Available in more than 360 languages, the UN Declaration of Human Rights is the most translated document in the world. It provides a foundation for a just and decent future for everyone, and gives people everywhere a powerful tool in the fight against oppression and affronts to human dignity.
The declaration is 70 years old this year and Ai Weiwei has designed a flag to celebrate it, which we’ve got three of. Some of our children went to meet him and all of our children have looked closely at the declaration on our very successful community day on 19 June. We had a wonderful display of pennants of rights all around the concourse, but weather intervened and they had to go.
You could stop reading at this point and watch the film, but just in case I’m invited to become PM in the absence of any other reasonable candidate, I thought you should be reassured about our stance on Human Rights at Tallis.
It is very important that we all know and support these hard-won rights which protect and support us all. Here they are, very briefly paraphrased by me:
- Human beings are born free and equal
- Everyone in the world is entitled to these rights and freedoms
- Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person
- Slavery must be outlawed
- Torture or inhuman punishment is outlawed
- Everyone must be recognised before the law
- Everyone has an equal right to the law
- Every country should uphold these rights
- No one should be arbitrarily arrested, detained or exiled
- Rights should be upheld fairly and publicly
- People are innocent until proved guilty
- Private and family life, honour and reputation must be protected
- People may freely move around the world
- Asylum from persecution should be provided internationally
- Everyone has the right to a nationality
- Marriage should be freely and equally entered into and dissolved
- Everyone has the right to own property and not have it taken off them arbitrarily
- People must have freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- People must have freedom of opinion and expression
- People must be free to assemble and associate peacefully
- People need free elections, democracy and public services
- Social security and cultural rights are needed to safeguard the dignity of the person
- Everyone has a right to work, equal pay, trade unions and protection against unemployment
- Everyone has a right to leisure, limited working hours and holidays with pay
- Everyone has a right to basic healthcare, especially children and mothers
- Education must be free, accessible and allow for full personal development
- Everyone has a right to culture, arts, science and the fruits of their own production
- Everyone has a right to a social order which protects all of these
- Everyone has duties to the community
- No one may try to destroy any of these rights and freedoms.
Here, in this advanced democracy, now, I’m worried about 17 of these. I’m worried about the Hostile Environment policy, internet trolling that destroys lives, vanishing public services, removal of legal aid for the poorest, zero-hours contracts and the functionalism of education. I could go on.
One of those rights, of course, is to an education. Ai Weiwei’s oeuvre includes a wonderful sculptured layout of 90 tonnes of straightened steel reinforcing bars from substandard regional government buildings that didn’t survive the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. So many of them were schools which collapsed on top of the children and teachers. When I saw it in the Royal Academy a couple of years ago it was like seeing the timbers of Aberfan laid out before you, and hearing the cries of crushed children.
But young people are defined by optimism and they love to learn something new. Our film explains their ‘favourite’ human rights and gives a flavour of the deep learning that happened on that day. And one of the groups came up with this. The future’s in safe hands.