18th Plenary Session of the Congress
Interview - Strasbourg, 17 March 2010
Stefan Wolf, Lord-Mayor of Weimar (Germany), “The goal of all political investments in a community is to enable all citizens to live in dignity”
The Lord-Mayor of Weimar (Germany), Stefan WOLF, spoke in the debate on the role of local and regional authorities in implementing human rights during the 18th Congress session. He underlined in his interview that a progressive and modern human rights policy at local level should be an overriding objective that demanded no justification as a political investment.
1.) In your view, what are the most important indicators of whether human rights are respected in towns, municipalities and regions?
The most important indicator is the free and open exchange of information and opinions between and with all members of the community. This applies in particular to communication with individuals who are socially, geographically or politically marginalised: the unemployed, people living in rundown housing estates on the outskirts of towns and asylum seekers. The existence of active communication with these fellow citizens in a community is a key indicator of respect for human rights in terms of the involvement of individuals in all decision-making processes which affect them. Of relevance are also numerous statistical factors relating to policing, welfare and the environment, for instance the numbers of arrests or violent crimes, the involvement of citizens and inhabitants in social and political processes (voluntary work, electoral turnout, educational activities and urban development), and environmental indicators such as the development of green spaces or particulate pollution levels.
2.) How can municipalities make citizens and local politicians realise that respect for human rights is a precondition for peaceful coexistence in a free, democratic and prosperous society?
Particularly from the perspective of Weimar, remembrance work offers endless potential here. The history of Europe in the 20th century was one of violence, dictatorships and violations of human rights numbering in the millions. Municipalities have a duty to foster remembrance and, in particular, give the victims of the European civilisation process a voice. In the case of Weimar, the “Buchenwald legacy” joint declaration by former concentration camp prisoners and the city council on fostering remembrance and combating right-wing extremism provides a key basis here. The award of an international human rights prize to help protect the annual winner should also be mentioned in this connection. In addition, there is active co-operation with and support for civil society groups involved in human rights work.
3.) Municipalities which pursue progressive human rights policies must also allocate financial resources to that end, for instance in the areas of social housing and the integration of disadvantaged population groups. How can investments of this kind be justified against the background of the funding shortfalls of towns, municipalities and regions?
The goal of all political investments in a community is to enable all citizens to live in dignity. No justification is therefore needed for a progressive and modern human rights policy aimed, for instance, at the development of social housing or the integration of disadvantaged population groups: it must be the overriding objective of the political and administrative action of the authorities concerned. In Weimar, this goal is also pursued through the promotion of municipal enterprises. Municipal involvement in the provision of basic services such as housing, energy, water supplies and culture means politicians and the elected authorities continue to have the necessary scope for actively shaping their communities in a manner that respects human rights.