Do We Live in Peace? Human Rights Cities, Democracy, and Practice

Written and photographed by WHRCF Secretariat

The World Human Rights Cities Forum 2017 will be held at the Kim Daejung Convention Center in Gwangju from September 14 to 17, hosted by Gwangju Metropolitan City and co-organized by Gwangju International Center and UCLG/CISDP (United Cities and Local Governments; Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy, and Human Rights). In the Forum, participants including human rights experts, representatives from human rights cities, and others will discuss the main theme: “Do We Live in Peace? Human Rights Cities, Democracy, and Practice.’

“Do We Live in Peace?” is the main theme of the Forum and a question that the Forum asks to us. Peace is a fundamental, crucial condition buttressing human rights and democracy, and a significant value to be implemented through human rights and democracy. The last decade has witnessed the rise of citizen resistance against the deterioration of peace, such as the 2016 South Korean Candlelight Revolution, the 2011 Tunisian Jasmine Revolution, the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, and the 2014 Taiwan Sunflower Student Movement.

Despite citizens’ resistance, democracy and human rights are facing a global crisis. The Philippine government’s war on drugs, declared in 2016, has resulted in the immediate execution of thousands of criminal suspects. Through the martial law and state of emergency declared in Turkey, an estimated 150 newspaper and TV broadcasting companies have been forcibly shut down in the name of “prevention of terrorism,” while cracking down on civilian and pro-democracy activists demanding freedom of speech. The elements posing a threat to peace are not limited to such conflicts and political disputes. People’s fury and discontentment due to unequal distribution of wealth and severe social polarization has led to the deterioration of tolerance towards immigrants, the socially vulnerable, and the underprivileged, with claims of protecting their own within their communities. Examples of this are shown in the election of Donald Trump as the U.S. president and the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (Brexit).

Amid ongoing, mounting upheaval and conflicts around the world, the Forum will serve as a space to offer insight into the world we are living in through the value of peace and to seek a better future for human rights cities.

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