By Paul Hunt
This blog originally appeared on The Conversation
For 12 days, Philip Alston, the UN envoy on extreme poverty and human rights, and his tireless team, have travelled the length and breadth of the UK. They’ve listened to hundreds of people who have experienced poverty. Many of these stories were heartbreaking, as I witnessed when attending a public meeting in Jaywick, Essex, organised by Unite Community, for the international visitors.
By Luis F. Yanes
“They took me to a hospital ‘of people’ (supposedly)
And in the emergency room, the receptionist was listening to the lottery.
We’ve got to check your blood pressure, but the room is occupied.
And, my dear, in this hospital there’s no electricity for an EKG.” – J.L. Guerra.
It’s been almost 20 years since Juan Luis Guerra’s famous song ‘El Niagara en Bicicleta’ came out, and the dramatic situation of public hospitals in Latin America has not changed. Anyone who listens to the song would think it embodies part of Latin American magical realism narrative: exaggerated, full of metaphors and borderline sci-fi. However, one needs only to read some of the news concerning the public health crisis in countries such as Venezuela, Brazil or Guatemala, to understand that this is not exaggerated narrative, this is the dramatic reality that millions of people are facing in Latin America.
By Paul Hunt
People have a inalienable right to a decent home, a good healthcare system, education, and social security. Labour need to start stating this.
Corbyn is the first leader of the Labour Party to talk explicitly about social rights. And increasingly, the UK’s national human rights institutions are using explicit social rights language. This might be how we realise a new progressive politics.
By Stuart Weir*
The Labour party’s 2017 manifesto remains an impressive document with its insistence on equality and human rights. Labour has become the party of commitments to human rights of all kinds, civil and political, workers’ rights, women’s rights, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, the rights of people with disabilities, and LGBTI rights.
But there is a gaping hole, as a new pamphlet by Paul Hunt, the outstanding human rights lawyer and activist, points out. In Social Rights Are Human Rights – But the UK System is Rigged, published by the Centre for Welfare Reform, Hunt writes that the manifesto’s social policies on education, social security, housing, health and social care are “among its strongest features”, but there is no explicit mention of social rights [my emphasis], except for a single reference to the right to education.
by Rachael Diniega
This month, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, will travel to Mongolia on an official country visit. By creating the mandate in 2012, the Human Rights Council acknowledged the increasing recognition of governments and civil society that a safe and sustainable environment is needed to fully enjoy many human rights, such as the rights to food and water. For Mongolia, a healthy environment is particularly important for the one-fifth of its population who are nomadic pastoralists, as their livelihoods are intricately tied to the environment. This post will discuss how rural-urban migration of Mongolian herders highlights the connection between environmental concerns and human rights.
Facing threats of climate change, poor rangeland management, and pollution, Mongolia is falling behind on many of its environment-related human rights obligations. For my dissertation for the MA Human Rights & Cultural Diversity at the University of Essex last year and as a National Geographic Young Explorer, I interviewed herders about environmental change, natural disasters, and migration, focusing on learning what a local human rights-based approach to climate change displacement could look like. One former herder’s story highlighted the human rights and environment issues that Mr. Knox will need to address in his upcoming country visit.
By Gen Sander[*] and Nathan Derejko[†]
We live in an age of neoliberalism and austerity, characterised by privatisation, profits over people and cutbacks on social spending and protections. Their impacts are far reaching and felt most intensely by the world’s most disadvantaged, including in the UK. They represent a direct attack on social rights, including the rights to an adequate standard of living, food, health, housing, social security and education. As poverty and inequality intensify, people are understandably looking to change the status quo, and it is precisely this mounting public discontent that has fanned the flames of populist movements and led to shocking outcomes, such as Brexit and the elections of Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. It has also led to progressive social and political movements, such as the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the promise of a radically different, more engaged and socially progressive Labour Party in the UK. Underpinning many of the recent struggles for meaningful and progressive change is a demand for social rights. But the transformative potential of these important rights is still so often ignored by those in positions of power, as is the case in the UK.
By Lorna McGregor
Some human rights are instantly familiar to people: the right to freedom of expression; the right to life; the right to a fair trial; and freedom from slavery.
However, issues such poverty, low pay and inadequate housing are very rarely viewed as human rights issues, yet that is exactly what they are.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is a UN treaty that focuses on rights that are crucial to enable people to live with dignity. It looks at working conditions, social security, adequate food, housing, health and education.
The UK government has signed up to this treaty which is binding as a matter of international law and part of the Commission’s role is to ensure that the government does all it can to make the protections in the treaty a reality for everyone. Continue reading
By Dr. Anil Yilmaz Vastardis
On 16-17 May 2016, I participated in a multi-disciplinary workshop on ‘Law, neoliberalism and social protest: lessons from TTIP’ at the University of Brighton. This workshop was co- organized by myself and Prof Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, and it was followed by a public debate on TTIP as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. The workshop benefited from the participation of Prof Diamond Ashiagbor, Dr Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Paul Gilbert, John Hilary, Prof Sheldon Leader, Sam Lowe, Prof David Schneiderman, Dr Gabriel Siles-Brugge, Prof M. Sornarajah, Dr Neil Stammers and Ntina Tzouvala.
TTIP is a comprehensive trade and investment partnership currently being negotiated by the US and the EU. The negotiations are led by the EU Commission on behalf of the EU and the USTR on behalf of the US Government. Agreements like TTIP aim at increased integration of markets, by removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, as well as by providing guarantees for the protection of foreign investment. This of course is a means to an end, i.e. it is predicted that integration will lead to growth of the economy and the creation of jobs which will then lead to increased welfare.
If TTIP is predicted to have such positive effects on society, why all the controversy? Critics of TTIP have a number of concerns. A common worry is that the negotiators are not taking fundamental rights of the public seriously. Among the major criticisms are: (1) the harmonization of standards through a ‘race to the bottom’; (2) lack of appropriate levels of transparency and inclusiveness of all stakeholders in the drafting process; (3) limitation of the regulatory space of states to take measures in the public interest via the investor protection rules that give investors rights (applied by investment tribunals outside the domestic legal system), but no obligations. The participants of the workshop discussed critically the process of negotiation and drafting of the TTIP, and certain controversial aspects of its proposed content. Continue reading