14 July 2017
Human Rights And Sustainability In The Global City
Rotterdam has become a global city, like Berlin and Paris in Europe, Lagos in Nigeria and São Paulo in Brasil - just to name a few. These cities struggle with similar problems: A very diverse population in terms of ethnicity and religion, political tensions that translate to social unrest in the city, and pressure on resources and the living environment due to urbanization. On the other hand, global cities offer opportunities for start-up companies, cultural initiatives and economic development. Cities want to provide a vital environment in terms of housing, health, and education. They aspire to further integration and respect difference at the same time. In other words, global cities strive for sustainability and stand for laboratories of the future.
The question is what makes a city "sustainable" and what is necessary to reach sustainability. Human rights ideals are today framed as the cornerstones of sustainability. Why should this be the case? Human rights are usually connected to problematic areas of violent conflict, dictatorship regimes, or situations where minorities are grossly discriminated. However, human rights equally belong 'at home'. Large cities have become a 'polis' of their own, and are able to make their own choices in framing and addressing local problems. Mayors and local municipal governments develop specific policies and projects in order to create sustainable cities: how and where to house newly arrived immigrants? How to deal with large companies who provide work for citizens, but pollute the environment? How to balance the freedom of expression of minority groups protesting against 'Black Pete' or of hooligans celebrating their football team, and secure safety and well-being for the inhabitants at large? How to ensure a safe and adequate educational atmosphere in schools where discussions about Israel, Iraq, Syria, and the USA are often very heated? Cities increasingly tackle these issues in cooperation with private actors like NGOs and businesses.
The ideals of human rights are increasingly seen as a common frame of reference in creating a sustainable living environment for city inhabitants. In this course, we will identify those human rights specifically relevant for a global city, and analyse their underlying philosophical principles and ideals, in light of the principle of sustainability. We will connect these ideals and rights to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include a specific goal on urbanization and sustainable cities. As human rights should be translated into practical goals and results, we will specifically connect the analysis of these practices to the 'polis' of Rotterdam as a prominent example. We will investigate the official and semi-official main players (actors and organizations), which includes both public and private entities. In which ways do they work together in furthering sustainability? Do municipal governments have human rights on their agenda, for example a human rights impact assessment in policies about public schools, housing and infrastructure projects? Do international companies pay heed to human rights in their daily practice, and if so, how to assess the interaction between public and private actors and the impact of the latter's activities?
Dr. Wibo van Rossum & dr. Federica Violi
Professor Sociology, Theory, and Methodology of Law & International and European Law
This course will be of interest to students of management and international business, international relations, law, political science, economics, cultural studies, European studies, philosophy, sociology, and any practitioner and policy maker who wants to reflect on human rights in global cities.
After this course you will:
1. have an understanding and insight into how human rights are (and should be) translated into local practices in global cities;
2. understand the impact of private actors' activities on the enjoyment of human rights in the city;
3. know how the city of Rotterdam, as a specific example of a global city, deals with human rights in policymaking and implementation in cooperation with other public and private entities;
4. be able to identify the challenges of urbanization on natural resources and its impact on human rights;
5. be able to argue the specific relevance of some human rights for reaching sustainable and vital large cities in light of UN goals;
6. have basic knowledge of human rights and their underlying ideals.
EUR 475: Course + course materials