A message from Commissioner Geraldine Van Bueren
‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’
Today the Equality and Human Rights Commission joins our fellow human rights defenders around the world to mark International Human Rights Day. This year the United Nations calls on us to celebrate human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.
Human rights defenders speak out against discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence. We advocate justice, dignity and respect. We harness individual potential and remove barriers to opportunity. In Britain as elsewhere around the world, human rights defenders can be found in our local communities, our public services and our schools, perhaps more often than we would think. In our day to day work, nurses, teachers, care workers and many other professionals strive to protect and promote the dignity of those they serve.
Today we have chosen to spotlight the role of human rights defenders working in public services and acting as advocates in the voluntary and community sector, without whom the human rights of all of us in Britain would be worse off. We hope that you will be inspired by their commitment to respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of those who are unwell, who are homeless, or who experience barriers related to disability.
We also have messages from political leaders, including the Minister for Human Rights Lord McNally, Shadow Minister for Human Rights Sadiq Khan MP and Chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights Hywel Frances MP.
The theme of this year's Human Rights Day is an important reminder that the right to equality and the prohibition of non discrimination are human rights. As a national human rights institution we are entrusted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to play a central role in safeguarding and promoting human rights in Britain. Using our powers to promote and enforce equality law is central to – not separate from – this critical human rights role.
As we celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, we reflect on the many things we can be proud of:
- We have launched an Inquiry into the protection and promotion of the human rights of older people receiving or requiring care and support in England
- We have won recognition for individuals seeking asylum based on their sexual orientation
- We have developed guidance on two UN human rights treaties to empower individuals to access their rights, Convention on the Elimination of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD)
- We are conducting an Inquiry into disability related harassment
- In the present economic climate, we are co-sponsoring pilot projects to explore how the Human Rights Act can be used to tackle poverty, have initiated a review to look at how respect for socio-economic rights might be strengthened and recently announced a s31 assessment regarding the extent to which Government has met its responsibilities to assess the impact on protected groups of decisions contained in the Spending Review.
- We published findings and recommendations of our inquiry into the rights and treatment of migrant and agency workers in the meat and poultry processing sector in England and Wales
- Using our unique legal powers, we intervened in key strategic human rights cases both domestically and in Europe
- We have asked government to clarify how guidance on restraint techniques for staff working in youth custody establishments complies with the UK’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
- We have successfully applied for judicial review of the guidance for security services staff concerning torture
- We have assumed the role as Chair of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions working group on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- We are developing a Human Rights Measurement Framework to better monitor the extent to which individuals enjoy their human rights in Britain and next year will publish a human rights review to build upon our recently published Triennial Review
- We are undertaking a review on equality and human rights law in relation to religion and belief
- We are developing a guide to the UN Convention on the Elimination of Race Discrimination (CERD) reporting process and Shadow Report to the UN on CERD
- Britain's landmark Equality Act was passed this year and the Commission has produced extensive guidance for all with rights and responsibilities
- In October 2010, we published our first triennial review which focused on state of equality in Britain.
I invite you to explore these new webpages to be inspired by the work of human rights defenders to bring dignity and respect to the communities we serve.
We very much welcome your comments and views on what the Commission does. We take your views most seriously. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
Professor Geraldine Van Bueren
EHRC Commissioner lead on human rights
Last Updated: 07 Dec 2010