Trust at the World Forum for Democracy  - Part 3
Sinead McKinley (right) from Advice NI at the World Forum for Democracy in November 2016.

Trust at the World Forum for Democracy - Part 3

08 December 2016

We recently took a trip to the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, Sinead McKinley from Advice NI came along. Here’s what she thought…

The conference was a great experience and it made me look at things differently especially as we see welfare rights roll out. As much as we may not like the new changes, the system should be fair and treat people with respect, encourage them to participate and exercise all their rights up and to appeals.

As a welfare advisor, ensuring people know their welfare rights when it comes to entitlements and challenging social security decision making is a key aspect of my daily work. 

I always believed it was enough to inform people of their rights, but after my recent trip to the World Forum for Democracy, I realised that knowing your rights is something only some of us take for granted. It really is only one part of a bigger jigsaw.  

I was inspired by the work of the Norwegian Human Rights Academy, whose work is informing young unaccompanied asylum seekers on their Human Rights. 

I was really impressed with their work, it wasn’t rocked science, it explained to young asylum seekers their human rights, and although this is limited by the nature of being an asylum seeker this was the first time many of these young people participated in a conversation about human rights and how they felt about them. 

We could all learn from this simple model especially in the community where asylum seekers are not understood or in many cases accepted. We would need to firstly do this programme with asylum seekers, with the community and, then, integrate the two so understanding and relationships can be formed. 

I was thinking of the Syrian family I call out to see, who are asylum seekers living in West Belfast, unaware of where to go for help and support, not sure of how we do things here, life, culture, education, and the community around them equally afraid and ignorant of their circumstances.

Unless we address these issues through education and awareness raising sessions we will never move forward. 

Actively ensuring people are aware of their rights, promoting a positive attitude toward expressing their rights, building self-esteem and confidence, and more importantly for the first time ever allowing them to express their feeling and opinions on human rights and the challenges they face on a daily basis being able to exercise their rights as asylum seekers. 

This work is truly progress and one that all western countries should embrace and incorporate as part of both formal and informal education.

Education is the key to knowing our rights, we must be able to access this information, exercise our rights responsibility, respect the right others and convince others to do the same. 

Only by doing this can people truly engage in society, be active citizens and participate positively in democratic processes.

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