Experts Urge New Era of Global Human Rights and Equality Amidst Economic Turmoil

More than 120 of the world’s leading human rights and equality experts are today calling for the most radical re-think of equal rights in two generations as global economic turmoil holds nations in its grip.

Signatories from 44 nations are urging governments and individuals to back a new declaration – 60 years after the epoch-making Universal Declaration on Human Rights followed in the wake of World War II.

The new declaration, launched today in London by The Equal Rights Trust, would transform treatment of discriminated groups across the world and is the first ever international initiative to set out general legal principles that define equality as a basic human right.

Sir Bob Hepple QC, a leading UK human rights lawyer and one of the 128 international signatories to the declaration, said: “There are growing inequalities within and between different nations. This was a serious issue before the current global crisis. It is now one of the most pressing issues we face today.

“Recession and depression can lead to increasing exclusion and, at worst, persecution of the most vulnerable groups within society. That is why the Universal Declaration on Human Rights happened in 1948 and it is why we need to establish universal equality for all human beings today.”

The Declaration on Principles of Equality:

• Defines the right to equality as a basic human right and, in doing so, combines human rights and equality law concepts.

• Provides a global expression of equality between discriminated people.

• Ensures consistency in the way different nations treat the right to equality.

• Ends inconsistencies in the rights afforded to different discriminated groups within the same societies and nations and so ends the current hierarchy of discrimination.

Sir Bob, chair of the Equal Rights Trust, added: “We are making a very serious mistake if we attempt to tackle world economic recession in isolation from the social devastation that it could herald.

“Depression can result in heinous erosion of basic human rights and we need only look at the 1930s and the consequent rise of Fascism to understand the dangers.

“Without the active and positive pursuit by governments of substantive equality, the gap between the haves and have-nots will increase dramatically. Outsiders belonging to other identity groups, like the foreigners in the recent riots in disadvantaged South African townships, will be blamed. Now is the time to act decisively not only on the economy, but at the same time on equality and human rights.”

The new declaration is based on a total of 27 principles and will be submitted to UN officials as part of a global campaign to win support for the initiative.

The Principles move away from the pursuit of single-issue equality agendas for particular identities such as gender, race, disability, religion, age – which, its authors claim, have been one of the most serious weaknesses of anti-discrimination law.  The Declaration provides expert guidance for promoting equality – even in countries where no anti-discrimination law currently exists.

Renate Weber, Member of the European Parliament and one of the signatories of the Declaration said:

“I have no doubt that making the Declaration legally binding would change the current European reality.  The European Union should not only adopt the Declaration but also promote it world-wide.”

Background information:
The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) is an independent international organisation whose purpose is to combat discrimination and promote equality as a fundamental human right and a basic principle of social justice. Established as an advocacy organisation, a resource centre and a think tank, it focuses on the complex and complementary relationship between the different forms of discrimination, developing strategies for translating the principle of equality into practice.

In all its manifestations, discrimination is the most widespread human rights violation, affecting the greatest number of people in the world today. Although the international community has developed legal standards to fight discrimination and promote equality, relatively few states have tackled discrimination and fewer still have effectively promoted equality using legal means.

Over 160 countries in the world lack effective legal protection against discrimination and legal means to promote equality. And even in countries where such provisions are in force, the legislation is fractured, inconsistent, complicated and inefficient. Even in the European Union, which has made important steps towards equality legislation, grave and systematic discrimination is widespread.

The Declaration on the Principles of Equality contains 27 principles on six key themes: equality; non-discrimination; scope and rights-holders; obligations; enforcement; prohibitions. The Declaration is intended to assist efforts of legislators, the judiciary, civil society organisations and anyone else involved in combating discrimination and promoting equality.

Click here to read the full text of the Declaration on the Principles of Equality.

Click here to view the list of the original 128 signatories.

Click here to view Commentary by Dimitrina Petrova.

The Declaration of Principles on Equality is now open for further endorsements from both individuals and institutions. Everyone who wishes to support the Declaration is invited to do so by sending an email message to  

For interview requests or further information please contact Dimitrina Petrova on +44 (0)20 3178 4118, or Ivan Fiser on +44 (0)20 3178 4115