Month: June 2018

Successes and challenges in protecting people as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a landmark instrument in the history of human rights.

70 years ago, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations, and sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It has significantly influenced the development of human rights law and policy, internationally, regionally and domestically.

Maynooth University Department of Law just organised a conference entitled

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Seventy; A Review of Successes and Challenges”

on 21st and 22nd June 2018. This conference included discussions by keynote speakers, in addition to a number of papers focusing on different aspects of human rights protection since the adoption of the UDHR.

Keynote speakers included:
• Prof Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union
• The Hon Mr Justice John Mac Menamin, Judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland
• Anastasia Crickley, Outgoing Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
• Prof Philip Leach, Director of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre and Professor of Law at Middlesex University
• Judge Shireen Fisher, Justice of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone
• Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
• Professor Eduardo J. Ruiz Vieytez, Professor of Constitutional Law at University of Deusto, Bilbao
• Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties
• Esther Lynch, Confederal Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation
• Prof Keith Ewing, Professor of Public Law at King’s College London.
• Sindy Joyce, Human Rights Defender and Doctoral Scholar, University of Limerick
• Prof Randy Lippert, Professor of Criminology at University of Windsor, Canada

Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union Director Michael O’Flaherty delivered a keynote address reviewing the successes and challenges of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after 70 years.

He spoke about the role of fundamental rights in European societies, and addressed challenges related to protecting these rights within the EU.

He addressed the relationship between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and present-day Europe. He credited it with launching “a process through which Europe has built the strongest system of human rights protection in the world”. He added: “In recent decades, the European Union has played an increasingly important role in this system. We have developed the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union—landmark legislation I like to call a European ‘Bill of Rights’ —and the EU’s highest court has vigorously protected human rights in its rulings. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights is a global good practice, and is the only body of its kind operating at a regional level anywhere in the world.”

However, he also spoke of a number of pressing challenges, notably the worrying signs of backsliding human rights protection in many places within the EU. He gave the example of the treatment of Roma: ”In a climate of growing anti-Gypsyism, our leaders need to stand up for the Roma—arguably the most marginalized community in our societies, and a constant target of discrimination. Significant parts of this population live in homes without running water or electricity, lack access to health insurance, and go to bed hungry—all in one of the richest regions in the world.

“The European Union has recognised the urgent need to address the dire situation of the European Roma, putting up funding support Member States can use to make targeted investments that help our Roma brothers and sisters get a quality education, access to proper housing and health care. The means are there. But we need political will to make human rights a reality for everybody in society. ”

He also spoke of the challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU: “It is no less important to acknowledge that the rich and dynamic tapestry of European civil society is one of the fundamental pillars of our democracies and of the rule of law. Across the EU, NGOs and other civil society actors need to be valued and respected as partners, not labelled as threats. Criminalising humanitarianism can never be right.”

However, he also gave a more upbeat look to the future: “In spite of the challenges facing the system of human rights protection in Europe, I am convinced that it is fit for purpose, but can always be strengthened. I am also optimistic that—so long as we are vigilant in insisting on compliance with human rights standards, calling out abuses where we see them, and reinvesting in building a culture of human rights—the system will continue to deliver for our people.” (source: http://fra.europa.eu/en/news)

On behalf of the ESC Rights Initiative, Kevin O’Kelly presented the content of the recent Initiative’s Submission to the Irish Oireachtas Committee.

Here you can download the Powerpoint of this presentation entitled “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Bunreacht na hÉireann”.

The European Pillar of Social Rights: the EU Tool to Leave No One Behind?


“In times of deep change – whether in life or in politics – it is only natural to come back to what defines you and to what holds you together.” These were the words of
President Juncker on the occasion of the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Right, 2017 November 2017.

Facing unprecedented challenges globally and at home, there cannot be a better time for the European Union to demonstrate that it is a Union designed for all its citizens, leaving no one behind. This is why ATD Europe and the European Economic and Social Council (EESC) came together to question: Will the EU Pillar of Social Rights be the key framework of a renewed commitment of the EU to combat and stop poverty?

This question will be discussed at the EESC on Tuesday 26th June 2018. Invitation here!

A discussion panel organised in Brussels at the Bringing together their scientific, political and activist experiences, and also different socio-cultural backgrounds, the panelists will try to answer the question and explain how genuinely fighting poverty could help the European Union win back the hearts of its citizens.

EAPN Ireland supports the campaign for the inclusion of socio-economic status as an additional ground for discrimination

This post follows previous posts regarding the campaign aiming at the recognition of the “socio-economic ground for discrimination”. See escr-irl.org/434  and also escr-irl.org/392

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Following a discussion and a resolution adopted by its members, the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland is calling on the Irish government to show its full and immediate support for the inclusion of socio-economic status as an additional ground for discrimination under current Irish equality legislation.  This move would align Irish law with the majority of jurisdictions in the EU, ensuring Ireland remains at the forefront of protecting the rights of its citizens to freely access services and seek work, unburdened by discriminatory attitudes, behaviors, and prejudices.

An overview of equality legislation shows that legislation in 20 of the 35 European countries provide protection against discrimination on a ground related to socio-economic status. There is also a significant move in other European countries towards extending the mandate of equality bodies to cover socio-economic status grounds.

The recognition of the socio-economic ground ensures that those who have experienced discrimination and exclusion based on their housing status, address, income level, and family background, have necessary redress under equality legislation.

In Ireland, the Central Statistics Office revealed that 29.6% of those reporting discrimination have stated it was on grounds other that those covered in the current legislation, with strong indication that “other grounds” relate to income status and location or address. Unfortunately the extensive research being called for by the government in order to establish levels and locations of discrimination, as well as to further explore definitions, seems to ignore the experiences, evidence and learning already in place around equality legislation in Ireland and within other European
jurisdictions.

The current government concerns around the inclusion of socio- economic status on the basis of impact are unfounded. Socio-economic status will not present a burden greater than existing grounds already operating within current equality legislation. EAPN Ireland believes the move to include socio-economic status as grounds for discrimination would not bring Ireland beyond the point of necessity or create unintended consequences.

EAPN Ireland Press Release from 18th June 2018

The ESC Rights Initiative will mark UDHR70!

#UDHR70 – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Seventy

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a landmark instrument in the history of human rights. Many of its articles cover Economic, Social and Cultural Rights! In the coming weeks and months, the Irish ESC Rights Initiative will join many stakeholders to celebrate the 70 years of the UDHR!

The Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations, and sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It has significantly influenced the development of human rights law and policy, internationally, regionally and domestically.

The first way for us to celebrate #UDHR70 will be to contribute to the conference entitled “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Seventy; A Review of Successes and Challenges” organised by the Maynooth University Department of Law on 21st and 22nd June 2018.

This conference will include discussions by keynote speakers, in addition to a number of papers focusing on different aspects of human rights protection since the adoption of the UDHR.

Keynote speakers confirmed include:
• Prof Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union
• The Hon Mr Justice John Mac Menamin, Judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland
• Anastasia Crickley, Outgoing Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
• Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
• Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties
• Esther Lynch, Confederal Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation

On Thursday 21st June in the afternoon, Kevin O’Kelly will speak on behalf of the ESC Rights Intiative on the theme: ‘Amending Bunreacht na hÉireann to incorporate human economic, social and cultural rights’!

Draft Programme  available here.

For more information and to register please visit: https://shop.nuim.ie/index.php?app=ecom&ns=prodshow&ref=17400011.

New call for a national conversation on the right to housing

The Simon Communities in Ireland, members of the ESC Rights Initiative, are welcomed the UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, to Ireland on the 11th June 2018.

Ms. Farha was the keynote speaker at a Simon Communities event, ‘Making the Case for a Right to Housing, which took place in Dublin. Other speakers included Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Senator Colette Kelleher and Niamh Randall of the Simon Communities.

As our ESC Rights Initiative continue to remind, the Constitutional Convention recommended in February 2015 the inclusion of legally enforceable socio-economic rights in the Constitution including the right to housing.

In 2017 the Right to Housing Bill sought to insert a right to housing into the Constitution by amendment to Article 43. The Bill was defeated in the Dáil but referred for further consideration to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. With the Simon Communities we call on this Committee to consider the provisions of this bill urgently making recommendation to Government.

The Simon Communities hope their new paper will contribute to the ongoing conversation on the possible routes to deliver greater protections and obligations with regard to housing and homelessness in Ireland. Across multiple jurisdictions, the right to housing has been delivered through both constitutional and statutory reform involving institutional and non-judicial mechanisms.

‘It is time for a national conversation on the right to housing in Ireland’, said Niamh Randall of the Simon Communities. ‘With record numbers trapped in emergency accommodation, on the social housing waiting lists and experiencing ‘hidden homelessness’, it is clear the current approach to housing is not working. A right to housing is not about the State ensuring home ownership for all. This is an unrealistic expectation and a soundbite often used by those who wish to undermine progress on this issue. A right to housing would provide a ‘floor’ in respect of access to adequate housing for all, obliging the state to reasonably protect and fulfil that right. For example, where the gap between Housing Assistance Payments and market rents are so great that far too many people cannot afford to rent a home, the right to housing would allow this to be constitutionally challenged. Eighty-one countries around the world have a constitutionally protected right to housing.

There are almost 10,000 people stuck in emergency accommodation while many more are ‘hidden homeless’ with no choice but to share with family and friends. These 10,000 people are the visible and statistical embodiment of this broken system, but represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of housing instability and insecurity. They are people trying to live their lives in very difficult circumstances characterised by stress, trauma and uncertainty. We need to transition from emergency-led responses to a statutory homelessness preventative model underpinned by State obligations to respect, protect and fulfil citizen’s basic right to adequate housing.’ 

Media coverage of the event:

UN backs calls to make housing a constitutional right in Ireland – The Irish Times

Simon Communities event hears call for housing to be a constitutional right in Ireland – The Irish Examiner

 

 

 

 

 

 

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