Making rights real

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2008 National LGBT Conference
17 September 2008

Conference welcomes the Human Rights Inquiry being undertaken by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The inquiry will:

1.Assess progress towards the effectiveness and enjoyment of a culture of respect for human rights in Great Britain; and

2.Consider how the current human rights framework might best be developed and used to realise the vision of a society built on fairness and respect, confident in all aspects of its diversity.

The Inquiry covers England and Wales, with the Scottish Human Rights Commission considering the possibility of parallel work.

Conference further welcomes the Commission’s submission in June 2008 to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the UK government’s performance under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Many of the ICCPR rights are reflected in the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into UK law through the Human Rights Act 1998.

In the submission, the Commission criticised the Government for failing to adequately promote and educate the public on why human rights are universal and an essential part of a democratic society in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect. It expresses concern that human rights are in some respects under threat in Britain in a number of ways: the government’s previous insufficient promotion of the importance of human rights, a failure to embed a human rights approach to the work of public authorities, and political action possibly to amend the effect of the Human Rights Act. This has not only inhibited the development of a culture based on human rights, it may jeopardise their very existence.

The submission raised a number of concerns about government legislation, policies and practices including issues about:

A.The DNA database;

B.Identity Cards;

C.The use of stop and search powers;

D.Disabled and older people’s treatment in health and social care;

E.The treatment of transgender prisoners;

F.Difficulties faced by transgender people in gaining gender recognition if they are married.

Conference believes that UNISON has a crucial role in campaigning to develop a human rights culture where there is a greater understanding by individuals and public authorities of how human rights should work at the practical level.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council (NEC) to:

I.Continue to promote understanding and use of human rights as an essential principle in defending the rights of our members and a vital tool for trade unionists and groups facing discrimination to challenge inequality and injustice;

II.Seek to work with other appropriate organisations to respond to the Inquiry’s recommendations and campaign to develop a human rights culture;

III.Explore further ways of promoting the use of human rights based approaches in public services, including through the Positively Public campaign.