This evening, the Lord Mayor of York will declare the city the UK’s first Human Rights City. The event will begin at 5:45pm at the Merchant Taylor’s Hall. The initiative seeks to protect rights within York and thus “send a message to the country and the world,” according to the York Human Rights City Network (YHRCN) website.
Despite being the first city in the UK to be declared a ‘Human Rights City’, the project is locally rooted. Funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Foundation, it is supported by the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) at the University of York. Other supporters named on the organisation’s website include North Yorkshire Police and York City Council.
The project, however, has outward looking objective. York City of Sanctuary, another supporter, works with foreign refugees to find them homes as part of a UK wide project. Equally, the International Service is based in York, but aims to promote the human rights of people around the world.
According to the York Human Rights Indicator Baseline Report from 2016, the project is focused around five key areas; education, living standards, housing, social and healthcare, and equality and non-discrimination. It identifies a rise in hate crime over the last three years and gaps in educational achievement among the areas in need of improvement. Tonight’s declaration realises the report’s aim to declare York a Human Rights City in 2017.
The report states that this means:
A positive vision of human rights will champion York as a vibrant, diverse, fair, safe and international city built on the foundations of universal human rights.
Professor Paul Gready, initiator of the project and head of the CACR, was quoted in The York Press as saying “Members of the public see human rights as irrelevant, remote or even hostile to their interests.” This claim seems to be borne out by the YHRCN website, with only 221 pledges of support for the project. Although some of these come from organisations, 192 individual pledges do not suggest that the movement has attracted the attention of the public.
The number of pledges, however, may increase after the Lord Mayor’s declaration. The free tickets available to the voluntary, public and business Sector are sold out, as are those allocated for students. Ultimately, this evening’s event is being presented not as an end point, but as a start from which to build.
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