As the parent of a young man on the autistic spectrum with learning disabilities, I have developed a considerable interest in human rights issues over the years. I am always on the look out for opportunities of becoming better informed about human rights, about the current legislative framework, and about current political debates in human rights. Equally important to me is the opportunity of joining in discussion with others who are seeking to root human rights with best practice in different fields.
I was therefore delighted to attend the British Institute of Human Rights roadshow in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. What was particularly striking was the collaboration between BIHR and a local organisation, Pembrokeshire People First. The venue was attractive – and in an accessible location! Everything was brilliantly organised and clearly presented, together with very appropriate supporting materials. The whole conference held my attention throughout the day. I would recommend the roadshow both to those with existing knowledge and experience in the field of human rights, as well as those who feel that they need to gain basic knowledge of the subject.
Here in Wales, we often feel a disconnect between local experience and the work of ‘London-centric’ organisations. I really admire the way in which BIHR has taken Human Rights on the road, showing us clearly the links in the chain that runs from Strasbourg via London and Cardiff, to local communities here in Wales. So often human rights get negative coverage in the press. We were reminded in this conference that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the European Convention on Human Rights in 1953 are among the great achievements of the post-war generation as they reflected on the violations of human rights by the Nazis. Those achievements are a heritage to treasure, and live by today.
One of my favourite quotations is from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” The BIHR roadshow took human rights close to home, and reminded those of us who live in West Wales of the way in which our rights here are set in the larger world.