Table of Contents

  1. Statement of Purpose
  2. Program Report
  3. Sample Resolution

D.C. Human Rights Statement of Purpose

What is a human rights city?

A Human Rights City is one whose residents and local authorities, through learning about the relevance of human rights to their daily lives (guided by a steering committee), join in ongoing learning, discussions, systematic analysis and critical thinking at the community level, to pursue a creative exchange of ideas and the joint planning of actions to realize their economic, social, political, civil and cultural human rights.


  • Work together to expand the learning of human rights at the community level, leading to sustained and social transformation.
  • Work together with local groups and individuals to identify the specific human rights needs of the people in D.C.
  • Develop priorities and take actions toward achieving equality, peace and justice guided by the holistic human rights framework in freedom and dignity for all.

Methods of action

  • Coalition building
  • Human rights campaigns
  • Public and popular education
  • Testimonies to city council
  • Participatory budgeting


On December 10, 2008, Human Rights Day, at the urging of the PDHRE, the People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning and the American Friends Service Committee DC Peace and Economic Justice Program, joined by the City Office of Human Rights and more than 20 community organizations, individuals, churches and colleges, the D.C. City Council proclaimed the District of Columbia a Human Rights City to mark the 60th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Washington D.C. has joined a successful worldwide movement that includes more than 17 cities in 6 countries.


The purpose of the D.C. Human Rights People’s Movement is:

  • To facilitate a process for human rights learning and framing of our various issues and struggles using the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • To facilitate a bottom-up process for realizing human rights for all D.C. residents.
  • The D.C. Human Rights People’s Movement is formed by and opened to individuals, organizations, and movements involved and interested in realizing human rights.

Value Added

  • We are part of something bigger than our individual organizations.
  • Overall framing of our issues as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Constant referral to D.C. as first Human Rights City (accountability for our local officials)

Role of the Steering Committee

The role of the steering committee is to facilitate the D.C. Human Rights People’s Movement through communication, education, organization, and documentation.

DC Human Rights City Program Report

A Human Rights City is one whose residents and local authorities, through ongoing discussions and creative exchange of ideas at the community level, come to accept human rights as a way of life. They join in positive, proactive planning and actions to achieve economic and social justice in the city.

In 2008 the AFSC began a major effort to make the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) a reality in the DC area. The AFSC formed an alliance with a United Nations non-profit, People’s Decade on Human Rights Education (PDHRE), to educate middle school and high school students about the Universal Declaration. After learning about the UDHR, students undertook actions to address areas where they believed rights set out in the Declaration are not being honored in their own community.

The D.C. Human Rights Learning Program held its first youth retreat from March 7 through March 9, 2008 at the William Penn House. Prior to the retreat, 89 high school students from seven public and private schools were introduced to the concepts of human rights as contained in the UDHR. Twenty students then attended the retreat where they learned more about the Declaration and then created short-and long-term action plans for human rights learning to be implemented in schools and their neighborhood. Each action was based on a key issue identified by the youths.

After intense debate among them, D.C. youths agreed to focus on three issues close to their lives: education, non-violence and immigration. At the end of the retreat, the youths selected the first D.C. Youth Human Rights Council to oversee implementation of human rights learning in their respective schools. AFSC received critical support from the Director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, who has since joined the D.C. Human Rights City steering committee.

Since the retreat, the Youth Human Rights Council has forged an alliance with the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center on Human Rights in May 2008, conducted a need assessment survey on the needs of immigrant students in D.C. schools from May 2008 to July 2008, and actively participated in the AFSC Middle Atlantic Region’s Youth Gathering in July 2008. Last June the program entered into an agreement with the District of Columbia Public Schools to provide human rights education in the schools until 2011. The partnership will allow the program to expand human rights education to more D.C. public schools.

The program is serving 120 students from three public high schools: Wilson, Cardozo, and Eastern. In addition, the program serves Friendship Collegiate Charter School and Sidwell Friends. Shorter presentations on human rights have also been made to students from Friends Community School in College Park and Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C.

More than twenty local organizations have joined with the AFSC to expand human rights learning in their respective communities and advocate for a human rights city.

A Sample Resolution

In the Council of the District of Columbia

To recognize December 10, 2008, as “Washington, D.C. Human Rights Day” in the District of Columbia:

WHEREAS, December 10, 2008, marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

WHEREAS, The United Nations passed resolution A/RES/62/171 proclaiming the year commencing on December 10, 2008 the international Year of Human Rights Learning;

WHEREAS, This is an opportunity to call attention to human rights violations around the world and to continue to promote the importance of educating our citizens about human rights;

WHEREAS, The District of Columbia Public Schools has partnered with the American Friends Service Committee to create courses that teach our students about human rights issues;

WHEREAS, On this day, citizens of the nation’s capital, led by individuals and organizations, affirm their commitment to human rights by declaring Washington, D.C., a Human Rights City;

WHEREAS, Washington, D.C. being a Human Rights City makes it a model for communities around the world to witness practical ways the human rights framework can make every citizen a partner of sustainable change;

WHEREAS, A Human Rights City is one whose residents and local authorities, through on-going discussions and creative exchanges of ideas, come to understand that human rights, when widely known as a way of life, assist in identifying the issues and informs the actions in our D.C. communities, for meaningful, positive economic and social change;

WHEREAS, Developing Human Rights Cities is an attempt to build infrastructure for conflict prevention, human security, sustainable development, and create a place for active civic engagement at the local, national, and global level;

WHEREAS, Washington, D.C. will be declared the first Human Rights City in the United States;

WHEREAS, As a Human Rights City, Washington, D.C. will be joining other human rights cities around the world in working to provide leadership and advocacy to secure, protect, and promote human rights for all people;

RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, that this resolution may be cited as the “Washington, D.C. Human Rights Day Recognition Resolution of 2008.”

Sec. 2. The Council of the District of Columbia recognizes December 10, 2008 as “Washington, D.C. Human Rights Day.”

Sec. 3. This resolution shall take effect immediately upon the first date of the publication in the District of Columbia Register.

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