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As part of project to support civil society to hold the UK and Welsh Governments to account for their obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, we have been privileged to hear people and organisations from across England and Wales share their stories, and read the evidence they have sent in. 

Stories about being failed in accessing their right to health, being discriminated against on the basis of their race, disability, legal status, sex and socio-economic status. Stories about unaffordable, unsuitable housing, about how a lack of access to transport impacts the rights to health, work and leisure. Stories about organisations trying desperately to paper over the cracks of the UK social security system to ensure that people can lead lives of dignity; how rights are being violated, and how rights are being fought for across England and Wales.  

It’s been a truly humbling experience.  We know that sharing experiences, often traumatic ones, is heavy work. We take our duty very seriously in capturing and summarising this evidence in our preparation of an independent shadow report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), on behalf of civil society in England and Wales, ahead of the next review of the UK

We have received over 70 pieces of evidence, much of which is from individuals, or from small civil society organisations. The vast majority haven’t participated in a review by the UN CESCR before. They are, geographically, from all over England and Wales and represent people with a wide range of protected characteristics.  

This engagement is really exciting. Unlike other UN human rights reviews such as the one conducted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, there isn’t pressure to submit joint civil society reports, and so we know a lot of the ‘big hitters’ will be submitting their own evidence outside of our report.  

This means that during this process, we have been talking to many who haven’t participated in a UN process before, who wouldn’t have participated if they hadn’t attended one of our capacity building events, and who we supported to confidently frame their social justice issues as human rights violations.  

Human rights belong to us all.