Meeting of the Socialist International Committee on Human Rights, London

20 October 1997

Chaired by Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, The Labour Party, Great Britain, the SI Committee on Human Rights, SICOHR, met in London on 20 October. SI member parties from all continents attended and the focus of the meeting was `Building a Human Rights Agenda for the Years Ahead'. The Committee discussed a paper, drafted by the Chair, which sought to identify a working strategy to build on the progressive and comprehensive human rights agenda adopted at the XX SI Congress. Four areas were identified as a framework to prioritise action taken by the SI on human rights issues. Firstly, developing shared analysis, so that the efforts of SI member parties and other non-governmental organisations are better coordinated. Secondly, reaffirming that economic and social rights should be seen as fundamental human rights. Thirdly, self-evaluation and dialogue among SI member parties to review internal human rights records. Lastly, facilitating more effective, immediate intervention in the defence of human rights.

The proposed programme of work for the Committee balanced a proactive and reactive approach to human rights activities and emphasised that the International's distinctive contribution in this field could be to campaign for economic and social rights given the fundamental social democratic tradition of fighting for social justice. In terms of campaigning work, among other matters the Committee looked forward to the fiftieth anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights in 1998 and urged all member parties to plan celebrations to mark this momentous event. In order to implement the proposed strategies the Committee agreed to find rapporteurs to act in different areas, one matter for consideration being how to strengthen policy on the issue of impunity. The Committee will also establish a process of self-assessment, using annual questionnaires to member parties as a basis for its report to Council.

The Committee agreed it was vital to use the Socialist International's structures and mechanisms to achieve effective coordinated action in the face of human rights violations, whether individual, economic or social abuse. As the Chair stated, `by working together we can be a stronger voice for human rights in the world'.