Our statements to UN Human Rights Council

Why we make statements to the Human Rights Council

We produce video statements for broadcast at the Human Rights Council sessions to influence the UK government on specific human rights issues.

Our statements contribute to discussion and debates relating to:

Our statements are usually made in partnership with the Northern Ireland and Scottish Human Rights Commissions.

Our statements in 2019

Calling for comprehensive strategies and action plans to address race inequalities in the UK

We are calling for the UK and devolved governments to set up comprehensive strategies and action plans to address race inequalities across the UK.

We prepared a statement about this in response to a report on the UK made by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism and Xenophobia.

The report highlighted how race and ethnicity shape outcomes in every area of people’s lives.

Here's is a transcript of the video statement made by our Chief Executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath. 

Mr President

This is a statement on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission of Great Britain, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur and share many of her concerns.

The report highlights how race and ethnicity shape outcomes in every area of people’s lives, including education, employment, housing and criminal justice.

It illustrates the persistence in our societies of structural barriers which lead to unequal outcomes for people from ethnic minorities, even in the absence of discernible racial prejudice.

The UK government’s Race Disparity Audit, the Race Equality Framework and Action Plan for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Racial Equality Strategy have helped to raise awareness of these issues.

Yet actions taken have largely focussed on isolated aspects of discrimination, rather than a comprehensive and integrated approach.

The Special Rapporteur highlights the alarming racial harassment that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children continue to experience in schools, their low attainment levels and high exclusion rates.

This is exacerbated by inequalities in access to housing, including inadequate site provision for Traveller communities, and the over-representation of people from ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system.

She also highlights the role of intersectional discrimination, noting the disproportionately adverse effects of combined social security reforms on ethnic minority women. 

We echo the Special Rapporteur’s call for the UK and devolved governments to set up comprehensive strategies and action plans to address race inequalities across all nations and government sectors.

These strategies should have adequate resources allocated to concrete actions, including measures in the education system to tackle prejudice and promote good relations.

The strategies should also have clear accountability structures and involve people from ethnic minority communities in their design, monitoring and implementation.

The recent launch of a national strategy to tackle inequalities facing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in England is a welcome step, as is the Scottish Government’s Ministerial Working Group on Gypsies and Travellers, which is currently developing a national action plan. 

Both efforts should be monitored carefully.

Gaps in the legal framework for tackling discrimination also need to be addressed, including the lack of protection from intersecting and multiple discrimination and continuing weaknesses in the Public Sector Equality Duty.

The three Commissions stand ready to assist in the implementation of these recommendations.

Thank you Mr President.

Calling for the government to assess the impact that tax and spending decisions since 2010 have had on people

We are calling for the UK government to assess the cumulative social impact of tax and spending decisions since 2010.

We think this is important in order to create a tax and welfare system that protects people.

We are also calling for the government to review its welfare and spending policies, to ensure they don’t have a negative impact on the people who need support.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission delivered a statement about this in response to a report on the UK made by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

The report demonstrated the disproportionate impact of austerity measures on those already living in or facing the threat of poverty.

Here’s a transcript of the video statement made by Les Allamby, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. 

Mr President,

This is a statement on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission of Great Britain, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and share many of the concerns outlined in the report.

We consider that Professor Alston’s findings starkly demonstrate the disproportionate impact of austerity measures on those already living in or facing the threat of poverty.

This includes women, ethnic minorities, children, single parents, asylum seekers and disabled people.

The report illustrates that the policies of successive governments have eroded the right to social security and have led to increased poverty.

Professor Alston also notes that increasing use of food banks and rising levels of homelessness have resulted from social security policies such as benefit sanctioning and the transition to Universal Credit.

This is in breach of the human right to an adequate standard of living, as per Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The sanctions regime has been a constant source of concern to the three Commissions and contributed to the 2017 findings of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which described ‘grave and systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities’.

The Commissions of Northern Ireland and Scotland particularly welcome the attempts of the devolved administrations to mitigate the worst effects of social security reforms.

However, these ad hoc measures cannot and do not fully address all of the issues, particularly in the long-term.

We echo the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur that the National Audit Office assess the cumulative social impact of tax and spending decisions since 2010, in order to identify what would be required to restore an effective social safety net.

We offer our assistance to the UK government in realising this recommendation.

The Commissions are disappointed with UK government’s response to the Special Rapporteur’s report.

We urge the UK government to review its welfare and spending policies to ensure the most significant impacts are not felt most by those they are designed to support, and to work constructively with all stakeholders – including the UK’s National Human Rights Institutions – to improve the protection of economic and social rights in the United Kingdom.

Thank you Mr President.

Last updated: 30 Jul 2019