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UN-Habitat, the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights and partners launch a guide for mainstreaming human rights in the digital transformation of cities

Nairobi/Barcelona, November 15, 2022 - UN-Habitat, the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, Eurocities, and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) with support from Open Society Foundations have developed the guide “Mainstreaming human rights in the digital transformation of cities — A guide for local governments” to support city governments in fostering a human-rights based approach in their digital transformation journeys.

Launched during the Smart City Expo World Congress Barcelona 2022, the guide showcases what cities can do to put in place a city-wide human rights-based approach when developing, procuring and implementing digital technologies. 

From using open data, to facilitating access to basic urban services, to protecting vulnerable groups' privacy from surveillance technologies, the Guide lays out core values, commitments, mechanisms and tools city governments can implement to ensure digital technologies do not hinder residents and visitors’ human rights. 

This Guide aims at linking principles and daily decision-making processes in cities, and it does so by laying out concrete recommendations and showcasing examples that have already been implemented elsewhere. 

I believe local governments have an important role to play in the governance of smart cities and in countering the challenges and risks of rising digitalization in public service delivery and implications such as digital divide, digital inclusion, and social equity. Said Ms Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat. 

The Guide builds on best practices and input collected from a wide variety of stakeholders: local, regional and national governments from all around the world, international organisations but also civil society, academia and the private sector. 

UN-Habitat, the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights & partners are currently piloting the Guide with the cities of Brussels, Dublin, Tirana and Sofia, and have started working with CAF - Development Bank of Latin America to support the development of Guide that responds to  digital human rights challenges in the region.

“Digital technologies and innovation have a tremendous potential to help us transform our cities into more inclusive and livable spaces, but we will only achieve this by putting human rights and ethical principles at the centre of the digital transition and by making sure no one is left behind in this process.” - Laia Bonet, Deputy Mayor for the 2030 Agenda, Digital Transition, Sports, Territorial and Metropolitan Coordination at Barcelona City Council.

To accelerate the implementation of people-centered smart cities, UN-Habitat is launching the Digital Helpdesk for Cities, a multi-stakeholder platform to make technical support more accessible to public officials and community groups. The Helpdesk provides advice on smart city strategies, digital inclusion plans, ethical technology procurement, open data, stakeholders engagement and digital participatory tools, to mention a few. Cities and communities can contact the Digital Helpdesk for Cities through  


Download the Guide here


UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all. UN-Habitat works with partners to build inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities. It promotes urbanization as a positive transformative force for people and communities, reducing inequality, discrimination and poverty and provides technical assistance, policy advice, knowledge and capacity building to national and local governments in over 90 countries. 

The Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, launched by the Cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona. and New York in November 2018 and now with a membership of over 50 cities worldwide, is a network of cities helping each other in the greenfield of digital rights based policy-making. The Coalition is committed to promoting and defending digital rights in urban context through city action, to resolve common digital challenges and work towards legal, ethical and operational frameworks to advance human rights in digital environments. United in spirit and ambition, the Coalition supports principled actions and pragmatic guidance through city-to-city collaboration.

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