Human Rights Cities: Urban Actors as Pragmatic Idealistic Human Rights Users
Oomen, B., and Esther Van den Berg. 2014. "Human rights cities: urban actors as pragmatic idealistic human rights users." Human Rights & International Legal Discourse (HR&ILD) 8 (2):160-185.
20 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2017
Date Written: 2014
This article, based upon socio-legal research, discusses they way in which urban actors in four human rights cities in The Netherlands use human rights, with the objective of contributing to the users' perspective on human rights developed throughout this special issue. Human rights cities, in which local authorities explicitly base their policies, or some of them, on international human rights are a relatively new development. A focus on these human rights cities can contribute to a users' perspective as it allows for a focus on duty-bearers next to rights holders and concentrates the discussion at the level of governance at which rights - increasingly - have to be realised. Exploratory research amongst urban actors in The Netherlands shows that they use human rights in three distinct ways: As a benchmark in urban policies, as a unifying force to bring together a variety of actors and interests, and as a way to demarcate local autonomy legally. In addition, it is clear that these actors strategically weigh when it is most advantageous to refer to human rights explicitly and when explicit reference to them risks leading to misunderstanding, polarisation, or juridification of disputes. The conclusion discusses the promise and perils of using human rights as a basis for urban policies, and the general for considering these rights from a users' perspective.
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