The NIHRC Blog #5
Our August blog post is written by our Communications and Public Affairs Officer.
As a National Human Rights Institution, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission operates under The Paris Principles, a set of guidelines adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1993 which the Commission has adhered to since opening its doors in March 1999. The Principles cover a range of areas, and set out the duty to develop relations with NGOs who are:
‘devoted to promoting and protecting human rights,
to economic and social development,
to combating racism,
to protecting particularly vulnerable groups (especially children, migrant workers, refugees, disabled persons)
or to specialised areas.’
One of the advantages of being the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is that, due to the small population, contacts and connections are generally made more quickly. Whilst the Commission - as a statutory body - engages heavily with government and other public authorities, we also have the opportunity to work with a range of non-governmental organisations. This has led to a host of exciting collaborations for the Commission.
In light of that, we thought we might take this opportunity to highlight just some of the groups we’ve engaged with so far in 2017. A bit like when your favourite TV sitcom dedicates an entire episode to flashbacks and ‘best bits’ midway through a season.
2017 started out with a collaboration with The Prince’s Trust, when we invited some of their Young Ambassadors along to participate in a day-long discussion on mental health. The Commission has been a big advocate for mental healthcare reform, calling for the commencement of last year’s Mental Capacity (NI) Act. This engagement opportunity provided us with fresh perspectives and a deeper understanding of the mental health issues encountered by young people in Northern Ireland. Following on from the event, some of our staff received training from the Prince’s Trust and we’ve put together a short film, which documents the experiences and opinions of the young people we spoke to. (We plan to launch the film later in 2017 - so stay tuned.)
As highlighted before, we teamed up with Northern Ireland Community of Refugees & Asylum Seekers and the Belfast Friendship Club for this year’s World Refugee Day. This was a great chance to engage with refugees and asylum seekers living here in Northern Ireland, and give them an opportunity to tell their stories. A few months before that, we met with the North West Migrants Forum to hear about their valuable work and to ensure our engagement stretches beyond Belfast and the immediate surrounding area.
In addition to these great organisations, we carry out regular visits to the different council areas (such as this one) - engaging with local community groups, councillors and emergency services - and are in constant contact with folks like the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Human Rights Consortium. In August, we joined the two organisations to engage with NGOs such as Disability Action to grasp a deeper understanding of the issues affecting persons with disabilities in Northern Ireland, ahead of the UK’s review by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
With a few months left in 2017, we’re looking forward to the relationships still to be built before the year’s end. You’ll have the chance to see even more of our favourite partnerships during Culture Night which rolls out across Belfast on Friday 22 September, when we’ll showcase some of our short films - made alongside the Simon Community, Barnardo’s, Women’s Aid, the Law Centre NI, Migrant Help, Carers NI and other great individuals. We’d love to see you there, so keep an eye out for your invitation via social media!