Human rights - a tool for change

The final seminar of the NCVO/ESRC seminar series on Engaging Citizens looked at human rights and how the work of voluntary and community organisations could benefit from having a human rights approach. Katie Ghose from the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) highlighted how in the UK, public awareness of human rights remains very low and that most people and institutions think about human rights through a very narrow lens. The general tendency is to think of rights as a litigation tool, rather than a force for social change. In a recent report The Human Rights Act – Changing Lives the BIHR has identified ways in which people and organisations are already using the Human Rights Act ‘beyond the courtroom’. However, the potential of human rights as a tool for improving public services, bolstering participation and renewing our democracy, remains unrealised and the future development of human rights based approaches will necessitate a significant cultural shift.

Last updated at 15:08 Mon 18/May/09.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
View blog reactions

Recent comments

Véronique's picture


Third Sector Foresight

For those interested in both campaigning and human-rights approaches the Campaigning Effectiveness team at NCVO is organising an event Monday 10 December on this very topic. The programme includes workshops/sessions with the British Institute of Human Rights, Amnesty International and Scope.

Véronique's picture


Third Sector Foresight

I have written several posts on human rights lately and here is another one. I spoke to Chris Stalker, who is head of Campaigning Effectiveness following the event he organised with his team, on human-rights based approaches to campaigning. I wanted his feedback on something which I thought was relatively new and which probably had scope for development. Chris felt there was definitely a growing interest amongst organisations, large and small but it was early days. In terms of future development, he saw some exciting and significant opportunities as well as some challenges. The three main opportunities he identified for campaigners are as follows:

1. The language of human rights is very powerful: it is based in the law, but it also moves the emphasis from ‘needs’ to ‘rights’.
2. Human rights based approaches can help campaigners link successfully the local to the global.
3. They provide a framework which has the potential to really encourage the participation of users and beneficairies.

On the downside, there are still important barriers. Cultural barriers essentially. The general public opinion is still quite negative and this can represent a reputational risk for organisations, especially for the large and well-established ones.

Following this event, Campaigning Effectiveness are planning to put together with BIHR a resource that will provide some guidelines for campaigners. So watch this space!
In the meantime, you might like to have a look at this new Charity Commission publication: Charities in the field of human rights

Join the discussion!

How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

Log in or join for free to comment.