2018 was the year that marked both the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of our UK Human Rights Act. These anniversaries gave us, and organisations like us, the opportunity to pause and reflect on the difference human rights law makes in day to day life.

Throughout the year, we brought people together to share experiences of the importance of our Human Rights Act, telling the often unheard stories where change happens, not through the courts but through knowledge and empowerment. Our 2018 message was, and continues to be, that when individuals and the public bodies who support them understand their duties under the Human Rights Act culture can shift, practice can change and the dignity and autonomy of the individual can be upheld.

Importantly, when this doesn’t happen, when the policy or practice of public bodies is incompatible with our human rights law, the very existence of our Human Rights Act means that individuals can seek legal redress in UK courts. Read our blog on 2018’s most significant human rights cases here.

Looking at the year ahead, we’ll struggle to find any human rights anniversaries as significant as 2018’s but 2019 is nevertheless going to be a landmark year for the UK. We do not currently know what lies ahead after Brexit (if and when it occurs) but we do know that there must be no dilution in the protection of our human rights. Amidst division and uncertainty we have an even more crucial role to play in ensuring that people know their rights and that these are respected, protected and fulfilled by public authorities.

For us at BIHR, we’ll be working with Transforming Care Partnerships to ensure that cross-sector staff and commissioners understand their human rights duties and that service users and their families are empowered to know their rights. We will continue to gather evidence around access to health care for asylum seekers and refugees.  We’ll be empowering survivors of torture and those who support them across Scotland and England to ensure a human rights based approach to service delivery. We’ll be training over 200 care home staff to uphold human rights in their day to day practice. We’ll continue working with Clinical Commissioning Groups, complete the delivery of our clinical law module at Queen Mary University and finish our schools project where young people learn about human rights and non-discrimination.

All of these programmes of work create the evidence base required to push for the protection of our human rights law at government and policy level and the implementation of our rights in our day to day interactions.

This year also holds some notable international human rights dates for your diary;

January- The Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into whether parliament should set up a specific mechanism to scrutinise international agreements for compliance with human rights in a post-Brexit world. More information here. February- The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women meets to review the UK government report evidencing the steps taking to implement the CEDAW treaty. More information here.

April- The UK will be reviewed by the UN Committee against Torture on our progress towards implementing the Convention. REDRESS is coordinating and facilitating a joint civil society shadow report to the Committee. More information here. November- The UK will submit its mid-term review showing the level of implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations made in 2017. The UPR is a mechanism of the Human Rights Council aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground. More information here.

December- As always, December will see Human Rights Day, celebrating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

So, that was a glance back and a gaze forward (and I only said Brexit twice!). Here’s to 2019 and the important role we all have to play in ensuring equality and human rights are embedded in the nation’s future.

Follow us on social media or get in touch for information and updates on our work as the year progresses.

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