Food is a Human Right

Alex Firth

In modern Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy, people are going hungry because they cannot afford food.  As part of our Social Rights Campaign, we have produced a series of videos, the first of which investigates people in the people in the UK’s access to food , and have uncovered some deeply worrying facts.

A decade of Conservative-driven austerity has gutted local communities, squeezed wages, and stripped away the welfare safety net that so many rely on. It has profoundly refashioned British society and has meant that now thousands of families simply cannot afford to put food on the table.  

LCHR: The Right to Food

One indicator of this has been the soaring increase in the use of foodbanks. In 2008, the Trussell Trust, the UK largest national food bank charity, handed out 26,000 parcels of food, ten years later in 2018, and that number has risen to 1.33 million.

This increase is devastating, behind these figures are people’s lives. It’s single parent mothers skipping meals so they can pay their heating bill, it’s young children, turning up to school early for a breakfast club so that they can get their hands on a piece of buttered toast. There are people right across the country, from city centers to rural villages, who feel the pain of hunger and do not know where their next meal will come from.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty published a report on the UK this year. The report condemned the government austerity programme as an “ideological project causing pain and misery” which has led to “exacerbating inequality and poverty” across the UK. It highlighted that women, people of colour, people with disabilities, and those already on the margins of society face disproportionately higher risks. It recognised food poverty as a major issue and painted a Dickensian picture of what life is like for so many in modern Britain.

Photo by Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash

It is time for the recognition that food is political, and that the right to food is a fundamental human right. It is covered in article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), of which the UK is a signatory, where it states “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food.”

However, this has clearly not been enough, which is why the Labour Campaign for Human Rights welcomes the recent commitment by Labour to enshrine the right to food into UK law. This new law will create a National Food Commission to monitor food insecurity and oversee all aspects of the food system in Britain. It will also establish an Access to Food Fund to kickstart the development of local community food plans in the most food deprived areas of the country.

We are calling on Labour to deepen its commitment to social justice and enshrine not just this right, but all of our Economic and Social Rights when they enter government. Recognising and enshrining these rights in a new Social Rights Act will mean that the pain of the last ten years will never be allowed to happen again.

LCHR: Introducing ‘Campaign for Social Rights’

In a recent report, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights lamented the impact of the British Government’s “harsh and uncaring” austerity agenda, which has forced families to choose between eating or heating their homes. UN expert Professor Alston argues that it is “ideological” policy choices created a “social calamity and an economic disaster rolled into one”.

The Labour party is committed to rolling back austerity, a brutal political choice that has shamefully punished society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups since 2010. But we need to do more.

The Labour Campaign for Human Rights’ latest campaign, Campaign for Social Rights, addresses the human rights abuses taking place on a daily basis, here in the UK. It urges the party deepen its commitment to social justice by enshrining in law a Social Rights Bill, ensuring new protections for our most basic – and most neglected – of human rights.

What are Social and Economic Rights?

These are human rights which the UK has recognised when it ratified the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights – a legally binding human rights treaty. They include:

  • The Right to Food
  • The Right to Housing
  • The Right to Health
  • The Right to Work

If a legal right to food existed before 2010, it could have forced changes to the brutal social security policies that have led to an explosion of food banks. A legal right to health could require governments to adequately fund the NHS, while a legal right to work could help bring UK employment law into line global standards on pay, conditions and the right to organise.

Such rights have long been recognised by the UK through binding international treaties, but never translated into UK law.  This has left communities defenceless against benefit cuts and the underfunding of public services. For example, when two women brought a legal challenge to the government’s imposition of a cap on benefits, the Supreme Court agreed this policy contravened the UK’s international obligations on child welfare. But the court said it was powerless to overturn the policy because the relevant treaty had never been incorporated into domestic law.

The impact of Labour giving legal protections to these rights through a Social Rights Bill could be profound.

How can it be done?

The UK would not be alone such rights into domestic law. Indeed, over 90% of the world’s constitutions from Finland to South Africa recognise at least one economic or social right, and around 25% recognise ten or more such rights as judicially enforceable. A group of human rights practitioners and academics have produced a draft bill based on the experience of the UK’s Human Rights Act that could provide a model adapted to our own context.

The UN’s expert shone a powerful spotlight on poverty in modern Britain, which is not just an insult to social justice but also a violation of human rights on a massive scale. Millions of people have suffered from austerity and Britain’s legal and political systems have failed to protect rights that are core to the dignity and wellbeing of us all.

Labour has a proud history of promoting human rights law, but while those rights that define our well-being and dignity remain unprotected, we are falling short.

Over the coming months, we will be highlighting the core pillars of our campaign, beginning with The Right to Food. At Labour Party Conference this month, we were proud to collaborate with Human Rights Watch, End Hunger UK, Just Fair, Sustain and the Independent Food Aid Network in hosting a panel discussion to highlight the scandal and extent of food poverty in the UK.  We were delighted to see the Labour Party announce its commitment a Fair Food Act, following the event. This is an important step in the right direction and we will continue to campaign to ensure that all social rights are protected by law under the next Labour Government.

By promising in its coming manifesto to put the right to food and housing on a par with the right to free speech and a fair trial, Labour can truly promote human rights for the many, not just the few.

To read more about the campaign and what you can do to help, click here

To join our membership sign up here

Boris Johnson cannot be trusted to defend Human Rights

Stephen Delahunty

Last week just 0.13 % of the population voted in a man to be the next Prime Minister whose commitment to human rights is as dubious as his voting record on the subject.

The inevitability of Boris Johnson’s coronation as Conservative party leader and Prime Minister rendered the leadership contest something of a dud, despite his proclamation that he was the “dude” to unite the country, before blaming half of it for lacking optimism. 

Beyond his usual outlandish narcissism it is not clear what his promise to ‘deliver, unite, defeat, and energise’ will mean for protections afforded under the Human Rights Act. Introduced in 1998, it incorporates the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic British law, and it sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to.

However, the previous government failed to give assurances that it will not repeal or reform the Human Rights Act post-Brexit, and there is no evidence to suggest that Johnson, an ardent Euroscpetic who was taken to court under allegations of misconduct in a public office for claims made during the Leave campaign, can be trusted to maintain the Act’s commitments.

His party has previously pledged to replace the act with a British Bill of Rights, although Johnson missed a vote on whether to repeal the Human Rights Act in 2016.

Several human rights groups have already outlined what they think are the key issues that Johnson needs to address. Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said that he must work to resolve the case of British Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who was arrested in 2016 while visiting relatives and accused of spying by Tehran.

Although the last time the former foreign secretary intervened he failed to secure her release and Iranian officials cited his words as evidence that she had engaged in “propaganda against the regime”. Nazanin’s husband has since called on Johnson to acknowledge his mistake.

Allen also said Johnson should work to empower women and girls and reunite refugee families torn apart by conflict and persecution. As foreign secretary, Johnson gave a speech to the UN Human Rights Council stating: “We could achieve virtually every sustainable development goal – if only we could provide every girl in the world with at least 12 years of quality education”.

Despite his trademark bluster Johnson has consistently voted against laws to promote equality and human rights and was absent for a vote on the Impact of Tax and Benefit Changes on Women and Protected Groups in 2016.

On foreign affairs, watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) has described his approach to human rights as “weak, inconsistent, and often incoherent”. London’s diplomatic efforts in Egypt and Myanmar have “lacked leadership”, and documents released last year suggested that Johnson pushed the government to continue UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite concerns UK arms are contributing to “significant” civilian deaths in the Saudi-coalition’s war in Yemen.

The former journalist has been sacked from previous roles for making up quotes and lying about an affair, while his history of racist, homophobic and anti-LGBT slurs suggest he is not suddenly going to become a friend to minority communities at home or internationally.

He has also been referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for Islamophobic comments, and once wrote a lengthy Spectator column arguing that the best thing for Africa would be for the old colonial powers to return. If trust and words are to matter in politics, the new Prime Minister’s grasp of language, history and culture make him unfit to hold office.

Ultimately the Old Etonian’s approach to human rights may be best judged by the company he keeps – Johnson has courted the same white nationalist Svengali that installed his floppy haired equivalent in the White House – and he has just appointed arguably the most anti-human rights cabinet to date. The no-deal Brexit his cabinet are advocating could see many human rights protections currently enjoyed by UK citizens lost, including employment rights, equality and privacy. 

The new Prime Minister used his first speech in the Commons to declare a new “Golden Age” – but if Johnson’s record is anything to go by – human rights protections could hark back to the Stone Age.

Sign up!

If you’d like to know more about the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and our campaigns, sign up to our mailing list here.

Join the LCHR Committee!

Job Details

The Labour Campaign for Human Rights (LCHR) is an organisation that promotes human rights within the Labour Party. Our activities include:

  • Discussion: LCHR serves as a forum and platform for Labour members and others who have an interest in human rights. We foster dialogue between civil society, academia, the public, and the Labour Party on human rights issues.
  • Advocacy: we engage with Labour Party policy and Labour politicians to ensure that human rights are at the heart of Labour’s foreign and domestic policy agendas.
  • Policy work: LCHR generates policy proposals for the Labour Party that ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.
  • Public, grassroots campaigning and awareness raising: we raise the profile of human rights issues within the party and the wider Labour movement.

LCHR is looking for three (3) new volunteers to help us run the organisation and our ongoing campaigns. The volunteers will join LCHR’s managing committee.

 

Job Title: Volunteers (x 3) – Partnerships & Fundraising (x 1), Campaigns (x 1) and Communications (x 1)

Working For: Labour Campaign for Human Rights

Location: London

Salary: Voluntary role (flexible hours)

 

Partnerships & Fundraising

Alongside a range of broader contributions to LCHR’s campaigns, specific responsibilities will include:

  • Developing LCHR’s fundraising & partnership strategy, and maintaining and enhancing the long-term durability of the Campaign;
  • Identifying and securing funding opportunities from a range of sources, including trusts and foundations, institutions and the corporate sector;

Ideal candidates will have:

  • Commercial Awareness and the ability to identify and seize opportunities;
  • Excellent relationship building and stakeholder management skills;
  • A keen interest in human rights and politics;
  • Excellent communication skills, including writing skills;
  • A good understanding of the Labour Party; and
  • Support the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and our mission.

 

Campaigns

Alongside a range of broader contributions to LCHR’s campaigns, specific responsibilities will include:

  • Writing articles and briefings;
  • Creating/editing digital content, including videos, to support our campaigns;

Ideal candidates will have:

  • Experience with inDesign or creating graphics;
  • Creating/editing video content;
  • A keen interest in human rights and politics;
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including writing skills;
  • A good understanding of the Labour Party; and
  • Support the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and our mission.

 

Communications

Alongside a range of broader contributions to LCHR’s campaigns, specific responsibilities will include:

  • Creating/editing digital content to support our campaigns;
  • Producing a regular newsletter for our supporters; and
  • Helping run our social media channels;

Ideal candidate will have:

  • An interest in social media and/or experience in running a social media channel;
  • Experience using mailchimp;
  • A keen interest in human rights and politics;
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including writing skills;
  • A good understanding of the Labour Party; and
  • Support the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and our mission.

 

Please indicate on your application, which role(s) you’re interested in.

———–

Hours are flexible and the role is primarily home-based, although candidates will ideally be based in London for meetings and events. Around 2-3 hours per week commitment is typical by not required.

We particularly encourage applications from women and BAME candidates.

 

Application Details

Please send a CV and short cover note to campaigns@lchr.org.uk

We will acknowledge every application, and will aim to contact successful applicants by Wednesday 8th May.

Interview Dates

Interviews will take place on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th May.

LCHR on Venezuela: a man-made humanitarian and human rights catastrophe

105700813-1548436659201rts2bygm.530x298

By Corinne Linnecar, Campaigns Officer

As the world divides over its support for the declared leaders of Venezuela, what is happening to its people?

Venezuela was once the richest country in Latin America. It is home to the largest known oil reserves in the world; more than Saudi Arabia. In 2013, it received an award from the UN for reducing hunger by half. Yet today, its simultaneous humanitarian and human rights crises have led to over 3 million people fleeing the country while those left within its borders face life-threatening conditions.

A rapidly deteriorating economy is set to see inflation rise to 10 million per cent in 2019. Even where food can be found, the prices have exceeded all realms of rationality, with one month’s salary now buying only 500g of oats, 24 eggs, or half a burger. The country is also severely lacking basic necessities and medicine. All of this has culminated in a humanitarian crisis, which is exacerbated by a repressive government that continues to crack down on dissenting voices.

Unlike many humanitarian crises in the world, Venezuela’s was not caused by war or natural disaster. This crisis is entirely man-made.

Read more

Protests by parents must not be allowed to turn the clock back on LGBT rights

Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 12.51.35

This article was written by Peter Turay, Communications Officer at the Labour Campaign for Human Rights, and originally published in The Times on 21 March 2019.

Over the past few weeks Birmingham has seen angry protests by parents outside a school, armed with aggressive placards and a megaphone. You could be mistaken for thinking this was a scene from Westminster which is plagued with protesters, both Remain and Leave, shouting at MPs (and anyone else unfortunate enough to walk past).

Instead, this protest was held outside Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, which has drawn criticism from parents for the introduction of their “no outsiders” programme to the school’s curriculum. The programme aims to promote social cohesion, by teaching the children about equality and helping them learn to be tolerant of differences, including sexual orientation. Unfortunately, this has sparked anger among some parents and conservative religious groups in the local community.

 

Read more

LCHR: Introducing ‘Britain and Her Allies’

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 5.04.15 PM

Last year was an important one for human rights. We saw the 20th anniversary of the Human Rights Act, and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These documents not only form the basis of human rights laws in the UK, which guarantee freedom from persecution, violence and oppression, but are essential components of our democracy. The Human Rights Act protects the fundamental rights of all British citizens – ranging from freedom of speech to freedom from torture – and is one of Labour’s proudest achievements.

Read more