Supreme Court of Spain: UN Treaty Body individual decisions are legally binding

angela pic womens linkThis article was published in EJIL: Talk!

The Spanish Supreme Court has established that the views expressed by UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies in individual complaints are binding on the State. The Court ordered Spain to pay €600,000 in compensation to Ángela González for the responsibility of its authorities in relation to the death of her daughter. Her daughter was murdered by her father in an unsupervised visit authorised by a judge. National courts dismissed Ángela’s case, but the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) found a breach of her human rights. The Supreme Court has now affirmed that the State must comply with the Committee’s decision. This article discusses the significance of the case and the principle established by it. Continue reading “Supreme Court of Spain: UN Treaty Body individual decisions are legally binding”

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Local authorities are paving the way to tackling inequality

downloadBy Koldo Casla

This article was originally published by LGiU, the local democracy think tank.

The Equality Act 2010 was a major step forward. It protects against direct and indirect discrimination in public services and harassment in the private sphere, including the workplace. Nine characteristics are protected within it: Age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Although social class is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, Section 1 contains what is known as the socio-economic duty.

This duty would require public authorities to have due regard to “the desirability of exercising (their functions) in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage”.

However, sucessive governments since 2010 have failed to bring it to life, which means that public authorities are not technically bound by Section 1.

The duty could have made a difference in the case of Grenfell, for example. Had it been in force, it would have required the Kensington and Chelsea Council to consider whether its policies in relation to council tax, social housing, homelessness and disaster planning were adequate to address the enormous inequalities in the borough.

Section 1 of the Equality Act is technically not binding for public authorities in England, but some councils are showing what the duty could look like in practice.

Just Fair interviewed 20 council representatives, senior officers and voluntary sector groups in Manchester, Newcastle, Oldham, Wigan, Bristol, York and the London Borough of Islington.

Respondents used different frames and agendas to articulate their policies: Fairness, inclusive growth, impact assessment, equality budgeting, economic disadvantage, social exclusion… But all of them were clear that austerity had prompted them to react both because of the way Universal Credit and other welfare reforms were affecting their residents and because of the limitations on local government funding.

All seven councils show a combination of a) visible leadership, b) cultural shift, c) meaningful impact assessments, d) data transparency, and e) engagement with residents and the voluntary sector. Continue reading “Local authorities are paving the way to tackling inequality”

Could the socio-economic duty be a way to reduce inequalities in the UK?

SDG-10This piece was published in UKSSD blog. (Image credited to UKSSD)

The UK Government committed to reducing inequalities through Sustainable Development Goal 10. Three years later things aren’t on track but is the socio-economic duty the solution we need? Koldo Casla from Just Fair explains. 

By signing up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, among other things, the UK Government committed to reducing inequalities.

The SDGs, with their 17 Goals and 169 Targets, set the world on a trajectory where we have eradicated poverty, reduced inequalities, halted the loss of biodiversity and combatted catastrophic climate change. Some call them an action plan for the world. But as our chapter on SDG 10 in Measuring up shows, three years later the UK’s chances of hitting the targets on reducing inequalities by 2030 are not looking too good.

Three reasons why the UK will struggle to reduce inequalities

  1. Between one in five and one in four people earn less than 60% of the median income in the UK. This has barely changed since 2010, and things are not likely to improve as income inequality is projected to rise in the coming years.
  1. Although wealth inequality (the ownership of assets, including property) contracted between 1997 and 2007, it is now going up as a result of the decreased access to home ownership and because land values are growing faster than the economy. The richest 1,000 people are wealthier than the poorest 40% of households.
  1. Tax and social security cuts introduced since 2012 have had a particularly severe effect on people on low incomes. Black and ethnic minority households, families with at least one disabled member, and lone parents (who are overwhelmingly women) have suffered disproportionately. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as a result of the tax and welfare reforms households in the bottom 20-30 per cent have lost more than twice as much as those in the top 20 per cent. At this pace, in four years from now 1.5 million more children will live in poverty.

The UK has a strong legal framework to prevent discrimination, we just need to use it Continue reading “Could the socio-economic duty be a way to reduce inequalities in the UK?”

Giving indicators and benchmarks a human face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damp, dirty and dangerous: Here’s how the government is housing homeless children

Kids View Baby Sad Child Toys Double-decker BoyThis article was published in Left Foot Forward.

Report shows how government and local authorities are failing thousands of vulnerable kids in Britain by shoving them into B&Bs and forgetting all about them.

There are over 120,000 homeless children in England.

And while children’s housing rights are proclaimed in a number of international treaties endorsed by the UK, human rights acquire true meaning when statistics and international standards give way to life experience.

And that is why the new report by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) is so welcome. The report exposes the problem of housing children in temporary accommodation like B&Bs for extended periods. Continue reading “Damp, dirty and dangerous: Here’s how the government is housing homeless children”

Why human rights campaigning needs to change more than just its framing

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This article was published in Open Democracy UK

The problem is not how we speak – it’s who we are.

Human rights campaigning in the UK, where I am writing this from, is shifting from finger pointing to emotional appeals. In this post-factual world of fake news, trolls and bots, simply uncovering human rights violations no longer works as effectively as it used to. A new approach is needed because connecting with people’s hearts is more urgent than ever.

One persuasively articulated new approach is that not everyone is the same – and thus, framing is crucial. This approach notes how some people support human rights messages whatever the package they come in, whilst others will always oppose human rights. And some, possibly the majority, do not have anything against the idea of human rights or against their champions, but remain sceptical or distant, or simply have not cared enough to make up their minds yet. This third group should be human rights’ target audience because they will tip the scales in one direction or the other. This tribe has a cracking name that matches their super heroic responsibility: The ‘persuadables’.

To reach out to the persuadables human rights groups are urged by the re-framers to change the conversation. Based on neuroscience and cognitive linguistics, campaigners must communicate hope over fear, they must tell stories that speak to emotions and humanity. Facts and figures are useful with your loyal friends. Feelings work better with the persuadables, or so says the theory.

I admire the zeal to reassess what works and what doesn’t. It is good news that the sector is paying more attention to public opinion here and abroad.

But I think we risk hitting a target by missing the point. Continue reading “Why human rights campaigning needs to change more than just its framing”

International rights are only as good as the national mechanisms that protect them

PA-7018580-1600x900This article was published in Open Democracy UK.

In June 2016, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reproached the UK Government its failure to reconcile austerity with international human rights law. The Committee made 60 recommendations in areas such as housing, equality law, social security and public health.

According to international law, the Government must comply with international obligations and engage with international human rights bodies in good faith.

However, in February 2017 the Ministry of Justice announced that it did not intend to report before June 2021 on the implementation (or lack thereof) of the UN’s recommendations.

Slightly over a year later, it is encouraging to see that the Ministry of Justice will be represented at a high level today in an event co-organised by Just Fair and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to examine precisely what progress the UK has made in relation to economic and social rights since the UN’s report of 2016. Continue reading “International rights are only as good as the national mechanisms that protect them”