The State of the City and the Future of Human Rights: A Review of Global Urban Justice

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Johanna Kalb is Associate Professor of Law at Loyola University New Orleans College of
Law.

The localization of human rights is still a relatively new phenomenon. Now, however, as we approach the twentieth anniversary of the first human rights city, the time is ripe to take stock of the progress and potential. This volume of essays, edited by Barbara Oomen, Martha F. Davis, and Michele Grigolo, brings together an international and interdisciplinary collection of authors to assess the state of human rights vis-a-vis the city. Through a mix of case studies and thematic essays on the localization of human rights on several continents, this volume provides a window into how human rights are playing out on the ground in local communities. In this Review, I draw on these case studies to consider whether cities are effective sites to enhance the relevance of human rights. In particular, I examine whether efforts to name, claim, and implement rights at the city level can enhance accountability, make human rights relevant and real, and fill the gap left as the power of nation-states wanes. In so doing, I offer a preliminary assessment not only of the state of city level engagement with human rights, but also of broader efforts to make human rights a reality more generally.

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