Political Inertia Stalling Human Rights Progress

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13 October 2015

The Human Rights Commission has published a report to the United Nations in advance of the United Kingdom’s examination by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Commission will be giving evidence before the Committee tomorrow in Geneva.

NIHRC Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby commented:

“The Commission has provided an extensive analysis for the UN highlighting gaps in protections for economic, social and cultural rights. We are very concerned that political inertia is preventing progress in human rights protections.

“There are at least five areas facing unacceptable delays. We have no effective anti-poverty strategy. Strategies have not been put in place in relation to child poverty, gender equality, domestic violence and sexual abuse, or childcare. In addition, the Northern Ireland Executive is yet to deliver a racial equality or sexual orientation strategy.

Work is being done in many of these areas, but the final products have not been published. Across the devolved institutions measures to enhance health, housing, social security and other rights are being affected by an absence of government decisions. Good intentions are insufficient to deliver human rights obligations. The Northern Ireland Executive must be seen to act on issues that will improve the lives of local people.”

The Commission has advised that the UN Committee to ask the UK Government, including the Northern Ireland Executive:

  • Anti-Poverty: What immediate measures are being taken to develop an anti-poverty strategy?
  • Equality: What steps are being taken to simplify and harmonise equality legislation within a Single Equality Act?
  • Strengthen equality legislation on the grounds of gender, race and disability
  • Health: What steps are being taken to implement Transforming Your Care, and to improve community care services?
  • What steps are being taken to progress the Commission’s recommendations during its Inquiry into Emergency Care?
  • Social Security: When a Welfare Reform Bill will be introduced into the N.I Assembly and what mitigating measures will be taken into account for Northern Ireland should Westminster legislate on this matter?
  • Disability: What steps are being taken to develop a new Disability strategy post 2017?
  • Childcare: Clarify how the draft childcare strategy will increase the availability and affordability of childcare places in Northern Ireland and identify a timeline for its implementation?
  • Gender Equality: What steps are being taken to prioritise the development of a gender equality strategy?

The next session of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights takes place in Geneva on Wednesday 14 October 2015. The Human Rights Commission will present its advice at this session.


Further information:

For further information please contact Claire Martin on: (028) 9024 3987.

Notes to editors

1. The Human Rights Commission submitted its report to the Committee in September 2015. The performance of the United Kingdom will be considered by the Committee at a pre-session working group on 14 October 2015. The Committee’s examination of the UK will take place at the United Nations offices in Geneva in June 2016.

2. As part of the Human Rights Commission’s engagement with the United Nations and Council of Europe treaty monitoring processes, it presents this submission regarding the UK’s Sixth Periodic Report on compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

3. The Human Rights Commission is one of the three ‘A’ status National Human Rights Institutions in the UK. As a National Human Rights Institution the Commission engages with and reports to the United Nations’ and Council of Europe’s treaty monitoring processes.

4. The Human Rights Commission is a statutory public body established in 1999 to promote and protect human rights. In accordance with the Paris Principles the Commission reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of measures undertaken by the UK Government to promote and protect human rights, specifically within Northern Ireland (NI).

5. A copy of the full submission to the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights is available here.

14 Oct 2015