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Imagine you are part of a mission to establish the first society on a new planet. You need to draw up some rules for how your society will function. A reasonable starting point is a Bill of Rights: what rights would you include to ensure that nobody suffers the negative effects of poverty?

Faced with this activity, most of us come up with similar essential rights: the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food. The right to education. The right not to be discriminated against.

These are some of the rights included in the (firmly Earth-bound) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Ratified by the UK in 1976, this protects the essential conditions needed to live a life of dignity and freedom. It’s legally binding, meaning that the UK Government must uphold the rights it contains. That makes it a vital tool in campaigning for social justice.

“The law is a floor for our ambitions when it comes to social justice – not a ceiling.”

On 21 February we were joined by campaigners and colleagues from organisations across the UK wanting to find out more about using human rights as part of their work towards social justice. Participants in the training came from a wide range of fields, and from local grassroots groups to international NGOs, so the session focused on the principles of social justice campaigning. Starting with our extra-terrestrial activity, we moved on to:

  • Offer an overview of the human rights legal landscape in the UK
  • Case studies of human rights being used in social justice campaigns, ranging from access to the internet to the right to food
  • Exploring the benefits of a human rights approach – and what that really means
  • Interactive sessions during which participants discussed the application of PANEL principles (Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination, Empowerment, Law) to their own work

Our next training, taking place on 16 March, is fully booked. However, we hope to run similar events in future. To be the first to hear about future training opportunities, you can sign up for our mailing list.

Image by Maria Krusteva.