World Human Rights Cities Forum: What You Need to Know

Compiled by the GIC Forum Promotion Team with an intro by Eden Jones
Photograph courtesy of WHRCF Secretariat

The 2017 World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF) will be held in Gwangju, September 14–17 at the Kimdaejung Convention Center. The theme of the Forum is “Do We Live in Peace?”

What a relevant question to be asking. If you take a look around and consider the missile threats from the North, riots and tensions between races (with a somber nod to Charlottesville, USA), as well as the ongoing issues everywhere in the world, such as crime, poverty, and environmental health decline, you are likely to answer, no. We are not living in peace. And if this is a concern of yours (and it should be), you may want to make plans to attend the Forum to see what is being done to address these issues as they relate to human rights around the world and in Korea. Below, you will find more detailed information on what will be discussed in each session of the Forum.

There will be thematic sessions in nine areas, including (1) gender, (2) state violence, (3) environment, (4) social economy, (5) migrants/refugees, (6) disability, (7) the elderly, (8) children/youth, and (9) village communities. Each session sets up a topic for each area related to the theme of the 2017 Forum, “Do We Live in Peace? Human Rights City, Democracy, and Practice.” Presentations and discussions will be held on this topic in each session.

The thematic session of “Gender,” which begins at 1 p.m. on the second day of the Forum, will center on the theme: “Various Efforts Made by Numerous Cities to Overcome the Gender Gap Index.” This session will focus on how leading countries in the Gender Gap Index (GGI), announced at the World Economic Forum 2016, close the gap between genders through their policies and will propose a vision for how Korea should respond.

The thematic session on “State Violence” will proceed for three hours from 1 p.m. on September 16. This session will consider new challenges of the candlelight vigils and directions for Korean democracy by evaluating accomplishments of Korean democracy and the meaning and value of previous candlelight vigils. With the attendance of Korean and international researchers, the theme “New Challenges and Solutions for Korean Democracy” will be discussed.

“Is Urban Energy Seeking Peace?” is the theme of the “Environment” session. In this meeting, through fundamental questions and specific examples as to whether or not our city’s energy system is aimed at a peaceful, sustainable city, phased and feasible alternatives will be verified. This session will be offered at the same time as the “State Violence” session.

Various attempts have been made everywhere to qualitatively improve people’s lives and human rights through the vitalization of communities. With this in mind, the “Social Economy” session chose the theme of “Social Economy and Community Vitalization” to consider not only the roles and meaning of social economy but also various attempts to better the quality of local residents’ living. This session will take place on September 15 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“The Elderly” thematic session will discuss the meaning of an age-friendly city, and the changes in local communities and the elderly through the question “Gwangju as an Age-Friendly City?” This session will be held at 1 p.m. on September 15.

In the morning of the last day of the Forum, the “Child/Youth” session will be offered under the theme, “School, Space Composition, and Democracy.” Although schools are places where students spend most of their time in their life, school facilities are still functionalistic and have authoritarian structures designed for discipline, management, and control. This session will serve as a venue to discover the meaning and importance of school’s space composition.

The “Village” session will take place at the same time as the “Child/Youth” session. This session will consider a “Village and Grassroots-Based Citizen Participation Platform,” focusing on village communities where the importance of grassroots democracy can be achieved by expanding local autonomy and participation.

The “Migrants/Refugees” and “Disability” sessions will follow in the afternoon, with the themes, “Are We Living in Peace with Migrants and Refugees?” and “Please Make It Easily Readable for Our Voting!” respectively. The “Migrants/Refugees” session will emphasize the necessity for the enactment of migrant human rights-related laws by suggesting laws and systems for peaceful coexistence between migrants and local residents. In the “Disability” session, the reality of guaranteeing the right of access to information for voters with disabilities will be addressed through the experiences of voters with disabilities during the 19th national election. Moreover, the upcoming 2018 regional election will be discussed by primarily focusing on the right of access to information.

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