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UK leadership on human rights at home and abroad

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UK leadership on human rights

Protecting our fundamental freedoms at home and abroad

A legacy of leadership

As an elected member of the Human Rights Council – the main UN forum responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights – the UK has a key role to play in identifying, publicising and addressing human rights violations.

The UK is in a powerful position to help strengthen the UN’s human rights machinery to ensure that all states may be held to account. From the agreement of the Magna Carta in 1215 to the creation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the UK has been at the forefront of developing human rights laws and norms. More recently, the UK has lead the way to secure international support for the Arms Trade Treaty, which prohibits states parties to authorise arms transfers where there is significant risk that arms will be used to commit human rights abuses.

A period of uncertainty

But UNA-UK has become concerned by the apparent deprioritisation of human rights in UK foreign policy, and Britain's reluctance to engage constructively with UN human rights mechanisms. Last year, for example, the UK voted against a modest proposal at the Human Rights Council on human rights concerns related to the use of armed drones. 

UNA-UK is also deeply concerned by the recent uncertainty over the future of the Human Rights Act, which provides people in the UK with important avenues for redress. Uncertainty around the Act threatens to disempower the British public and to tarnish the UK’s standing on the world stage. 

What we want

UNA-UK campaigns for UK to show leadership on human rights, both at home and abroad. With the help of our UK-wide support-base, urge the UK Government to:

  • Strengthen the international framework on human rights by ratifying key international human rights instruments and incorporating their provisions into domestic law
  • Set an example at home by preserving and building upon the protections afforded by the Human Rights Act
  • Raising international standards by retaining human rights as key priority in UK foreign policy