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Marking International Human Rights Day 2020

Date: Tuesday 8 December 2020
Author: Cllr Michael Wilson
Title: Cabinet Member for Equality, Communities and the Voluntary Sector

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December 10th is Human Rights Day. This year’s theme relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to build back better by ensuring human rights are central to recovery efforts. 

Although Richmond upon Thames has seen relatively low numbers of death, the impact of Covid-19 has been enormous on both young and old. Although a vaccine is now on the horizon the effects on society and residents will be felt for many years to come.

COVID-19 has exposed issues in society which desperately need attention - poverty, rising inequalities, structural discrimination and gaps in our own safety net which have left over 3 million people excluded as they try and survive this crisis with little or no support.

The voluntary sector in Richmond upon Thames has been amazing - from established organisations like our wonderful Neighbourhood Care Groups to new initiatives such as Food for Thought in my own ward in Heathfield, we have seen what people will do to help others get through this crisis. We have all had to adapt to a new normal, but our voluntary sector co-ordinated by Richmond CVS has been an exemplar in how to mobilise and meet the need in our community.

I believe this spirit, determination and knowledge is what is needed to build back better - and close some of the gaps that exist across the country but also here in Richmond upon Thames. As an administration we will continue to work toward an end to discrimination of any kind. We are working with Government and the London Mayor to tackle some of the health inequalities and educational disadvantage we face in the borough and we must do more to empower communities especially to make sure the voices of the seldom heard help shape our recovery.

Finally, as we face the climate emergency any post-Covid-19 building back must be sustainable and should put the environment at the heart of any recovery. That means protecting, enhancing and significantly improving our environment - our air quality, our biodiversity and our green and not so green spaces.

The UN’s call to stand up for Human Rights quite rightly contains ambitious global goals, but as Eleanor Roosevelt said human rights start “in small places, close to home”. Here in Richmond upon Thames we all have our part to play in building back better. Whether it is helping a neighbour, enhancing a local green space, thinking about how we travel, supporting our schools or community asset, reaching out to those suffering from mental health issues, volunteering our time for a cause or an issue - all of which will help empower and build a resilient society fit for the 21st Century.

For more information about Human Rights Day, visit the UN website.

Updated: 24 March 2021