on the Kedah road improvement project, particularly improvement of existing back lane in low cost housing/ community, upgrading the landscape and gardens and upgrading the badminton court to the open hall. Ms. Zuraini further shared that the project is aligned with Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and 13 (Climate Action) and that the project will address connectivity (areas better connected), greening, safety (people-friendly), diversity, and inclusivity.

Representing the City Planning Agency of Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, was Mr. Khaidarmansyah Djamaluddin. In his presentation, he shared the Community-Based Total Sanitation (CBTS) programme implemented by the city. According to him, CBTS is in line with efforts to make sanitation a basic human right. CBTS aims to create a conducive environment, to meet the increased need for sanitation, and to improve sanitation provision services. CBTS provides inclusive services for areas with high poverty rates and disaster-prone areas. He concluded his presentation by sharing his recommendation: community involvement needs to be optimised, cross-sector cooperation should be applied, and periodic monitoring needs to be conducted.

Representing city of Faridpur, Bangladesh, was Mr. Md Shamsul Alam. In this opportunity, he shared the plan to have integrated waste management and public health in Faridpur Municipality. The plan involves separation of municipal waste for further processing into bio-gas (for vehicle fuel, cooking) and organic fertiliser. He also mentioned challenges faced, such as users’ contribution, land scarcity, as well as weak planning both at local and national level.

Mr. Bikas Adhikari represented city of Dhankuta, Nepal. Mr. Bikas presented his proposal to raise awareness of indigenous people and women about their rights and to provide information about the situation of indigenous people and women living in the municipality. According to Mr. Bikas, indigenous people and women in Dhankuta municipality experienced a broad, multifaceted and complex spectrum of mutually reinforcing human rights abuses, such as land rights issues, poverty, right to food, education and health. He also mentioned that key challenges faced included gaps and weaknesses in monitoring systems and implementation, lack of disaggregated data, and neo-liberal economic and development paradigms. However, he also presented possible solutions included womens’ inclusion at the decision-making level, integration of gender perspectives in all levels of developmental activities, and to ensure constitutional change to acknowledge the rights.

The city of Baguio was represented by Ms. Leticia Clemente. For localising human rights in SDGs process, Ms. Leticia focused on rights of children and gender development. She presented a project that aims to develop a database of orphaned/vulnerable children in the city, to recast the existing programme to address emerging needs, and to formulate a gender and development plan that is inclusive and a change-trigger to policy and programme following the human rights-based approach. With the support from national and city offices data, collaboration with stakeholders, and inventory of facilities for orphaned/vulnerable children in the city, the project resulted in establishment of an initial database of the children, collaboration with the private sector for better coordination and programme harmonisation, including sharing of resources, awareness-raising on the need for a human rights-based approach to planning and implementation of programme.

Representing Government Planning Agency of Padang was Mr. Indra Saputra. In the presentation session, Mr. Indra shared about the rights of disabled adults and children. He also shared that the local government of Padang faced challenges, particularly in lack of data on disabled people. In his presentation, Mr. Indra also recommended to conduct an extended study and incorporate it into the city’s strategic planning.

At the end of the session Secretary General Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi congratulated participants who made it so far. She also encouraged them to take concrete steps in their respective cities. Furthermore, she expressed her appreciation to RWI and the city of Gwangju for great collaboration during these two years. Also attending this event were Prof. Gyonggu Shin, Director of Gwangju International Centre, Mr. Jason Squire, Director of RWI Asia Regional Office, and Ms. Helena, the Lead Facilitator of BLC. The second BLC session on the WHRCF did not mark the end of the programme. Instead, selected participants will still continue online mentoring until 18 December 2020.