Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

52.  Memorandum from Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO)

  Thank you for inviting us to contribute to the call for evidence into the desirability of establishing a Human Rights Commission.

  In line with the arguments developed in "A Human Rights Commission—the options for Britain and Northern Ireland" (IPPR 1998), I would like to state that CEMVO wholly supports the establishment of such a commission. As an organisation whose raison d'être is the development of Britain's Black and minority ethnic communities, we would particularly welcome the adoption of the Paris Principles: most especially the responsibility to "publicise human rights and efforts to combat all forms of discrimination, in particular racial discrimination . . ."

  Our key concern is that (in keeping with the Paris Principles and the UN Centre for Human Rights' Handbook) any over-arching Human Rights Commission should not lead to race equality issues being marginalised. This might be seen as a potential outcome if, for example, the Commission was to "swallow up" existing commissions such as the Commission for Racial Equality without ensuring that adequate provision was made to resource and drive this critical area of human rights. The significance of this will be all the more obvious in the light of the new legislative powers afforded through the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000—subsequent to the above publication.

  Other than that, we envisage great promise from some of the existing international models for such commissions. Not withstanding the above concerns, the structure of several of these models seems to hold real promise for a workable Human Rights Commission in Britain. In particular, the inclusive/comprehensive yet flexible structure of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the independent budget enjoyed by the Canadian Federal Human Rights Commission and the method used in Spain for appointing the Defender of the People seem extremely noteworthy.

  In conclusion, we believe that a Human Rights Commission, if established in accordance with the Paris Principles and UN Handbook, should succeed in keeping race issues to the fore whilst assisting in bringing greater synergy and focus to the protection of human rights in Britain.

  I hope that these arguments are helpful in your deliberations on establishing a framework capable of accommodating our human rights in the twenty first century.

2 July 2001

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