Fragmentation and reaffirmation
As the cold light of day dawns on the decision of a majority of voters in the UK to leave the EU, carrying with it loud endorsements of division and fragmentation, we should be reminded of a day when we stood at a different threshold: the adoption on 9th December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt’s words to the United Nations on that day bear repeating: ‘At a time when there are so many issues on which we find it difficult to reach a common basis of agreement,’ she said, ‘it is a significant fact that 58 states have found such a large measure of agreement in the complex field of human rights.’
It is at these times that it becomes more important than ever to reaffirm the universality of human rights, ‘the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family,’ without distinction of any kind. Yet it is precisely at this time that these basic principles become most fragile, especially as the rhetoric against migrants and other potentially marginalised groups is amplified for political purposes. As a very immediate step, we need to reaffirm the value of the cosmopolitan communities we are, and of every person in it. The Universal Declaration’s call to everyone to act towards one another in a spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood holds truer than ever.
For those of us in the UK, our next anxiety is for the future of the Human Rights Act 1998, and the uncertain commitment of the political elite to the UK’s continued ratification of the European Convention of Human Rights. Two months ago, the Home Secretary Theresa May declared that Britain should withdraw from the ECHR regardless of the EU referendum result.
In these highly volatile times, the voices of those who reaffirm the equality rights of every member of the human family risk being drowned out. The reaffirmation of our commitment to human rights requires a collective response from the global community of human rights lawyers, academics and policy-makers. This is why the Oxford Human Rights Hub has always aimed to create such a global community, and our continued collaborative project of analysis and development of human rights law across the globe becomes more important than ever.
As the public debate is heard loudly on the streets, and increasingly on the screens of our computers and smart phones, we encourage you, more than ever, to seize the opportunities that outlets like the OxHRH Blog provide for engaging in purposeful and inclusive discussions about what lies ahead.