Find your facts. Talk rights and obligations. Use documentary evidence
that is linked to the UN. Do your research and you’ll have the answers.
There are nine human rights treaties that make up the United Nations
Human Rights Treaty System. They are:
• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
• The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
• The International Bill of Human Rights.
• The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
• The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
• The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women (CEDAW).
• The Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or DegradingTreatment
• The Convention of the Rights of the Child.
• The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of
All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
States who sign these treaties are bound by them. The UN have treaty
bodies to monitor their implementation. The main role of these bodies
is to consider State Reports and make recommendations.
Read the Irish state’s report that covers the issue you are addressing.
Look at both where it is fulfilling its role and where it doesn’t.
Read Shadow Reports prepared by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
that give an alternative view to the Irish state’s accomplishments
Both of these reports will give you facts and figures. They will also
point to the relevant articles in the conventions that you need to be
aware of. For example, article 12 of CEDAW requires steps to eliminate
discrimination from the field of health care, including access to services
such as family planning. Article 12 of the ICESCR recognises the right
of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical
and mental health.
After the treaty body has read the State reports, it issues general recommendations
and/ or concluding comments. These are also a tool for you to use when
fighting for your issue. If the UN has recommended change, then you definitely
have a point to make!
- Summer ’06, Issue 18
Top Ten Tips for highlighting human rights abuses
Sarah-Beth Watkins – Templeshannon CDP project co-ordinator –
gives some resource tips below on what CDPs need to do if they wish to
highlight an abuse of human rights.
- How to address human rights issues effecting your community
1) Raise awareness of the issue. People won’t know it’s an
issue if they don’t know anything about it.
2) Research your facts. Make sure everything you use to promote your issue
has been checked and double-checked. Facts hit hard but they will completely
discredit you if you get them wrong.
3) Use the UN and its conventions. Check that Ireland has signed to the
relevant treaty (eg The Covention on the Elimination against All Forms
of Discrimination against Women). Then read up on the convention’s
general recommendations and concluding comments.
4) Check the State reports to find out how the Irish governments meets
these obligations and then read any shadow reports available on your issue
to see where these obligations fail.
5) Use all this information! Formulate a campaign. Think strategy and
plan ahead. Remember this takes huge commitment and time.
6) Use the media to get the word out. Use newspapers, magazines, radio,
even television if you can. Don’t ignore the free press sheets or
local newsletters who are often happy to take contributions.
7) Demonstrate. You don’t have to chain yourself to the railings
but it’s a possibility! Think creatively about how you can let people
know of your issue and what can be done about it.
8) Form a coalition. There is strength in numbers. Link with like-minded
people to form a group to specifically challenge the issue and raise awareness.
9) Write your own shadow report. This can be done as an organisation or
as a coalition. Respond to the Irish government using a formal document
that will be read by others.
10) General Election 2007. It’s a good time to start talking to
- Summer ’06, Issue 18
Take a legal approach to human rights!
- community groups could unite to fight cases
The law is a tool that Traveller CDPs in particular make good use of.
However, many CDPs shy away from adopting legal strategies to achieve
their communitys’ aims, or they do not recognise that they are using
legal strategies already.
Recently, a number of volunteers and staff in CDPs in urban and rural
areas were interviewed as part of a new initiative to encourage community
groups to take more legal cases.
In 2005, CAIRDE, Ballymun Community Law Centre, Irish Traveller Movement
Legal Unit, Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland, Northside Community Law
Centre came together to see about working more closely on legal issues
affecting marginalised groups. They also wanted to see how community participation
within legal processes could be strengthened.
"CDPs and community groups in general could be doing more if they
adopted legal strategies," said Grainne O’Toole, one of the
researchers leading the new initiative.
Nineteen organisations were contacted which included a mix of rural, urban
and issue based organisations. CDPs including Doras Bui CDP in Dublin
and FORUM CDP in County Galway. Kildare Travellers Action, who are currently
applying for CDP status, were also interviewed.
The main issues they found were:
• Marginalised groups are very vulnerable and there is an overall
lack of support for such groups to engage with the legal process.
• There is a lack of access to quality legal advice and high legal
costs ensure that claiming legal rights within the courts is prohibitive.
• People acceptance of discrimination and lack of enforcement of
their rights is widespread. This stems from the fact that many people
are unaware of their rights and/or how to go about securing them.
• There is a lack of strategy building as the legal system is based
around individual cases so cases that are won and precedents set are not
shared on a practical level. Also, as a result of successful cases little
change occurs in policies or attitudes of the state.
Now, the CLAS group hope to set up a network, starting with a conference
seminar in January. The venue will be Dublin, the date has yet to be set.
The early recommendations of the CLAS group include the following:
• Groups could work together within the CLAS network on common themes
to give force to the issues being worked on.
• CLAS could develop a strategy to tap into legal resources.
These are some of the common legal issues that concern marginalised groups:
• Lack of rights and standards within public services e.g. housing
• Lack of a right to advocacy and representation
• Negative effect of discretion within services e.g. social welfare
• Lack of the statutory right to family reunification
• Lack of rights for undocumented workers
• Discrimination in service provision as experienced by Travellers
• Exploitation of the elderly who have lost all legal entitlements
to their property
• Social welfare issues and lack of access to entitlements
• Lack of knowledge of the legal system and how to impact on it.
For more information, contact Grainne O’Toole, Talbot Mews, Vernon
Grove, Rathgar, Dublin 6. Tel. 01-496-5736. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Winter ’06, Issue 20
New booklet on human rights
- aimed at one-parent families
Former Irish President, Mary Robinson, says the "basic human
rights" of thousands of one-parent families are being denied.
"One in six families in Ireland remain disadvantaged – legally,
financially and socially," she pointed out.
Mary made the remark in the introduction to a new booklet on how human
rights law can be used to improve the life-chances of one-parent families.
Hard copies of the booklet are available through the One Family organisation,
formerly Cherish, (tel. 1890-662-212) and from their website: www.onefamily.ie
- Autumn ‘05, Issue 19
Community Development and Human Rights
- a couple at odds?
By Sarah-Beth Watkins
There is a faciltiators' warm-up exercise that gets everybody standing
in a line. This is the line that signifies that point at which we are
born. We are all equal on that line, born equally.
Oh no, we’re not, I already hear you shout. Babies are born into
poverty, with disability or illness, into neglectful or abusive families.
Or born rich. Or healthy. - An unequal start right from the beginning.
That’s the community development perspective.
f you look at it from a human rights perspective, babies are born equally,
with equal rights. An equal right to life, to a quality of life that includes
health, housing, access to education and other fundamentals. It is circumstance
and situation that impinge on human ability to live that life equally.
Community development and human rights approaches do not sit comfortably
together. Community development is about people; its about approaches
and processes, its about ownership and leadership, about disadvantaged
people being empowered. Human Rights argues forcefully for the rights
of people but it’s not just the marginalised, disadvantaged and
disempowered, it’s the rights of all.
Development workers have always struggled with having to prioritise which
group has the greatest need and wrestled with the notion of positive discrimination.
The above exercise continues with each participant selecting a ‘target’
group; Travellers, people with disabilities, drug users, ethnic minorities,
women experiencing domestic violence, etc. The idea is to place the target
group you work with steps forward or back from the equal birth line, in
relation to progression or regression of their issues. Nobody really steps
forward. Everybody takes steps back but suddenly your issue and the group
you are working with are more important than anyone else. Your group should
be right at the back. They are the most marginalised, disadvantaged section
of the population. They have more of a right to a better life.
Not if you’re looking at it from a human rights approach, everyone
should be standing on that line together. Equal. Nobody has more right
to a better life than the next person. Everybody has the same right to
life. And that is where community development and human rights clash.
We agree with rights and equality but would you say that a middle-classed,
single, white male had as much right to housing as a working class, single
mother with four children? Community development takes sides, human rights
Take recent developments in women’s issues. Organisations like Womens'
Aid have counterparts like AMEN. Women’s issues are also men’s
issues. The male perspective on family, domestic violence and other ‘private’
issues are coming to the fore.
We know that domestic violence is a huge issue across the globe. Women
have a right to a life free from violence as do their children but hey
folks, so do men.
We could argue for hours about the levels of violence, the difference
between male and female physical abuse, the incident rates, how it affects
the family. It is all relevant and in community development, we are close
to the effects and can see the reality.
But a human rights perspective sees that men have the right to a quality
of life too. This can be especially difficult for development workers
who could find it hard to balance who had what rights in such a volatile,
So community development sits uncomfortably next to human rights, but
like an old couple married for 50 years, they’d be lost without
Community development is grass roots. We work locally, regionally, sometimes
nationally. We work on the ground at people level.
Human rights works at all levels but is also international. It gives people
equal rights across the globe. It works at a legal level, has conventions
and legislation to back it and issues are dealt with by lawyers, in courts.
For this reason, human rights are hugely important. They are a powerful
tool. A human rights approach brings issues to a level where something
can actually be done about them. How many times have we moaned that we’re
still fighting for the same thing we were fighting for 20 years ago?
To use domestic violence again as an example, the UN’s Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, seen
as the International Bill of Women’s Rights, has been ratified by
64 countries. That means 64 countries have agreed to eliminate domestic
violence against women. They have to report to the UN and the UN gives
its general recommendations. Governments are named and shamed in a global
We need lawyers and politicians to bring our issues to that level to effect
change. And guess what, they need us too, to give solid, hard evidence!
The evidence that comes with 20 years of working with women who are affected
by domestic violence, by working year after year with groups who are marginalised
and disadvantaged, whose issues are worth highlighting, whose rights need
Community development may not always share a bed with human rights but
they definitely hold hands every once in a while. Our challenge is keep
their alliance working for us by realising their differences and embracing
* Sarah-Beth Watkins is Co-ordinator of Templeshannon CDP, Enniscorthy,
- Autumn ‘05, Issue 19