Every year, the 10th December marks International Human Rights Day. This year, the date also marked 70 years of the European Convention on Human Rights, 50 years of us at the British Institute of Human Rights and 20 years of the operation of our domestic Human Rights Act.

The 10th December this year also marked the near close of 2020, a year where the Coronavirus pandemic spread the world impacting us all but hitting those in already vulnerable situations even harder. A year where over 16.3% of people experienced the right to life not being protected due to reduced services or the prioritisation of other services; where nearly 28% of people experienced a reduction in care or support which resulted in dignity not being upheld and over 50% of people experienced restrictions which impacted their right to mental and physical well-being and to family life.[i]

A year where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for the international community to put people’s rights front and centre[ii].  Astonishingly, also a year where ongoing Brexit negotiations reveal the UK Government's reluctance to show a clear commitment to our membership of the European Convention on Human Rights and, as of last week, a year where the same Government announced a panel to review of the Human Rights Act.[iii]

The importance of Human Rights Day 2020 cannot be understated.

We spent the morning with over 196 people supporting them with information about their rights and building confidence in how to use human rights in everyday interactions to secure change and address issues of social justice. Of the 196 attendees;

  • 39% were public officials or those delivering a function of public nature (health, care, education, housing…) who joined to increase their accountability to respect and protect human rights in everything they do.
  • 11% were people accessing services
  • 9% were family members or loved ones of someone accessing services
  • 25% were advocates and campaigners

We began the event by asking everyone what do the words human rights make you think or feel?

We had three aims for this session:

  1. To help attendees understand a bit more about human rights and how are they protected by law in
    the UK.
  2. To discuss the impact has 2020 had on human rights protections, using our own research and face to face work as a basis.
  3. Share stories of how can human rights be used to make change.

#MakingChange Through Human Rights

During the session we shared many stories of making change through human rights that we have gathering during our work, including the story of Susan, who used human rights to challenge the inhuman and degrading treatment she was subject to in hospital.

We also shared some new videos that we created for Human Rights Day, where we asked people to share their own stories of making change through human rights. 

In this video Ian talks about how important human rights are for him and his family:

In this video Leo tells us about how human rights are central to her campaign work:

And in this video Sarah highlights how human rights can support staff to make better, more rights-respecting decisions, everyday:

Although on Human Rights Day we shared many positive stories of how human rights can make positive change in our lives, everyday, we also know that there is still a long way to got before a culture of respect for human rights is fully realised in the UK.

We ended the event by asking what do you think needs to happen for a culture of respect for human rights to become the reality in the UK?

The Importance of Human Rights 

Our work at BIHR, makes clear to us every day the vital importance not just of knowing about human rights but knowing how to use them, practically, every day. When asked what needs to happen for a culture of respect for human rights to become the reality in the UK, most attendees said awareness and education.

At BIHR, we aim for the light bulb moments everyday- when people make the connection between human rights and their lives and work. We move human rights from the law books to everyday life, using real examples and a practical human rights based approach. Feedback, like that below from our human rights day session, confirms to us the need and importance of continuing this type of work.




Get involved

Have you used human rights to create change over the last year? Maybe you have used human rights to challenge a decision or to make sure your views have been heard? We would love to hear your story and include it in our video project, just like Ian, Leo and Sarah.

If you are interested in starring in our video, please contact us on [email protected] 

Visit this page for more information: https://www.bihr.org.uk/making-change

[i] Statistics from BIHR research conducted to respond to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into the human rights implications of Covid19. Available here:

[ii] Video of UN Secretary General speaking about human rights on 22 April 2020 available here

[iii] UK Government Review of HRA, information available here