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Human rights: Believing in progress

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Earlier this month the Foreign and Commonwealth Office published its annual Human Rights and Democracy report, which details the UK’s efforts to promote Human Rights during 2012. Necessarily it covers very broad territory: there is work in the UN, the forum in which the UK seeks to promote a co-ordinated response from the international community to human rights violations. 


There is a section on the UK’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme that allows the UK to support hundreds of human-rights-related projects around the world. The Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, which Foreign Secretary William Hague launched in May 2012, aims to strengthen and coordinate international efforts to prevent and respond to atrocities involving sexual violence, and to break down the culture of impunity around such crimes.


The principle of equality and non-discrimination is a core element of promoting human rights globally. Disability Rights present an example of an area that is often ignored. The UK government is committed to creating opportunities for disabled people to fulfil their potential to be fully participating members of society and to removing barriers which impede this.


In 2012, we used our role as host nation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to highlight the power of sport to deliver the vision of disability rights. For the first time, the Olympics and Paralympics were conceived, planned and delivered as one, with both given equal priority and attention and with disabled people involved in the planning from the start. The UK is proud to have welcomed the highest ever number of participating Paralympic teams at a games, including a team from T&T.


Leading up to the games, and working with individuals, NGOs, charities and schools, we sought to raise the profile of disability rights internationally and position sport as something that can foster inclusion and promote equality.



In Jerusalem, we arranged for the Palestinian Paralympic team based in Gaza to visit the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount, one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. The visit was described by their coach as “a big moment…the British Consulate has made our dream come true.” 


Last August, thanks to the youth sport programme International Inspiration, delivered globally by the British Council, a young Trinbagonian, 14-year old Anthony Kipps, took part in the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay as a testament to the participation of children with disabilities in physical education and sport.


Anthony was born with right primary focal femoral dysplasia, which resulted in his right leg being much shorter than his left. Nothing holds Anthony back: he is involved in his school’s student council and swim team and plays in the school’s steel orchestra. He is also top of the class academically.


With support from International Inspiration, Anthony helped to organise a Paralympic School Day during which young people with and without disabilities played a variety of sports, including sitting volleyball and blind football. Few people nowadays dispute that those with disabilities should be treated with respect and equality, but this was not always the case.


Just as it was not always the case that women’s rights, children’s rights or LGBT rights were seen as important; and in some cases they remain ignored. It takes remarkable young people such as Anthony to break barriers and challenge our prejudices, whether here in T&T or on the global stage of the Paralympics, watched by hundreds of millions.



Republished with permission from


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