First-ever Human Rights summit in Wales

11/03/2008

Dispelling The Myths and Transforming Public Services

Today over 150 people will attend a ground-breaking Human Rights Summit in Wales to discuss key challenges in putting human rights at the heart of Welsh public services. The Summit will focus on changing front-line services so that they are based on human rights principles such as dignity, respect, equality and fairness. Transforming services in this way will make them better able to meet individuals real needs.

Human rights experts from across Britain will lead the debate and they will be joined by individuals from Wales who have powerful stories to tell of their experiences at the sharp end of these controversial issues. They include, amongst others, a Prison Governor, a young Gypsy Traveller, and a gay man refused a job simply because of his sexual orientation.

The Summit coincides with the 10th anniversary of the passing of the Human Rights Act and the 60th anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yet despite human rights featuring in British law for nearly a decade, a recent Gfk NOP poll showed that the term "human rights" still prompts mixed reactions from the British public.

  • 40% have either not heard of the phrase 'human rights' or are unable to name any protected rights.
  • But 47% supported 'human rights' laws in Britain.
  • 56% believe that "people only talk about their human rights when they're trying to get something they're not entitled to”.
  • 68% believe that the government is "more concerned about the human rights of minority groups than those of the average person".
  • 81% believe "there are some problems with human rights in Britain".
  • Only 23% believe that "the media reports human rights stories fairly".

Neil Wooding, Wales Commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), will tell the Summit that the Commission is to carry out an independent inquiry into human rights in England and Wales. This will look at whether the Human Rights Act is delivering tangible benefits through the delivery of public services.

Neil Wooding, Wales Commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

"Since the Human Rights Act came into force, it has lacked a powerful advocate. Not surprisingly, too many now view it as a charter for criminals and others trying to exploit the system.

The Commission has an important role to play in separating myth from reality and embarking on a full, frank, and, most importantly, independent assessment of human rights in Britain.

But our role is not simply that of advocate, challenging the perception that human rights doesn't bring benefits to a wide range of people. We will also act as critical friend, exposing any barriers that  -- in reality -- mean human rights are not enjoyed by as wide a range of people as they should be, for example those in private care homes."

ends

Notes to editors:

1. The Human Rights Summit takes place on Tuesday 11th March 2008 at the Cardiff Millennium Stadium between 10.00am and 3.00pm. It is jointly sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Welsh Local Government Association and the British Institute of Human Rights.

2. Speakers include:

  • Sarah Cooke, UK Member of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency
  • Dr Neil Wooding, Director of Public Services Management Wales and Wales Commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Prof. Phillip Fennell, Cardiff University Law School
  • Katie Ghose, Director of the British Institute of Human Rights
  • Frances Butler, Specialist Adviser to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

3. Individual human rights case studies from Wales are available for interview.

4. Further information about the Commission's Human Rights Inquiry can be found at: www.eqaulityhumanrights.com/humanrightsinquiry

The Equality and Human Rights Commission:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of the Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.

Last Updated: 19 Jun 2009