A clear legal imperative at the national level is an essential trigger for fundamental rights activities at any level of public authority.
The Human Rights Act of 1998 has made rights from the European Convention on Human Rights enforceable in the UK’s own courts. The UK Ministry of Justice designed the “Human rights, human lives” handbook for public authorities to assist officials implement the Human Rights Act. The guide provides real-life examples of how to consider the potential human rights impact of your work, when delivering services directly to the public or devising new policies and procedures.
Herefordshire Council in the United Kingdom actively promoted its fundamental rights work under the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act of 2010. Both acts supported their activities and budget allocations. The ability of the Council to link its work to the compliance with, and implementation of existing legislation increased the legitimacy of initiatives taken.
Source: Local focus group, 2011, Herefordshire, United Kingdom
This example illustrates the benefit of basing local fundamental rights initiatives on existing national legislation:
A strong legal framework – at international, EU and national levels - is what distinguishes fundamental rights from other ethical and political considerations. A clear legal imperative at the national level is an essential trigger for fundamental rights activities at the local level. It makes fundamental rights initiatives a matter of upholding and implementing the law.
Being able to base fundamental rights activities on existing legislation is essential to secure an adequate budget and ensure longer-term sustainability of initiatives taken.
A national legal connection can help justify activities. Fundamental rights initiatives that are not clearly linked to a legal framework can be criticised or undermined more easily.