Commission launches human rights strategy

Commission launches strategy to protect and promote respect for human rights

10 November 2009

The Commission today sets out its plan to preserve the rights in the Human Rights Act and to protect and promote respect for human rights principles.
       
One of the core principles in the Commission’s three-year strategy is for any future legislative developments, such as a proposed Bill of Rights, to have the rights and remedies of the Human Rights Act at their heart, so that the protection it provides is retained. 
 
The Commission's strategy aims to create a climate of respect for human rights – through promoting understanding, demonstrating the value of human rights law in people’s everyday lives, and using its legal powers.
 
It intends to promote widespread and accurate understanding of human rights and help to translate the law into practical action by public, private and voluntary organisations. 
 
The Commission will develop innovative ways to measure the performance of government and public authorities on human rights and work to strengthen the degree of accountability of the UK Government to the United Nations in relation to torture, race discrimination and disability rights.
 
In July this year, the Commission published its Human Rights Inquiry. With evidence gathered from more than 2,800 people, it is the most comprehensive research to date into the Human Rights Act’s first ten years and how human rights principles have been adopted by public institutions.
 
The Inquiry found that eight in ten people in Britain want human rights protection enshrined in the law and recognise the importance of human rights in creating a fair and equal society. It also revealed that where a human rights approach is incorporated into the delivery of public services, both users and providers benefit.
 
Alongside the Inquiry, the Commission has carried out extensive work on human rights issues in its two-year existence. Examples of its achievements so far include:

  • Becoming Britain’s first UN-accredited National Human Rights Institution – one of only 68 organisations in the world with this status – following a rigorous assessment of its human rights role and work.
  • Using its legal powers to intervene in a high-profile human rights case, the result of which is that the Ministry of Defence is legally obliged to provide proper protection to soldiers serving overseas. 
  • Assisting the Government to close a loop-hole in the law, so that people living in privately run residential care homes who have their care paid for by the state are now covered by human rights legislation. 
  • Successfully lobbying for the UK government to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. 

 Trevor Phillips, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
 
'Respect for human rights in the law is and must remain the foundation stone of our open and democratic society. In recent years we have sometimes lost sight of this fact, with some assuming human rights are instead a threat to our way of life.'  
 
'Our strategy is about turning this situation around, demonstrating through practical action the importance of human rights to everyone in society from those fighting on the front line in Afghanistan and Iraq, to older people expecting to be treated with dignity and respect by those charged with caring for them.'  
 
'Human rights provide the 'rules for the road' in our increasingly diverse society by focusing on that which unites rather than divides us, and as such our human rights strategy underpins and informs everything the Commission will do.”
 
The Commission is inviting feedback on the strategy and will be discussing the most effective way to implement its aims, objectives and proposed actions with interested parties.'
 
Download: 'Our human rights strategy and programme of action 2009 - 2012' (Pdf) or request a copy via the Commission’s helpline for England 0845 604 6610 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Find out more about our human rights strategy and our work on human rights.

-Ends-

For more press information please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.
 
For general enquiries please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610 / Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to Editors

Human rights strategy

The Commission's responsibilities to protect and promote human rights are to: -

  • Promote understanding of the importance of human rights encourage good practice in relation to human rights.
  • Promote awareness, understanding and protection of human rights.
  • Encourage public authorities to comply with section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (c. 42) (compliance with Convention rights).
  • Monitor the effectiveness of laws relating to equality and human rights and monitor and report progress towards identified desired outcomes. 

The Commission’s five priorities for human rights are:

  • No regression in law from the levels of human rights protection and mechanisms for enforcement under the Human Rights Act and other ratified human rights treaties.
  • Widespread awareness and accurate understanding of human rights at all levels of society, including how they can be used by individuals and applied by public, private and voluntary organisations.
  • Human rights mainstreamed into the work of at least five of the most significant regulators, inspectorates and complaints handling bodies.
  • To have developed a credible and widely utilised measurement framework for human rights widely and to have reported against this framework in our Triennial Review.
  • To have clearly influenced the concluding observations of the Treaty Monitoring Bodies for the UN Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concerning Britain’s performance on respecting, protecting and promoting human rights. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission

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

UN accreditation

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), with ‘A status’ accreditation from the United Nations.  This accreditation gives the Commission a formal role in the United Nations system including with respect to UN Treaty Monitoring and the UN Human Rights Council. There are 68 A accredited NHRIs around the world.

Scotland

In Scotland, the Commission shares its human rights responsibilities with the Scottish Human Rights Commission which is responsible for human rights issues falling within the remit of the Scottish Parliament. The Commission can deal with these issues with the consent of the Scottish Human Rights Commission. The two Commissions have a memorandum of understanding to ensure that we work together in the best way possible.