Human Rights Begin in the Small Places (BIHR #HumanRightsTour 2013)

Posted on: October 10th, 2013 by Jess Flanagan

I’ve posted elsewhere that the driving force behind my desire to be a lawyer was a comment made to me by a family friend; ‘to change the law, you have to know the law.’ When I was younger, I thought that my goal was going to be achieved by being a politician, and perhaps even the Prime Minister. Quite frankly, after growing up a little and realising that it really would be a huge and thankless task and perhaps one I didn’t have the constitution to tackle. I decided that I would focus my efforts where I could properly make an impact and that was for each of my clients and everyone who I could pass on some of my knowledge and experience to.

When I meet people, I introduce myself as a solicitor. When I’m amongst those who know what one is, i say ‘Social Welfare’ solicitor. When I’m not, I say I’m a ‘help people’ solicitor. I strive to remain faithful to that in every contact I have.

Today I attended the British Institute of Human Rights ‘#HumanRightsTour 2013 and had a great refresher of human rights law. I was reminded of my university days. The huge global Human Rights atrocities were not easy to study nor fully appreciate when in my early twenties and although I was fascinated, it didn’t spur me to want to tackle the huge scale problems that so many excellent people deal with on a daily basis. What it did do was set the wheels in motion for the career path I finally chose. I wanted to help people, but on a one to one basis.

I now have the benefit of over 6 years advising vulnerable people under my belt and experience of applying Article 8 (right to private and family life) and Article 5 (Freedom from deprivation of liberty) to situations involving real people that I know. Today we were left with a message from the driving force behind the UN Convention on Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt who quite rightly said:

‘Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.’

Together with every single person who attended the tour today and most people I meet in the course of my role as a ‘help people’ lawyer, I strive to look in the small places and help those who need it everyday.

On a final note, Another thing I learnt today is that I actually do know and understand quite a bit about human rights and intellectual capacity. I might even be nearly ready to start helping to change the law…

Comments are closed.