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Ambassadors Programme – Reflections from Session 1

The René Cassin Ambassador Programme began with an introductory session where we, the 2024 cohort of ambassadors, met and got to know each other. It was amazing to hear why each person felt compelled to apply to the programme and what they were passionate about, and I loved getting to know each person on the programme.

We then heard from an incredible guest speaker, Sam Grant, who is the Advocacy Director at Liberty. Concisely, engagingly and thoughtfully, Sam gave an overview of the state of human rights in the UK, giving insight into the challenges to fully upholding and guaranteeing our rights. Sam started with considering the role of legislation in human rights, describing the rights afforded by the Human Rights Act and how this Act has been under threat in recent years with some in the Conservative Party calling for it to be replaced with a British Bill of Rights. Much of what Sam spoke to us about was about issues that are making news headlines today, most notably the Rwanda Bill, as well as Acts that have curtailed rights in the past, such as the Police Crime and Sentencing Act restricting the right to protest. He also touched upon a range of other pressing current issues, from the impact that the cost of living crisis is having on social care to the rising prominence of AI in determining access to benefits. Looking internationally, Sam brought up the global significance of the looming 2024 US presidential election, and the huge consequences that could arise from it for our international rights-based order.

Sam concluded that human rights are in danger, and as a society we face a worrying political climate. However, he assured us that the situation is not completely negative – we have the opportunity to build a strong and collaborative civil society, and the elections occurring worldwide in 2024 are an opportunity to have open conversation and debate.

Overall, Sam’s speech was an excellent introduction into the human rights climate in the UK, showing us how important advocacy and campaigning is to upholding and enshrining rights that are under threat and introducing us to the range of factors that affect our rights.

After Sam’s speech, the CEO of René Cassin, Mia, gave us an overview of the incredible work that Rene Cassin does, from hosting an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and campaigning to end the genocide of Uyghurs in China. We also discussed how the modern human rights framework was created in response to the horrors of the holocaust, and learning this backstory was so helpful for developing our understanding of the evolution of human rights. 

The session was a great start to a programme that I, and all of the other ambassadors, are very excited to embark on. We are so excited to learn more about campaigning and to find our voices in this hugely important field of advocacy.