Mainstreaming Digital human rights in cities

People living in cities around the world use a wide range of digital services on a regular basis. As city governments undergo digital transformation, the digital and physical aspects of the city become more closely connected with digital technologies. Technologies are being used to deliver services, manage urbanization processes and communicate with residents. As physical and digital spaces become increasingly intertwined, cities need to ensure human rights are protected both online and offline.

The potential of technology to serve people is directly connected to ensuring human rights are protected and promoted when developing, accessing and using technologies in an ethical, inclusive and sustainable way. The use of digital technologies, platforms and data by governments and the private sector can affect urban residents, sometimes in unforeseen or unintended ways, impacting public life cities and affects groups across communities differently. The UN Secretary’s General Roadmap for Digital Cooperation addresses the impact of digital tools in human rights advocacy and violations such as lack of data protection and privacy, use of surveillance technologies and online violence and harassment.


Improving digital governance in cities

Digital governance models that protect human rights in digital spaces are essential for people-centered smart cities. Building on existing normative work, international frameworks and local experiences, UN-Habitat and partners are providing pragmatic support in normative and technical aspects that are involved in mainstreaming human rights in digital strategies. 

The Guide has three dimensions to set out the foundations, structures and tools that city governments can put into place in their digitalisation strategies to ensure human rights are protected and promoted at all times and customize commitments to digital human rights based on their own needs and contexts.


Digital Rights Governance Pilot Project in Europe

The Guide is the basis of a multi-stakeholder pilot project with European cities implemented in partnership with the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, EUROCITIES, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) with the support from Open Society Foundations. 

This project is aimed at supporting the cities of Brussels (Belgium), Dublin (Ireland), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Tirana (Albania) in developing a digital human rights approach towards addressing the growing needs and concerns with the use of digital technologies, with ambitions to build on lessons learnt and scale it to other contexts and regions.

This project will develop guidelines and tools and will pilot the concept of a Helpdesk platform to support cities in ensuring human rights are protected and promoted in their local digitalization strategies.


The Digital Helpdesk for Cities

The Digital Helpdesk for Cities makes technical support accessible to cities and communities on topics such as inclusive digital transformation, digital governance, and digital human rights. It aims at contributing to accelerating people-centered digital transformation by addressing local needs.