Time to take back control of human rights

  • Date

    Thu 5 Oct 17

Woman at a protest holding a placard

Human rights advocates and their failure to centre debate around social rights have, in part, contributed to the rise of populist politics and anti-rights sentiment in the UK.

This is the case made by Dr Andrew Fagan, from our Human Rights Centre, writing for the Fabian Society this week.

He is the second Essex rights expert in a month to show how placing social rights at the centre of debate could empower and transform lives.

Writing in the Fabian Society’s pamphlet Fair and Free, Dr Fagan challenges his fellow human rights defenders to engage with current British debates around poverty, inequality and social marginalisation.

He argues the failure to connect social rights to these issues – compounded by a lack of focus on economic, social and cultural rights in UK law – has allowed populist politicians, and some sections of the media, to paint a picture in which “’ordinary’ people are encouraged to take sides against the very values and ideals which can help transform their fate.”

Dr Fagan argues that the human rights community must show how empowering social rights are, to address the sense of fear and anxiety created by populist politics. 

“From the perspective of human rights, the poor and the marginalised are not the ‘losers’ they are sometimes portrayed as, but human beings whose fundamental rights are being violated. Placing economic and social rights at the centre of the human rights debate challenges the prevailing narrative which seeks to blame and ridicule the ‘have-nots’,” he writes.

Fair and Free has been published by the Fabian Society, in partnership with the Labour Campaign for Human Rights, and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. It includes an introduction by former Essex Chancellor, and Shadow Attorney General, Shami Chakrabarti.