Presentation on theme: "Using Human Rights for Youth Advocacy"— Presentation transcript:
1 Using Human Rights for Youth Advocacy James McDougallThursday 20 March 2014ACT Youth CoalitionCanberra
2 What are human rights?Human rights are shared by all humans, whatever nationality, gender, race, culture, religion, language, or any other status.Human rights are often guaranteed by law (including international law).International human rights law requires Governments to act to promote and protect human rights.
3 Do young people have human rights? Young people are human beings, and so they have all the human rights that older people have.As well the human rights that adults have, international law also recognises that children (young people under 18 years) have rights and require additional protection as a result of their status and development - from birth through infancy to childhood and through adolescence to adulthood.These additional protections (known as ‘child rights’) are part of the broader human rights system and can be described as ‘the human rights of children’.
4 How does international human rights law work? International human rights law was developed after the Second World War ( ) during the negotiations which also created the United Nations.The detail of those rights and freedoms has since developed (and continues to be developed) through international debate, usually reaching final expression in treaties (or ‘conventions’ or ‘covenants’) adopted at the United Nations General Assembly.All nations are encouraged to commit to the treaties. When a nation commits to follow a treaty, it is said to ‘ratify’ the treaty.
5 How does international human rights law work? All nations have ratified at least one, and most nations have ratified four or more, of the most important human rights treaties.By ratifying a treaty, a nation commits to provide protection and to create legal obligations for the enforcement of the rights which are to be shared by all people the nation is responsible for.
6 How does international human rights law protect us? The most direct way to protect rights is to use Australian law to challenge government decision makers to respect our human rights. So we can ask the courts to protect our freedom and our property and to ensure fair process.However our laws do not always set out clear ways to protect human rights.AND not all the detail of human rights treaties that Australia has ratified has been incorporated into our laws.AND Australian courts have been reluctant to apply the human rights principles set out in the treaties unless there is a very clear direction in existing case law or in the laws of Parliament.So for example we have clear anti-discrimination laws (passed by Parliament) but no clear statement in law of a child’s right to be heard.
7 How does international human rights law protect us? Most developed nations have adopted a Bill of Rights that incorporates detail of many human rights and directs courts to apply them. Australia has not (yet) taken this step. Victoria and the ACT have.BUT we can still call our governments to account for those human rights that they have committed to protect under international human rights law.
8 What are the international human rights law treaties? The International Bill of Human RightsThe Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1976International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1976 Other significant treaties include:Convention on the Status of Refugees (adopted 1951, in force 1954)Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted 1989, in force 1990)Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (adopted 1965, in force 1969)Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (adopted 1979, in force 1981)Convention Against Torture (adopted 1984, in force 1987)Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (adopted 2006, in force 2008) There are many others ...
9 What are the international human rights law treaties? A list of the human rights treaties that Australia has ratified can be found on the websites of the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs –And international human rights law is still developing. In recent years the international community has recognised the importance of the rights of Indigenous peoples (such as Australian Aboriginal peoples).In 2007 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This will hopefully be a first step towards a treaty.
10 How can we use human rights? There are a number of ways that we can use international human rights.Complaints (or Communications)Some of the human rights treaties allow individuals to report on a particular issue of concern if that person believes their rights under that treaty have not been protected by that nation. An example is the complaint that Nick Toonen, a Tasmanian gay man made to the UN Human Rights Committee because he believed that the Australian Government was not protecting his right to privacy -RapporteursSometimes the United Nations is concerned about the human rights of a particular group or in a particular situation and appoints an expert to investigate and report on the protection of those rights.These experts are called Rapporteurs. You can send a letter to a Rapporteur describing your concern. Sometimes they can visit the nation to investigate and report on their findings. For example the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples visited Australia in 2009 and produced an influential report on what he observed in Indigenous communities.
11 How can we use human rights? ReportingMost of the human rights treaties require nations to report to the United Nations on their performance in providing protection. To test a nation’s report, the UN reporting body (often a Committee of experts such as the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child) will invite non-government organisations (NGOs / civil society) to report as well.In Australia, organisations such as the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre ( and the Human Rights Law Centre ( coordinate these NGO reports. You can get involved in the reporting process and give information about the protection of rights by contacting these organisations.AdvocacyYou can also make your own observations and develop your own campaigns. Many bodies (including the Children’s Commissioners & Guardians and the Australian Human Rights Commission) are particularly interested to hear of human rights concerns.You can also write to your local Members of Parliament, Government or raise your concerns with community groups or in the media.Human rights treaties are not just legal documents but also important sources of information on how we want our world and its peoples to be treated. You can use them to call for better protection or to support good practical ideas.
12 How do we find out about human rights? Most of the rights of young people are set out in the treaties that we have looked at.The most comprehensive treaty is the Convention on the Rights of the Child which carefully considers the experience of childhood and the duties of those responsible for protecting and supporting children.But you don’t need to be a lawyer to use human rights in an argument or a campaign.
13 What are some rights that young people have? Young people have the right to freedom or liberty.This principle means that only a court can restrict your freedom according to clear and consistent rules.There are also special rules for young people who are charged with crimes. These rules are about treating young people who are children as ‘adults in development’ and therefore ensure that they are not branded as criminals for the rest of their lives.
14 Some economic, cultural and social rights that young people have The right to work under safe and fair conditionsThe right to an adequate standard of livingThe right to health and medical care including special provision for children and young people through attention to their development.The right to education to be directed to the full development of personality and with dignity. This includes that primary and secondary education should be free and available to all.
15 Young People’s Experience of Racial Discrimination Discrimination is a broader idea than racism as it includes actions or policy that have an unfair impact on a particular racial group.UN Committees have already noted that the Australian criminal justice system appears to be operating in a racially discriminatory manner – one of the signs being the higher rate at which Indigenous children are kept in detention.It is also possible that Australia’s immigration laws could be found to be operating in a racially discriminatory manner (again).
16 Gender & Sexuality Discrimination Discrimination is a broader idea than sexism as it includes actions or policy that have an unfair impact on a particular group.The right to be treated fairly includes:equal opportunity in educationequality of opportunity in employmentequality in marriage and family
17 Disability & Age Discrimination Discrimination has been explored in these two areas in limited ways and could be further explored for young people.The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a recent human rights treaty that includes its own protections for children and young people with disability (particularly Articles 7, 23 and 24).
18 Other Treaty Protections that provide for Young People The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has protections which are available for children and young people.
19 What other rights should we consider? The right to familyThe right to life - birth registration and nationalityThe right to religionThe right to privacyThe right to culture
20 What other rights should we consider? Often there are rights that adults take for granted but young people also have.The rights to information and to hold and express viewsThe right to choose your friends and where you meet.There are also some special protections for children: protection from violence and abuse; for refugees; children involved in war and those exposed to exploitation.