Allan Hogarth is Head of Advocacy and Programmes at Amnesty International UK. Allan was also a member of Just Fair’s steering group for the ICESCR project.
Across the UK a new landscape is becoming the norm in our villages, towns, and cities. In communities all over the country landmarks have sprung up that less than a generation ago would have caused outrage. As community centres and libraries have closed, food and clothing banks have opened in desperate attempts to offer support to those who were struggling and being left behind by inflation and government policy.
As poverty rates rise, working conditions deteriorate, and access to healthcare and housing is increasingly becoming an obstacle course that few can navigate. It’s a depressing picture. But there is hope, and that hope can be found in the very communities that are being impacted and grassroots civil society organisations that are at the vanguard of challenging these injustices. These organisations are leading the charge for economic, social and cultural rights for all.
I witnessed this when I was recently privileged to join the steering group for a report that was being coordinated by Just Fair in advance of the UK’s forthcoming session before the United Nations Committee on the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN ICESCR). I know, it’s a long name and like a lot of things related to the UN and human rights it looks intimidating. However, once you get over the name and the catchy acronym, it is something that could make a difference to the lives of people in the UK.
You see, back in 1976 the UK Government pledged to protect these economic, social and cultural rights but over 45 years later, successive governments have failed to do so.
Over 70 organisations contributed to the report and the evidence that they shared presents a long list of rights that are being denied and/or eroded. The report is powerful and incisive, aimed at holding the UK Government to account for its failures to comply with ICESCR.
In January the report was submitted to the UN, there was launches held online, as well as in the Senedd Cymru and the Westminster Parliament. I joined the panel in Westminster where alongside me, speakers told of the experiences of their communities. Black Equity Organisation and Friends, Families & Travellers spoke of the impacts of UK Government policy on the communities they work with.
What all the speakers and contributors to the report identify is the UK Government’s failure to recognise economic, social and cultural rights. UK Government policy seeks to undermine these rights and can often end up having devastating consequences. As a result of this work when the UK do sit in front of the UN Committee in Geneva next year, they will have to respond to these issues and explain what they are doing to address them.
This is of course not the end of the process. It will be incumbent upon all of us to get behind the excellent work that these civil society organisations are doing and keep the pressure on the UK Government and other politicians to make these rights a reality by incorporating them into law and fighting for a new rights-based landscape across our villages, towns, and cities.
You can read the report here
You can read the companion guide here
Background image by Safwat Saleem