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10.12.2008

Vote for equality to bring UDHR ideals closer to reality

London, 10 December 2008

As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 60 this Wednesday, international think-tank The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) is warning that, in a global recession, governments worldwide must put equality at the centre of human rights legislation or risk creating more marginalised ‘sub-human’ peoples, such as the Roma in Europe and lower castes in South Asia.

Praising the UK’s ‘forward-thinking’ Equality Bill for its positive duty to acknowledge and address differences between people, ERT says that the ideals of the UN Declaration, launched during severe repression and economic hardship, will never become a reality unless equality is defined and implemented as a basic human right.

Executive Director of ERT and leading equal rights expert, Dimitrina Petrova, said:

“60 years on, we cannot let the hardships of recession blur a vision of a fairer society. Across the world, anti-discrimination law puts individuals into rigid boxes, serving to reinforce stereotypes rather than breaking them down. We are urging a wiser and fairer international and national law that recognises difference and says that human rights are only possible when we have equality.”

To mark the anniversary of the UN Declaration, ERT has launched a global campaign, ‘Vote for Equality’ which seeks mass support for new equality and human rights principles to ensure groups around the world are not victimised, excluded and denied equality.

The campaign is seeking one million pledges of support for The Declaration on the Principles of Equality, drawn up by leading human rights lawyers and equality experts, in a bid to get governments to endorse 27 principles which:

• Define equality as a basic human right: Stating that equality should be seen as a human right in itself.

• Promote ‘Positive Action’: Departing from the concept of ‘formal equality’ stating that differences must be recognised for everyone to be treated equally.

• Ensure consistency and fairness: Ensuring all nations respect the right to equality and recognise and address inequalities in their society.

Dimitrina Petrova added:

“The ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are more important today than ever. Ronald Dworkin, a signatory to the Principles, once said equality is a threatened species amongst political ideals, but I would take this further and say it is an endangered species among human rights. We need governments to take action, especially at this time, to ensure that the huge and increasing numbers of marginalised groups such as the Roma in Europe and lower castes in South Asia have a legal right to equality.

Only then will we be able to realise the ideals set down by the UN 60 years ago today.”

Ends.

Notes to editors.

The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) is an independent international organisation whose purpose is to combat discrimination and promote equality as a fundamental human right and a basic principle of social justice. Established as an advocacy organisation, a resource centre and a think tank, it focuses on the complex and complementary relationship between the different forms of discrimination, developing strategies for translating the principle of equality into practice.

The ‘Vote for Equality’ campaign

• On 21 October 2008, the Declaration of Principles on Equality was launched, marking the beginning of a campaign for its universal recognition.

• The ‘Vote for Equality’ Campaign launched by The Equal Rights Trust is calling for endorsements from individuals and organisations who want to publicly demonstrate their support of the Principles set out in the Declaration. The campaign aims to attract 1 million ‘voters’ a year.

• To sign up visit this link: http://www.equalrightstrust.org/campaign/index.htm

The Principles

• The Declaration on the Principles of Equality contains 27 principles on 6 key themes: equality, non discrimination; scope and rights-holders; obligations; enforcement; prohibitions.

• The Principles were drafted by 128 prominent legal practitioners, academics and human rights activists from 44 countries. Among the signatories are: Shami Chakrabarti (UK) Director, Liberty; Joy Ngozi Ezeilo (Nigeria), UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Bengt Lindqvist (Sweden), Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability; Lawrence M. Mute (Kenya), Commissioner, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights; Renate Weber (Romania), Member of European Parliament; Wan Yanhai (China) Director, Beijing AIZHIXING, Institute of Health Education; Liudmilla Alekseeva (Russia), President of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden), Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights; James Goldston (USA) Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative; Magdalena Sepulveda, UN Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, and many others, including members of UN Treaty Bodies and Special Rapportuers.

• At present there are hundreds additional international endorsements from significant human rights personalities and ordinary people from all over the world.

• Many organisations have welcomed and expressed their support for the Declaration of Principles on Equality, including:

Discrimination Law Association (UK), Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, European Roma Information Office, Human Rights First, Human Rights Law Network (India), ILGA Europe (The European Region of the International Gay and Lesbian Association), INTERIGHTS - the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights, Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination (CONAPRED), Mexico.


About Dimitrina Petrova

Dr Dimitrina Petrova is the founding Executive Director of The Equal Rights Trust. Prior to founding the Equal Rights Trust, she headed the European Roma Rights Centre, one of the most successful human rights NGOs’ in Europe, winning more than 20 high profile cases in international jurisdictions and hundreds of cases in national courts.

Since 1997, she has also been Visiting Professor at the Central European University's Legal Studies department. Her former roles include Director of The Human Rights Project in Sofia, Bulgaria, Chair-holder in international relations and peace at the University of Oregon, member of parliament, and leader of the environmental movement Ecoglasnost in the late 1980s.

Dimitrina Petrova's writings include over 75 publications on human rights, equality, democracy, politics, and social sciences. She holds a PhD from the University of Sofia, where she defended her dissertation on utopia and value rationality (1993). She is the recipient of several awards, including the Human Rights Award from the American Bar Association and the Dutch Geuzenpenng Award.


For more information on the ‘Vote for Equality’ campaign, to request a copy of the Declaration of Principles of Equality and to request an interview with Dr Dimitrina Petrova or other ERT spokespeople, please contact:
Melissa on 020 7793 4035 / 07976 636 228 Melissa@dhacommnunciations.co.uk or Kemi on 020 7793 4035 / 07904 855571 Kemi@dhacommunications.co.uk

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