52. Memorandum from Council
of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO)
Thank you for inviting us to contribute to the
call for evidence into the desirability of establishing a Human
In line with the arguments developed in "A
Human Rights Commissionthe options for Britain and Northern
Ireland" (IPPR 1998), I would like to state that CEMVO wholly
supports the establishment of such a commission. As an organisation
whose raison d'être is the development of Britain's
Black and minority ethnic communities, we would particularly welcome
the adoption of the Paris Principles: most especially the responsibility
to "publicise human rights and efforts to combat all forms
of discrimination, in particular racial discrimination . . ."
Our key concern is that (in keeping with the
Paris Principles and the UN Centre for Human Rights' Handbook)
any over-arching Human Rights Commission should not lead to race
equality issues being marginalised. This might be seen as a potential
outcome if, for example, the Commission was to "swallow up"
existing commissions such as the Commission for Racial Equality
without ensuring that adequate provision was made to resource
and drive this critical area of human rights. The significance
of this will be all the more obvious in the light of the new legislative
powers afforded through the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000subsequent
to the above publication.
Other than that, we envisage great promise from
some of the existing international models for such commissions.
Not withstanding the above concerns, the structure of several
of these models seems to hold real promise for a workable Human
Rights Commission in Britain. In particular, the inclusive/comprehensive
yet flexible structure of the Australian Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission, the independent budget enjoyed by the
Canadian Federal Human Rights Commission and the method used in
Spain for appointing the Defender of the People seem extremely
In conclusion, we believe that a Human Rights
Commission, if established in accordance with the Paris Principles
and UN Handbook, should succeed in keeping race issues to the
fore whilst assisting in bringing greater synergy and focus to
the protection of human rights in Britain.
I hope that these arguments are helpful in your
deliberations on establishing a framework capable of accommodating
our human rights in the twenty first century.
2 July 2001