'Stand Up for Someone's Rights' on UN Human Rights day

A message from International Service CEO Jo Baker

"Human Rights Day 2016’s rallying call is for everyone to stand up for someone’s human rights.

But there is so much scepticism, debate and misunderstanding around human rights that many people will switch off at hearing the words, or do not realise how much they are already standing up for rights as part of their daily lives.

At International Service, we believe that standing up for rights is simply breaking down the barriers to make a positive difference for the people who need it most – and not just in the developing world but here at home too.

International Service works in places where people’s rights are most obviously denied; regions where peace is fragile, public services virtually non-existent, and discrimination is a daily reality for many. There are lots of examples of how we challenge this in our Annual Report 2015-16, which we've chosen to publish today - the annual commemoration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

But that doesn’t mean that human rights only have a role ‘over there’. Far from it.

Protecting, promoting and exercising our rights are an essential part of our day-to-day life. Whether children achieve their full potential at school, whether we receive quality healthcare or have the opportunity to earn a living, whether people are abused or attacked in the street…these are the common factors which shape every life on the planet.    

So many people are breaking down barriers, making a positive difference to people’s lives; in their family, in their workplace, in their local community and across the globe.  The community group lobbying its local council to improve a playground. The hundreds of thousands of people supporting charities which support people in danger of being marginalised from communities; older people, people with disabilities, children at risk from abuse.

All of them are changing their communities in the spirit of the United Nation’s principle of ‘leaving no-one behind’; making sure that everyone enjoys a dignified standard of living and has a say in the decisions that affect them.

They are standing up for their rights and the rights of others, even if they don’t recognise their actions in this way. It is the same approach which we take to empower people in the developing world to take control of their lives. We help people to understand how to make their voice heard, how to exercise their own power and refuse to be left behind.

Every context is different and different people have different needs and priorities , so our-rights based approach leads to very different programmes depending on where we work.

We support women artisans across the globe to gain the financial literacy and marketing techniques to turn their skill into an income, we have supported disability groups in northern Ghana to take part in their community’s traditional festival for the first time, and provided the training in schools to allow children with disabilities in Burkina Faso to play, learn and be a part of their communities.

And as a reminder that human rights are a vehicle for positive change anywhere in the world, we’re also involved in an exciting and ground-breaking project in our home town of York.

We are a partner in the York Human Rights City Network because we know that there are vulnerable people here in York too. And we believe  that our rights-based approach is an effective way to empower local communities to challenge and remove the barriers they face in day to day life.

This week I spoke at the launch of the first York Human Rights Indicator Report,  which is the first step in  holding statutory service providers to account for meeting our rights in the areas of health and social care, education, housing, living standards and equality and non-discrimination. But each of us must play our part – help a neighbour in need, volunteer in your community – all of us can do something. It is a journey of change to ensure no one is left behind and that every one of us has a say in the things that matter to us.

So whichever community you want to change, we’re asking you to rise to the challenge of this year’s human rights day – stand up for rights, break down barriers and make a positive difference to people’s lives."

Jo Baker

Chief Executive Officer

International Service











York Human Rights City Network

International Service Annual Report 2015-16