by Baroness Kishwer Falkner
Published: 10 Nov 2022
We are delighted to have been re-accredited as an ‘A-status’ national human rights institution (NHRI) last month.
Defending and promoting human rights is at the heart of everything we do at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), so our latest ‘A status’ grading is welcome recognition of our efforts and achievements.
Retaining ‘A-status’ – the highest standard for human rights bodies, allowing us to report directly to the United Nations - highlights the powerful example we set on the global stage and is an acknowledgement of the vital work we do every day to protect people’s basic rights.
This work includes asking Parliament to strengthen the right to independent living for disabled people, publishing guidance to end Afro-hair discrimination in schools, arguing for a ban of pernicious practices to ‘convert’ LGBT people, and requiring the Home Office to improve the way it develops and implements immigration policy.
As part of its accreditation process, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) makes recommendations to human rights institutions to strengthen their work in fighting for a fairer society. In our case, GANHRI has recommended that the UK Government strengthen our financial autonomy and implement legislation to enable us better to champion the human rights of disabled people. We have asked the Government to take action in both areas.
In addition, GANHRI has rightly encouraged us to continue to work alongside likeminded organisations to strengthen links with those who share our goals of advancing equality and protecting human rights. As Britain’s equality regulator, we regularly meet groups representing people with all protected characteristics from across society, including those in the most vulnerable situations. We are proud of our strong links with civil society organisations and we will continue to work with them to ensure Britain’s strong equality and human rights law is effectively enforced.
“Defending human rights is at the heart of everything we do”
As GANHRI recognised, our diverse Board of Commissioners helps ensure we have a good understanding of the issues facing those we seek to protect. The EHRC’s 11 Commissioners in the current year have included eight women, three from ethnic minority groups, two with lived experience of disability and one who identifies as LGBT. GANHRI recommended that the Government enshrine this diversity of Board membership in law. We are confident that the existing, independent public appointment process is a strong safeguard that enables Commissioners to be selected who have diverse backgrounds and the skills needed to steer a national equality and human rights body.
We will nonetheless work with Government and Parliament to ensure that the procedures followed in our appointments are transparent and robust. We have asked, for example, for amendments to our Framework Document with the Government to strengthen the safeguards on appointments and other areas where our statutory independence can be made clearer.
Human rights bodies across the world aspire to meet the UN’s ‘Paris Principles’, the standards for all high-performing national human rights institutions. The EHRC has been tested against these standards and the values that underpin them. We have passed the test.
This is a clear endorsement of our longstanding hard work in defending and promoting human rights. We are committed to continuing to make a positive difference to the lives of people across Britain.