Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Tamar Ezer, Localizing Human Rights in Cities, Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice (Winter 2022). Abstract below.
Today, we live in a world where norms can all too easily disintegrate. Moreover, our realities are increasingly splintered with individually tailored social media, news sources, and search engines. International human rights can provide a needed moral and legal compass, connecting us to global conversations and standards. At the same time, to be meaningful, these standards must be localized and interpreted at community level.
Over the last two decades, cities throughout the world have espoused international human rights in various forms. This development has caught on in the United States with close to a dozen self-designated human rights cities and a vibrant “Cities for CEDAW” movement, focused on protection of women’s rights. This article probes this growing phenomenon and argues that local human rights implementation is a critical frontier, enabling a human rights approach to governance, strengthening participation and equality. Closer to communities, human rights cities can democratize rights and move beyond the citizen construct at national level to embrace all inhabitants. Cities also provide a critical vehicle to negotiate the inherent tension between the universality of human rights and respect for cultural and regional diversity. Moreover, cities are particularly important as human rights actors in the US context, where federalism limits the reach of international treaties to address issues touching on criminal law, social welfare, and family relations, critical to women’s rights. Cities can thus play a crucial role in realizing women’s equality, addressing cultural norms, jurisdictional barriers, and disparate impacts. The article further provides recommendations for better engagement with cities as human rights actors, currently in its infancy, at international, national, and local levels.