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Lord Mayor to declare York the UK’s first Human Rights City

Posted on 18 April 2017

A campaign to establish York as the UK’s first Human Rights City - initiated by Professor Paul Gready at the University of York - will culminate with a formal declaration by the Lord Mayor later this month.

York Human Rights City Network logo 550

The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Dave Taylor, will make the declaration at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall on 24 April.

Civic dignitaries, York Central MP Rachael Maskell and Councillor Thomas Rajakovics of Graz in Austria will attend the event, which is being organised by York Human Rights City Network (YHRCN).

Other cities to carry the title include Graz, but York is the only UK city to make such a declaration.

The York Human Rights City Network is a unique partnership between the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights, the voluntary sector and civil society.

It was launched in 2011 with the aim of declaring York a Human Rights City in 2017. It has since expanded to include the City of York Council and North Yorkshire Police.

The declaration is a reflection of the support for human rights and values of equality, fairness, dignity and justice that exists in the city.  Members of the public are encouraged to visit the YHRCN website and pledge their support for the declaration.

Social justice

Organisers say the declaration is particularly fitting for the city - which has a strong record in the area of social justice and has been a beacon for human rights for many years.

A number of organisations in the public and voluntary sector have pledged to put people’s fundamental rights at the heart of policies and plans for the future.

The City of York Council has begun to integrate human rights in its planning process and North Yorkshire Police is keen to develop a ‘rights based approach’ with targeted human rights training.

Stephen Pittam from YHRCN, said: “York has the ambition to use human rights in decision making, promote awareness and debate about human rights and ensure all residents’ rights are respected.”

 “Each existing human rights city has built on its own particular history when seeking to give local content to the label.  In both the past and present York has a strong record of activity in the field of social justice.”

“We want to act as a catalyst for York people, organisations and business to champion a vibrant, diverse, fair and safe city.”

Challenging times

Professor Paul Gready, Director of the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York and who initiated the campaign, said: “We live in uncertain and challenging times. International and national frameworks protecting human rights are under threat.

“Sadly the UK is no exception to this trend. Those of us who are committed to human rights need to think creatively and act decisively. The Centre for Applied Human Rights has represented the University of York in the campaign to declare York a Human Rights City.

“We welcome the declaration as an important moment in the journey of establishing York as a Human Rights City.”

Cllr Dave Taylor, said: “Declaring York as the first Human Rights City in the UK means the people of York have pledged that treating everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect is important to them and that they want the city to continue to work towards this objective.

“I am delighted to be part of this event celebrating the commitment that the city has to the fundamental freedoms and rights of its residents.”

Sarah Armstrong, Chief Executive of York Centre for Voluntary Services, added: “I’m absolutely thrilled that York is to be declared a Human Rights City. Ultimately, this will mean York is a warm, welcoming and safe city for everyone – for all people who live in York, work in York and visit York. “

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