York is declaring its commitment to human rights. At an event today the Lord Mayor will declare York the UK's first Human Rights City. It will join more than 30 other cities across the globe that have made a special commitment to grounding decision making in human rights principles so that everyone is treated with dignity and fairness.

The City of York Council, North Yorkshire Police and York CVS are all members of the York Human Rights City Network (YHRCN) and recognise the positive effect that human rights have on the difficult decisions that they make every day in their work.

At BIHR we are very proud of the work that we have done with YHRCN, including sessions last year with the City of York Council and the voluntary sector to build capacity on human rights and putting them into practice. Our new advocacy project, supporting those working on health and wellbeing, will also be focused in York, with sessions and resources developed in coming months. We hope this will make an important contribution to York’s continued journey on being a human rights city.

In welcoming York’s declaration, BIHR’s Director, Stephen Bowen, said:

“The British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) extends its congratulations to York on declaring as the UK's first Human Rights City. At BIHR we work to bring human rights to life across the UK, empowering people and organisations to understand the value of human rights and to put them at the heart of our communities. This initiative by York signals a commitment to make the city a place where this truly happens. Through our long association with York, BIHR has been pleased to support the Human Rights City initiative, including most recently through our human rights training, information and evidence sessions. BIHR looks forward to continuing our work in York, to help realise the ambitions of being a Human Rights City.”

Too often the national debate around human rights is about political point-scoring, obscuring the real meaning and value of these protections for everyone. At a time when Westminster debates are talking about reducing human rights protections, York’s actions show the importance of realising human rights at a local level.  

As Eleanor Roosevelt, who was pivotal in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, said;

"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."

York becoming a Human Rights City is this sentiment brought to reality. Here is a community upholding human rights close to home and bringing rights to life. All of us at BIHR believe, like Eleanor Roosevelt, that this is the best way to making progress in the larger world.