The Human Rights Tour 2011: 16 Rights – 16 Weeks – 16 Cities.
Bringing Rights to life;
Glasgow with around 80 people in attendance from very wide and varied backgrounds on a day where we all made a choice – to attend the day’s conference or to go onto the streets in solidarity with around 6,000 striking workers and their supporters. As a Scot and being passionate about Human Rights, I’ll focus mostly on what’s applicable here.
After introducing the event, jointly organised by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) the first session was opened by Alan Miller, Chair of SHRC who explained that SHRC had been established 2006 by the Scottish Parliament to promote and protect Human Rights, completely independent of any Government structure.
He talked about the need for such a commission as the UK Government calls for a repeal of the Human Rights Act and to replace it with a Bill of Rights.
To some this may not seem to be a problem but there are major differences which will affect each and every one of us – why? Simply because The Bill of Rights will not represent the human aspect of our Rights.
The three pillars which SHRC promote are;
Human Rights are ours. Human Rights are about the relationship between the state and the individual.
We are Rights holders by being human.
Part of the SHRC remit is to raise awareness of these points. One of their distinct features is promoting the use of a Human Rights approach to help people understand and implement basic human rights in the workplace and in society in general.
The State – UK Government, are the duty bearers in all that it does to ensure and uphold the Human Rights Act; the Law of the land concerning individuals, first legally defined after the atrocities – the wrongs – committed by States during World War II in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The state is accountable to Rights holders.
We (us as individuals and organisations providing services to the public) should be aware of and involved in the process of ensuring the state is held to account for their actions, or in some cases, inaction.
This is mainly about promoting good working practice of human rights, or praxis as it’s known to some; to ensure theory becomes realised in a practical manner, and by monitoring law practice and policy.
SHRC seek to create an enabling environment, one which challenges unethical, immoral or illegal practice conducted by, or on behalf of, the state; an environment which also seeks to fill the gaps between policy and practice.
SHRC are preparing the first National Action Plan to provide a road-map for progressive realisation of our entitled Human Rights and welcome input, experiences and abuses where abusing these rights is an issue. This will be fed into The UN’s action plan for the future.
This body also provides guidance, information and training on HR issues, up-skilling people in the process to fulfil their own obligations to the Rights Act.
Aidan Collins delivered his presentation and overview of SAMH where he works as Policy Officer. He described how working with the principles of dignity and other rights to life affect those suffering or recovering from a mental health difficulty – and how working within the boundaries of Human Rights has an empowering effect on the many; those with mental health problems in Scotland, the workers and families who support them.
The rest of the day was equally engaging as delegates learned about, discussed and debated various elements of our Rights and the obvious detraction from them by our own Government; examples of this being rendition and the loss of Rights to asylum seekers.
A heated discussion would surely have been on the cards as some delegates deliberated the UK’s complicity in removing people for the purpose of torture for intelligence, but time restraints kept us in check; many of us questioning whether the UK governments of recent years have been promoting or preventing Human Rights aberrations.
Two things became apparent from this for me;
- There is a need for safe spaces to enable discussion, challenge and use the accountability guidance to enable the people to hold this, or future governments responsible for its’ undertakings.
- We still have a long way to go before basic human rights are integrated into our daily lives; not just to hold governments accountable but to educate ourselves in acceptable, dignified and respectful ways of communication and working together, in every possible way.
In rounding off the day I was invited to interview Alan Miller at Sunny Govan Radio, a community station of thirteen years standing, where we informally chatted about the day’s event.
This will be made available here or edited in as soon as it’s available.