World Human Rights Day - Recover Better Stand up for Humanity - 10 December
World Human Rights Day - Recover Better Stand up for Humanity - 10 December

World Human Rights Day - Recover Better Stand up for Humanity - 10 December

10/12/2020 (Staff Post )

World Human Rights Day - Recover Better Stand up for Humanity

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. [...] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."  - Eleanor Roosevelt

Equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID-19 world

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was born in 1948, post-World War Two, post-trauma for millions after years of persecution based on race, religion and culture. The response was a global declaration to uphold the rights of all regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. 

The focus of the campaign in 2021 is to challenge the inequality that have been further hardened in our societies as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The emerging consequences of the crisis and the world’s response shone a light on the plight of the most vulnerable and the failures of institutions. 

In Renfrewshire, the experiences of ordinary people at the cutting edge of this crisis were a real challenge: workers being laid off/furloughed/made redundant; crowded family homes shunted into high risk of exposure to the disease; low income people harshly affected with a corresponding and dramatic rise in the mobilisation of community activists  to simply feed and clothe those teetering on the edge.  Ethnicity, age, disability and geography have become major issues to re-consider in our societies in the context of the pandemic.  Challenges, risks and barriers are still disproportionately affecting some groups more than others.

My initial reaction to the pandemic response by the Engage Renfrewshire team, partners and community groups was that it came fast and broad.  Everybody focussed on firstly, setting up home working.  Then mobilising together across sectors to put the operational wheels in motion to support the most in need. The principle that everyone should have access to the most basic amenities – food, heating, clothing, IT capability – was key.  I followed posts on social media as Renfrewshire African families were delivered culturally-appropriate food items by Christian charities, Polish groups continued with the upkeep of their communities through litter picking activity, local charities made facemasks and others distributed protective equipment to those at the frontline.  Volunteering and community hubs became sources of solutions, bringing local people together to help in various ways  – prescriptions collected, dogs walked for those shielding, foodbanks and much more.

The response in Renfrewshire to the pandemic has been significant.  The concept of leaving no one behind is echoed often and there has not been as great a test to this ideal as the events of 2020.  Human rights begin in small places with strong people, trusted relationships and empathy for those we live with. 

Persecution, as it was known in the time of WW2 takes different forms now.  We may not recognised that systemic discrimination will adversely affect employment chances for BAME youth, that someone living with a disability will fall through the gap of care because of the financial pressures on services; or that a new refugee may only have a slim grasp of the impact of the pandemic on them - as they may struggle to understand English medical terminology and aren’t made aware of the risk that their ethnicity may put on them.

Recovery across communities requires a narrowing of the inequalities gap in all walks of life.  The ongoing battle with COVID-19 will need to keep the needs and assets of certain communities at the heart of working through these times. Our work at Engage is focussed on partnership, planning, support and empowerment to create the environment for local change.  Recovery relies on action at all levels and going into 2021 will require more of the same but deeper still at local level.  The call to action is clear:


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