On an unusually bright and sunny morning, during a time of great political challenge, the BIHR Tour arrived in Glasgow, Scotland. This particular tour stop, organised in collaboration with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), was held at Glasgow’s modern and dynamic Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU).
After the initial brief and lively opening by SCVO, an introduction to the BIHR was then given. This included a short quirky video, which displayed a timeline of events in relation to the way in which human rights initially became apparent and have increasingly developed over the years. A general education of Human Rights law was then further developed with a lecture type presentation followed by a group activity in which the views of a wonderfully diverse group of people were introduced.
“Human Rights are another tool in the toolbox, not a stand-alone thing.” – Iain, tour attendee.
Working in groups tackling very realistic case studies proved to be an extremely effective approach to addressing many of the issues relating to human rights in the UK today. This activity highlighted the complexities and challenges faced today when trying to implement such rights.
The afternoon commenced with discussion of human rights in the political debates surrounding the upcoming Scottish independence referendum. An informative and rather insightful speech was given on Scotland’s National Action Plan (SNAP) by the Scottish Human Rights Commission. As Scotland is a devolved democratic country with responsibility for health, education, housing, and care, it has important obligations and powers to ensure human rights are protected. It was brought to the attention of all attendees that the referendum will have a critical impact on human rights in Scotland and that it is imperative that Scotland maintains a human rights approach to moving forward.
“The understanding of human rights, and particularly the political debates surrounding human rights related issues, can be more progressive in Scotland. This can mean there is less need for initial conversations regarding how to overcome negative perceptions about human rights. This allows more time to focus on a conversation about how we can make sure human rights are a part of everything we do and to also have more of a discussion on how we realise our rights.” Sophie Howes – BIHR
The afternoon was aptly concluded with group discussions on different ways the attendees work with human rights, and how related issues can be tackled. We reached a general consensus that the most significant challenges to the implementation of human rights today are the media’s caricature and distortion of human rights and a general lack of a fundamental education of such rights.
“I think that more awareness raising is needed to inform people and empower them to claim their rights!” – Janco, BIHR tour attendee
As a law student and a volunteer for Unity Immigration Centre, (among a few other ongoing human rights related projects) I had almost ignorantly assumed my knowledge of human rights was more than a general understanding. This preconception was swiftly eradicated as the day progressed. The diversity of the attendees, their visible concern and keen participation, proved the day to be very motivating and somewhat inspirational for me in relation to my volunteering projects. The enthusiasm of all the speakers brought to my attention the effectiveness of such events and how they help not only to educate and raise awareness, but also to bring people together and promote active advocacy for human rights. Such rights are essential and they are a fundamental necessity for life but are unfortunately viewed by many as a mere luxury. Events such as the BIHR Human Rights Tour have a significant impact on such challenges faced today and provide the tools needed for progression towards a brighter tomorrow for human rights.