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Human Rights Day 2023: Small Places Close to Home

On Monday 11th December 2023, we invited parliamentarians and community groups from across the UK to join us in the House of Lords to celebrate Human Rights Day 2023 and the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

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We heard speeches from the Joint Committee of Human Rights as well as the six community groups that have been working with BIHR this year to create human rights solutions to social justice issues they face in their everyday lives and work. At the event, each community group launched a sample of their resource, with all six now available in full.

Click on the cover of each resource below to see the resources:

Imran Khan KC

Chairing the event was Imran Khan KC, a human rights lawyer and BIHR trustee. He is well known for his representation of the family of Stephen Lawrence during the private prosecution, inquest, and public inquiry into Stephen’s murder. He opened the event by reflecting on the past year in human rights, celebrating the stopping of the UK Government’s Rights Removal Bill and highlighting the everyday benefits of the Human Rights Act that impact the lives of people across the UK.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights

Imran handed over to Joanna Cherry KC, the Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR). The JCHR is a Parliamentary Committee made up of MPs and members of the House of Lords from different political parties. It looks at issues relating to human rights in the UK, as well as checking every Government Bill to see if it respects human rights. Joanna paid tribute to the "human rights defenders" in the room as she talked about the principle of universality – that human rights are for everyone. She also shared her concerns with the new Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill which would stop people being able to access their human rights.

British Institute of Human Rights

Joanna then handed over to Jacob, a Human Rights Officer at BIHR and the 2023 Communities Programme lead. Jacob explained the work that BIHR have been doing with six community groups to co-produce resources that support people to understand and claim their human rights. Each of the resources has been tailored to the needs of the people the community groups support, with information on human rights law and practical tools to help people apply it in everyday life. 

All Wales People First

We then heard from Joe and Tracy from All Wales People First. All Wales People First is the united voice of self-advocacy groups and people with learning disabilities in Wales. They want to ensure that people with learning disabilities in Wales, can have access to self-advocacy support so that they are able to voice choice and control. They also want to ensure that people with learning disabilities understand their rights, especially their Human Rights. Joe and Tracy talked about how important it is that people don’t just know their human rights but know how to access them and said that they wanted to design an accessible resource that could be used by everybody.

All Together in Dignity

Next up was Tiegan, Aurelia and Kaydence, three peer advocates from All Together in Dignity (ATD’s) Youth Voices project. ATD is a family support programme for the most vulnerable and excluded families. With time, space, and resources, they build upon their strengths, develop their support networks, and can access public services in their community. Tiegan, Aurelia and Kaydence explained some of the advocacy work they have previously done, including presenting to the United Nations. They then discussed how vital it is to have a resource specifically for young people to not only support them to know their human rights but also to set out the steps that they can take to challenge decisions-makers and secure their rights in practice.

My Life My Choice

The third community speakers were Shaunie and Pam from My Life My Choice. My Life My Choice is a self-advocacy organisation for adults with a learning disability. Their vision is a world where people with a learning disability are treated without prejudice and can have choice and control over their own lives. Shaune and Pam explained that they wanted to create a resource designed to support people with learning disabilities in long-stay hospitals to return home, with Pam sharing her personal experiences of unnecessary hospital stays.

Families in Trauma and Recovery

We then heard from Maggie and Annie from Families in Trauma and Recovery, a charity set up by a husband-and-wife team who found themselves dealing with a traumatic family situation, but with little experience of how to handle it, and without knowing where to turn for support. They offer a range of services to the public including Trauma-Informed, Peer to Peer and Emotional CPR and focus on recovery in contrast to traditional approaches. Maggie and Annie talked about the importance of the human right to private and family life and the difference that a human rights resource explaining this could have made to some of the families they have worked with.

Migrants’ Rights Network

The next speakers were Julia and Earnest from Migrants Rights Network. Migrants’ Rights Network is a UK charity that stands in solidarity with all migrants in their fights for rights and justice. They co-curate campaigns using anti-oppression practices to create transformational change, extending beyond the individual impact on migrants’ lives, to tackle oppression at its source. They shared their resource specifically created for people seeking asylum who are living in Home Office accommodation, highlighting recent examples of inadequate housing such as the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Fair Justice System for Scotland Group

The final community speaker was Silence from Fair Justice System for Scotland Group (FJSS Group). FJSS Group is a grassroots-focused organisation that advocates for justice sector reforms that create more racial diversity and inclusion in the Scottish justice system. They discussed inequality and lack of representation in Scottish Parliament and reflected on how important it is that small community groups and charities, such as the ones that are working with BIHR, are given a platform.

British Institute of Human Rights

BIHR’s CEO Sanchita gave the final speech in which she emphasised the importance of standing up for human rights now more than ever. She shared her experiences working in human rights for over two decades, during which time she has never seen such a period of sustained attack on human rights as we are seeing now. She celebrated the work of the community groups in protecting human rights in, as UDHR architect Eleanor Roosevelt said, “the small places close to home.”

Imran Khan KC

Imran closed the event by sharing his admiration for the community speakers and the work they all do, showing that you don’t need to be a lawyer to stand up for everyone’s human rights. As Imran put it, as we all learn about and share our human rights, “they’re in our DNA. Whatever the people at the top do, you can’t close that door.”

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