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Fundamental rights issues can be complex to understand and communicate. Getting the message across can therefore be challenging for public officials. It is therefore important to spend time tailoring the key messages and identifying the right channels for communicating on fundamental rights.
United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice was recognised at the International Visual Communications Awards for an interactive guide to help people understand sentencing – ‘you be the judge’. This type of tool facilitates access to justice by allowing people to become accustomed to the procedures of courts outside the actual courtroom.
Four issues should be considered when developing communication tools:
Being precise and clear
Given the sensitivity of many fundamental rights matters, language must be treated with particular care and legal precision. Fundamental rights - or related terms such as human rights, citizens’ rights, equality, justice and diversity – are (often wrongly) used in public discourse without the public necessarily understanding them fully.
Catering for diversity
Public officials have a role in explaining complex fundamental rights issues. Fundamental rights terminology used in communications, such as press releases or information factsheets, may require explanation. Producing information in different languages and easy-to-read formats must be considered to cater to a diverse society and make information accessible to persons with disabilities.
Communicating tangible results
Communications must highlight the impact and tangible benefits of fundamental rights for individuals and society at large. Highlighting the concrete results of activities helps people understand the value of fundamental rights. Strong monitoring and evaluation helps record results that can be used for communication purposes.
Focusing on benefits for society as a whole
Fundamental rights benefit everyone in society, but in the public mind fundamental rights are most often associated with particular groups or minorities – asylum seekers, immigrants, the Roma, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, religious believers etc. If evidence of positive effects for everyone can be found, documented and communicated, this will improve the chances of generating broad support.
On the issue of language, many organisations and practitioners might use other terms that are closely related to fundamental rights. Anti-discrimination, diversity, equality, sustainable development, social responsibility, health equity, integration are examples of such terms. It could be a good idea to use existing terms, and relate or connect them to fundamental rights.