Despite a lack of hot water for tea and coffee (oops), our Ipswich attendees nonetheless enthusiastically welcomed our Programme Officer, Helen, and her introduction to general human rights principles, BIHR and the Human Rights Act.
Ila Chandavarkar, a guest speaker and Development Co-ordinator at MENTER (a regional network of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) voluntary organisations and community groups), followed this by discussing the systemic inequalities faced by minorities and other marginalised groups in the East of England. This helped to get delegates thinking about some of the key equality and human rights issues facing the region and how human rights can help address them.
The next session included a historical survey of key national and international human rights achievements throughout the ages. This presentation provided the context for BIHR’s Sophie to lead into a more detailed discussion of the ‘three human rights waves’ and their relevant laws, norms and values. What became clear during the day was the particular political and regional contexts in which these rights were derived – with the West emphasising political and civil rights and the Soviets and the developing world advocating for social and economic rights.
“@BIHRhumanrights ~ thanks for bringing the tour to Ipswich. A fantastic day.” Ipswich Tour attendee tweets on the day
The discussion of human rights within a global context soon gave way to a more specific examination of human rights in the UK, and in particular, the Human Rights Act. Questions were raised about the definition of a hybrid public authority in the Act, and how the increasing privatisation of welfare services will affect the rights and responsibilities set out in the Act. Equally pressing questions were raised about the application of the Act – in terms of proportionality and absolute and non-absolute rights. For example, one attendee asked how the right to life and the right to be free from degrading treatment could be reconciled when addressing the issue of prisoners on hunger strike.
“I will use what I have learned today to be a bit more confident with encouraging people I work for to noise concerns about their rights.” – BME Mental Health Pyschologist & Ipswich tour attendee
After a brief lunch break, our attendees produced some very artistic and thought-provoking human rights bunting, as is now custom for all #16cities Tour events!
The day ended with a discussion of the current state of human rights in the UK. A particular debate started around the clear political undertones of the Commission, where a number of delegates argued that politicians are happy for some groups to have human rights but not others. What can we do about this? For starters, you can add your voice to BIHR’s #ACT campaign and tell the Commission why you want to keep your human rights by filling out this online postcard.
“Thank you very much, onwards and upwards with our common struggle!” – Equality Officer, Ipswich Borough Council & Ipswich Tour attendee
As we bid farewell to Ipswich, we reflected over the past three events and how human rights knowledge is so vital in order to protect the most vulnerable in our society – looking forward to more in Bournemouth on 3 October!
“@BIHRhumanrights ~ Many thanks for a stimulating day in our nippy Town Hall. #Act #16cities” Ipswich Tour attendee tweets on the day
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