Research Project

Human Rights Local

Principal Investigator
Koldo Casla

Supporting human rights in local communities

Human Rights Local: a catalyst for local communities to build a culture of rights.

Poverty, inequality, housing, discrimination, health and social care, and education affect hundreds of thousands of people across the UK.

The Human Rights Local project seeks to identify opportunities to make human rights locally relevant. The project shows that human rights are closely linked to everyday life, and we do this by establishing effective relationships with local and community groups, local authorities and other stakeholders. We aim to channel a positive vision of rights for the local community, one that is empowering, protective, enabling and problem-solving through research, partnerships, advice and support.

Dr Koldo Casla in conversation with Professor Jules Pretty, discussing the value of human rights within our local communities. Dr Casla highlights how international standards of human rights can actually help improve social and economic outcomes for people.

Connecting, driving change locally and building human rights bridges to equality, freedom, dignity and respect.

We are all members of communities where “alone the free and full development of (our) personality is possible”, as recognised in Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human Rights Local brings human rights closer to the ground, adapting international standards and principles to the local context. By identifying local priorities and needs, we support local communities to translate these concerns into rights-based demands for change, and create avenues for dialogue and participation.

Human Rights Local is forming strong connections with a number of local community groups based in Colchester, Jaywick and Clacton. Following on from the support both the Human Rights Centre (HRC) and the Human Rights Centre Clinic gave to the official visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, to Jaywick in November 2018, the HRC initiated and co-organised a follow-up local community event on 2 July 2019. These meetings have started to address the many ways in which the systemic human rights challenges identified in the Special Rapporteur’s report on UK poverty can begin to be effectively challenged with the support of the Human Rights Centre.

The Human Rights Centre also contributed to Colchester Pride in June 2019 to underline the human rights-based dimensions of the rights and entitlements of the LGBTQI community.

We are working alongside Just Fair, Amnesty International UK and ATD Fourth World to facilitate that people with lived and learned experience of poverty from all nations and regions in the UK meet and learn from each other, gain and develop research and advocacy skills, build networks, and improve our general understanding of social rights challenges and opportunities in our country.

Localising human rights means celebrating tall figures of our shared history, like John Ball, born in Colchester and executed for his leadership in the Peasants’ Revolt of the 14th century. With some of our partners, we are looking to honour John Ball’s memory and that of other men and women who throughout history fought for the rights of their peers in the UK and abroad.


  • On 20 November 2023, Human Rights Local took part in a conference organised by ATD Fourth World at their headquarters in Pierrelaye, near Paris. At this gathering, approximately 60 participants, including professionals, activists, and concerned individuals from France, the UK, Belgium, Poland and Bulgaria, came together to delve into crucial issues surrounding child protection systems in Europe and their interaction with families in poverty, addressing key points raised in one of Human Rights Local’s reports.
  • On 10 February 2021, the HRC, Amnesty International UK, Just Fair and ATD Fourth World held an event to learn from local advocacy experiences led by people with lived experience of poverty and other forms of disadvantage, including a campaign for the right to work in Belfast, for refugee rights in Manchester, the right to food in Wales, the socio-economic duty in Teesside, and to address the digital divide nationally. Read more about the event.
  • On 21 January 2021, the Human Rights Centre, ATD Fourth WorldJust Fair and Amnesty International held an online event under the theme of ‘Building a Human Rights Bridge out of Poverty’. The event brought together people with lived and learnt experiences of poverty from London, Manchester, Glasgow, Teesside, Cardiff and other parts of the UK. This event was part of an 8-month series to provide a platform to exchange knowledge, develop skills, build capacity and form alliances for real change to end poverty and promote greater equality in the UK. Read the article.
  • In October 2020, the Human Rights Centre issued a statement to commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, alongside Amnesty International UK, Just Fair and ATD Fourth World.
  • In July 2020, the Human Rights Centre worked with Mercury Youth Theatre and Packing Shed Theatre Company to honour the legacy of John Ball, a 14th century promoter of equality who was originally from Colchester. Based on an online talk delivered by Dr Koldo Casla from the Human Rights Centre about champions of liberty, equality and solidarity over past centuries, members of Mercury Youth Theatre recited famous speeches that became part of the history of international human rights.


Poverty, Child Protection, and the Right to Protection and Assistance to the Family in England, June 2023

The report calls for transformative change to child services. Creating a social security system that guarantees the essentials in life, regulating for-profit children’s homes, and extending peer-parent support are among a list of recommendations that can help to eradicate the toxic culture of the England’s Child Protection Services. Conceived and developed in partnership with the anti-poverty human rights NGO ATD Fourth World, the report is based on law and policy desk research, data analysis, and interviews and focus groups with a total of 33 people (28 of them female), including parents, social workers and young adults.

Submission to the UN on poverty and family life in the UK, January 2023

Human Rights Local joined forces with ATD Fourth World, a human rights-based anti-poverty organisation with 60 years of experience in the UK, to submit evidence for the 7th periodic review of the UK in front of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The submission focused on the right to protection and assistance to the family, recognised in Article 10 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

The submission by ATD Fourth World and Human Rights Local brings to the attention of the UN Committee that families in poverty in the UK can be subjected by children’s social care to harsh interventions that are discriminatory and driven by a concept of risk-aversion that is inconsistent and fails to fully consider the harm done by removing children into State care or contested closed adoptions. This harm includes the current insufficient regulations for the accommodation of 16 to 18-year-olds in care, which makes them potentially vulnerable to grooming and trafficking.

Poverty and Social Rights in Essex, May 2022

This report documents the state of social rights in and near Colchester, home of the University of Essex Human Rights Centre.

The research uses the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as the normative and analytical framework, and focuses on access to housing, social security, food poverty and child poverty, and access to libraries.

The report is based on quantitative and qualitative desk research, as well as 13 in-depth interviews with representatives and local officials, local community groups, local charities and non-profit organisations and academics, as well as information provided in writing by Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council.

A shorter version of this research will be submitted to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for their forthcoming review of the UK’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a review that will take place between 2022 and 2024.

Human Rights Centre Human Rights Cities report, September 2021

This report identifies some of the common characteristics of Human Rights Cities in Europe, as well as the potential benefits of becoming one.

The report provides historical background on the development of the concept of 'human rights city’. Based on a literature review and the case studies of seven self-declared human rights cities, the report identifies certain common characteristics. It also presents the case studies of nine cities in Europe, including three in England.

The first seven cases declared themselves human rights cities (Barcelona, Graz, Lund, Nuremberg, Utrecht, Vienna and York). The case studies provide a background on the city, presenting some of the structures and initiatives employed to implement a human rights framework.

The last two cities are from England (Brighton & Hove and Newcastle); while they have not yet declared themselves human rights cities, both of them have implemented interesting local initiatives in the domain of housing and homelessness that resonate with human rights principles.

Landscape view of air pollution in front of orange sunset

Engaging Socio Economic Rights at the Local Level with Dr Andrew Fagan, Lucy Davies and Rebecca Rocket

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