The Tour visits Haverfordwest

By the Rev’d Dr. John GillibrandDSC_0138 (35)

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.DSC_0164 (61)

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.

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Bringing Human Rights Home to Northampton

By: Anjona Roy, Chief Executive of Northampton Rights and Equality Council. Reproduced, with permission, from http://anjonaroy.blogspot.co.uk/

Today, Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council were supporting partners to the British Institute of Human Rights countrywide tour with an event hosted in the Cheyne Walk Club in centre of Northampton.

An audience of over forty people gave up a whole day of their time to debate, discuss and engage with the concept of human rights in twenty first century britain and aboard. The Human Rights tour has been taking place since 2011 and for the first time it had arrived in Northamptonshire.

With a wide range of information about human rights including detailed description of the background to the establishment of the human rights and the framework of rights, the sessions covered case law, the balance of absolute and non absolute rights. There was a wealth of information delivered in an approach that could only be described as extremely user friendly.

It was really positive talking with others in the break at the event at a time where human rights has been hitting the headlines with both the media and the breadth of the political classes having their say.

The trouble is that we are all too comfortable to accept human rights as an idea that should be upheld in a far off foreign land. For right here and right now, human rights doesn’t have a poster boy or poster girl that we can all relate to as it is about all humans many of which we will never really share a similar experince with. Much of the time arguments of social justice promote the concept of “that could be you … so support their cause”. Much of the time human rights battlefields require supporters to support causes that they will never experience, so tha support has to be there with the argument that “this is the right thing to do”and the human rights cause, particular in these times desparately need you and many others to do the right thing.

The Human Rights Tour 2014 kicks off in Cardiff

By Guest Blogger: Jade Forester

On Tuesday September 30, the British Institute of Human Rights kicked off its fourth Human Rights Tour with a pop-up event in Cardiff’s Butetown Community Centre, organised in partnership with Age Connects Wales.

What are human rights and where do they come from? What is the Human Rights Act, and how does it apply to UK and European law? How can we identify and address human rights issues in our local communities? What do our politicians think about human rights?

These are some of the questions explored by the group of students, carers, advocates and charity workers in attendance at the Cardiff pop-up. A mix of presentations and interactive sessions led to lively discussion of human rights law – as well as some eye-opening realisations about how politics and the media affect human rights in the UK.

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Erika Bithell, a law student at Bangor University in North Wales, was surprised by what UK politicians had to say about human rights, presented by the BIHR team in a slideshow featuring quotes from the major political party leaders and other MPs.

“Human rights are universal,” Bithell responded. “The UK and other developed countries have a responsibility to be role models for other countries by promoting and respecting human rights [here].”

During the morning session, participants worked in groups to examine several case studies inspired by true events, using the Human Rights Act 1998 to determine whether there had been a breach of rights and who was responsible in each case.

“The case studies were definitely a highlight,” said Age Connects CEO Jeff Hawkins. “These cases are very complex, and even if you think you’ve got a sense of them, it’s interesting to hear different people’s opinions and interpretations of them.”

Hawkins first got involved with the Human Rights Tour last year, signing up to be a human rights champion after attending a local pop-up event. He was then inspired to engage his organisation more from a human rights perspective, and to help host this year’s event in Cardiff.

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“When we got the opportunity to partner with BIHR to organise and promote the tour this year, we jumped on it,” said Hawkins, who believes Wales is in a uniquely advantageous position for human rights advocacy and awareness.

“We’ve got lots going on in Wales in terms of human rights, with the Older People’s Commissioner, and the Welsh Government” and their strong stance on human rights. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Wales champions equality and human rights for all, working to ensure that policy-making in Great Britain reflects the specific needs of Wales. “It’s a good basis for pushing [human rights issues] further.”

Age Connects Wales is a network of 5 independently constituted organisations working to change attitudes towards ageing, improving the lives of older people by working directly with communities to address social and cultural stigma attached to ageing.

Each pop-up event is hosted by local groups and public sector partners to keep each event grounded in local issues, such as mental health, “We’re keen to support more specific human rights work, particularly with older people,” said Hawkins.

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, spoke to attendees on Tuesday about the importance of advocacy in making sure those who fought and died for the rights we have today have their own rights respected and upheld as they grow older.

“I know I wouldn’t be here, as a woman and as Commissioner, if it weren’t for those who fought and died for my rights,” said Rochira, who took up her post as Older People’s Commissioner for Wales in 2012 having spent over 25 years within the public and third sectors in Wales, working for equality and diversity, organisational development, training and education programmes within a number of NHS services.

Many who attended Tuesday’s event work with care services. Jen Sissons attended the event with her colleagues from Age Connects Cardiff. “The tour was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about our human rights in the UK, discuss the issues surrounding human rights and gain confidence in challenging decisions concerning someone’s human rights,” Sissons said. “It would be great if they involved more local MPs in future events, too.” [Note from Editor: local politicians were invited, but none could attend].

The Human Rights Tour is set to continue throughout October and November with events in 11 other UK cities – click here to find an event near you. Places are free but limited, so sign up now! The BIHR has already had more than 800 sign-ups, and expect to see those numbers hit 1000 by the end of the tour.

Whether you attend one of the Human Rights Tour events or not, there are a handful of ways to get involved:

  • Sign the Human Rights Charter by going to http://bihr.org.uk/charter
  • Celebrate Human Rights Day on December 10th! Organise a human rights event in your area using the Human Rights Toolkit
  • Sign up to receive regular updates on events, training and other projects with BIHR e-News
  • Join the conversation on Twitter: tweet @BIHRhumanrights to share what human rights means to you