London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Human Rights Now

Introduction by Neville Grant

Human Rights Now - Intro

Marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), London Metropolitan University hosted ‘Human Rights Now’, on 16 October 2008.

The University welcomed a panel of human rights experts who addressed the situation of human rights both in the United Kingdom and globally, in light of the principles enshrined in the UDHR.

Over 120 people attended the event in the Graduate Centre, which was organised by the North London United Nations Association Branches (UNA-UK) in association with the Human Rights & Social Justice Research Institute (HRSJ) of London Metropolitan University.

Human Rights Now audience

HRD Audience v2

Human Rights Now - Audience

Neville Grant, Chair of the London and SE region UNA-UK opened evening of discussion. The panel speakers were Tim Hancock, Campaigns Director of Amnesty International UK; Gareth Peirce, Solicitor, Birnberg Peirce & Partners; and Baroness Vivien Stern, member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. Professor Philip Leach, Director of the Human Rights & Social Justice Research Institute was Chair for the panel.

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Tim Hancock pointed to the unevenness of enjoyment of human rights protections in the UK, making the point that protections are varied for different sectors of society. Although there are relative successes in the enjoyment of rights in the UK, discrimination remains widespread based on class, race, gender, religion and national origin.

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Gareth Peirce expressed her concern about the systematic lack of education and knowledge of human rights teaching in schools across the UK. If the UK is to meet its human rights challenges, citizens must be taught of the human rights achievements and failures in history, and understand the rights enshrined in the UDHR were designed for universal enjoyment and protection: human rights knowledge is a first step to citizen participation in holding states accountable for their policies, actions and inactions. She then raised a host of concerns with UK policy since 2001, and in particular dangers supposedly justified by national security issues.

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Philip Leach presented an overview of the impact of the Human Rights Act on public service provision in Britain, based on recently completed research conducted on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission by the HRSJ Research Institute and Global Partners & Associates. Prof Leach cited specific examples of how some public sector agencies are integrating rights based principles and frameworks into their approach to providing public service and interaction with service users, however the overall finding of the scoping exercise showed systemic, cultural and organisation barriers at all levels within public sector work, and lack of an actual incorporation of human rights framework.

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Baroness Stern called for a celebration of the achievements since the UN General Assembly adopted the UDHR in 1948. She reminded the audience of the importance of establishing a human rights ethos, which has in many respects been accepted into the consciousness of the world, and has impacted a ‘new world order’ established after the barbarities of the two world wars. These successes need recognition to further promote efforts in meeting human rights obligations.

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Evening ended with questions from the audience.

Human Rights Now - Philip Leach

Human Rights Now - Tim Hancock

Human Rights Now - Gareth Peirce

Human Rights Now - Vivien Stern


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