Human Rights Day 2014 Today, Wednesday 10th December, is Human Rights Day. Every year it is a chance to join millions of people across the world in celebrating human rights, and we at BIHR use it to celebrate the human rights protections we have close to home.Today there are events being held accross the UK to celebrate Human Rights Day, organised by BIHR's Human Rights Champions. We will be interviewing some of those Champions as the day progresses, and will be updating the blog here.Please note views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of BIHR. Interviews were conducted over the phone so have been paraphrased in parts.11:25am 10th December 2014 Happy Human Rights Day everyone! We hope everyone is as excited as us to celebrate what is such an important day for us all. Here at BIHR we think Human Rights Day is the perfect opportunity for people to come together and commemorate the rights that protect each and every one of us here in the UK and around the world. 10th December marks the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was first signed in 1948. This was the first time the global community came together and set down a list of basic rights and freedoms that governments around the world should respect. Human rights make sure that everyone is treated equal, regardless of their race, age and gender, particularly protecting those who are the most vulnerable in society. BIHR think this something that needs to be remembered and celebrated, and Human Rights Day is a great way to raise awareness about human rights, especially here at home in the UK. BIHR is working with Human Rights Champions across the UK who are holding activities and events in their local communities to celebrate Human Rights Day. From photo competitions to coffee mornings, our champions are coming together to raise the profile of human rights here at home. To hear more about what our Human Rights Champions are getting up to today from Norwich to Newcastle and beyond, check back here as we will be posting live blogs throughout the day. 14:10 10th December 2014 Suzanna Brander – Shrewsbury One of our Human Rights Champions Suzanna has organised a coffee morning for people at her children’s school and in her local area. She has been handing out leaflets and badges given to her by BIHR, and has been raising awareness through starting conversations about the importance of human rights here in the UK. Why did you want to do something for human rights day? I attended the Human Rights Tour in Shrewsbury and through this became a Human Rights Champion. The main reason I felt it was important to mark Human Rights Day is because I wanted to raise the profile of human rights with the intention of getting people to realise how they affect everyone. Through talking with people in my local area I wanted people to know about how their human rights are protected here at home, and how human rights law is important for making sure the Government treat us fairly. I’m worried about the current threats to the Human Rights Act and it’s about making sure my children live in a society where their freedoms and rights are respected and protected. What do human rights mean to you and your community? I live in a rural, affluent community and I feel like human rights are more important for those who live in inner cities as they have a greater exposure to social inequality. Human rights protect us all, but particularly those who are vulnerable and less affluent. Raising awareness about human rights here in the UK is a way to make sure my children’s rights, and the next generation’s, are protected and respected. 14:45 10th December 2014 Yvonne Hartnett – Newcastle Our Human Rights Champion Yvonne Hartnett works in an asylum seekers and refugees organisation, and has been handing out the Human Rights Charter to its members to celebrate Human Rights Day 2014. A cake to celebrate Human Rights Day has also been made, helping to bring awareness about the importance of human rights to some of the most vulnerable people here in the UK including refugees and asylum seekers. Why did you decide it was important to something to mark Human Rights Day? I felt it was vital to create awareness about the importance of human rights here in the UK, especially for asylum seekers. I felt that in the future we all need to do more to advocate on the behalf of people who are vulnerable and create an even greater understanding about what makes human rights real. BIHR’s Human Rights Tour advocated equal opportunity and respect, which are the most basic and fundamental principles of human rights. These are the values that that need to be adhered to here in the UK. What do human rights mean to you and your community? Human rights to me mean fair and equal treatment for everyone, and for everyone to be treated decently. For me it’s about the quality of life, not just the basic fundamentals – human rights are about allowing people to live their lives with freedom and dignity. Human rights are gradually being eroded because of a lack of knowledge in the asylum process, particularly in the detention process. There is no time limit for detention of asylum seekers and people are not treated well in such facilities. Human rights are about respect for everyone in society, and respect for all cultures. Those seeking asylum have come to the UK to free persecution but end up treated like criminals; human rights have a special part to play in making sure everyone is treated fairly and respectfully. 15:50 10th December 2014 Esther Craddock – London Our Human Rights Champion Esther Craddock works in mental health, and for Human Rights Day has been talking to other mental health staff about the importance of human rights in mental health services. Library staff have also put up a human rights display using BIHR’s bunting from the Human Rights Tour to raise awareness. Why did you decide it was important to do something for Human Rights Day? I went to one of BIHR’s human rights events and felt it was important to spread the message as there is a lack of awareness. People hear misguided information about what human rights are and most people do not actually know what it means. I do some human rights training and how to use it in mental healthcare. Using the concept of FREDA (Fairness, Respect, Equality, Dignity, Autonomy) in human rights, it’s about making these principles real in people’s everyday life. People hear the words ‘human rights’ but often do not know what it means or how it applies to them. As I work in a mental health organisation, it’s about using the principles of FREDA to bring about good practice and making sure people understand how human rights are essential to them. What do human rights mean to you and your community? Human rights are in everything I do. In the mental health service, we must ask the questions ‘are we being fair and maintaining people’s dignity?’ It’s about making sure people’s right to liberty and right to freedom of expression are being respected. It’s about making human rights real to people so they can use them in everyday lives. Most of my clients are very vulnerable – they are homeless or do not speak English. I am trying to make sure people are protected by the most fundamental principles that human rights provide. It’s about looking at the individual and making sure human rights are being used in their everyday life – that’s what makes it real. 16:10 10th December 2014 Ben Wild – Norwich Our Human Rights Champion Ben Wild is a trainee solicitor in Norwich, and has set up a talk at his law firm with Professor David Mead, the Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of East Anglia. The talk was given to the firm’s partners and solicitors and talked about the basics of Human Rights Law and applying the Human Rights Act in a commercial context. Ben has also handed out BIHR’s human rights day leaflets to the firm to raise awareness. Why did you decide it was important to do something to mark Human Rights Day? I have a strong philosophical and moral commitment to human rights. Human rights are the best modern expression for common humanity – in the simplest form just making sure people are nice to one another. Human rights are being attacked for political and economic reasons and I think it’s important to make sure they are protected. What do human rights mean to you and your community? Human rights are about finding an institutionalised expression for common humanity. In society, people are not always going to be protected by the majority. Human rights form useful protection from the power of the state. They are a practical tool for the minority in society, and people more generally, to use to protect themselves. 16:50 10th december 2014 Julia Lyford- Newcastle Julia Lyford from the North East Equalities Coalition partnered with BIHR on the Human Rights Tour 2014 to bring the Tour to Newcastle, and has been promoting human rights on social media throughout the day. Why are human rights important to you? I have been trying to get people behind human rights legislation, and to get people to look at gender and disability through a human rights lens more specifically. Equality legislation has not been supporting disabled women, and human rights provide a focus and a useful way for bringing these issues together and tackling them more effectively. What do human rights mean to you and your community? Organisations in the North East of England have struggled to have a collective voice when it comes to equality issues. By using human rights to deal with equality issues, it provides a way to bring about better links between women’s groups and get a lot more people get involved. There is now much better networking between women’s groups and other equality organisations because of human rights; I think people can see human rights are the best route for dealing with certain issues. 17:30 10th December 2014 Nick – Northampton Nick is a lecturer at the University of Northampton and has been taking part in an event held by the Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council and the University of Northampton Student’s Union. There have been round table discussions, and students have been signing BIHR’s Human Rights Charter and creating some lovely bunting. Why did you think it was important to do something to mark human rights day? I am a law lecturer and I am therefore interested in human rights from that point of view. Students are also interested in human rights and the Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council is providing some education about human rights. Everyone needs to know the rights they hold and so awareness needs to be raised for students and the wider community. What do human rights mean to you and your community? For me it is about social justice. Human rights are a way to protect the most vulnerable in society. It is true what they say – that an attack on anyone’s human rights is an attack on everyone’s – and if the most vulnerable people in society’s rights are being eroded, then so are everyone else’s. Northamptonshire as a community is extremely diverse, and value is brought by every different group. So for that reason it is important that every group is protected and human rights provide a legal basis to do that.