Everyone, everywhere, has basic rights and freedoms which are needed to live together with dignity based on a common humanity. These human rights are secured in law. The law applies to everyone equally and provides an important means of protection for the most vulnerable in our communities, including those who use independent advocacy services. It sets out the duties owed by those responsible for upholding human rights and the outcomes people are entitled to expect as a matter of right.

Independent advocacy plays an integral role in helping to ensure that an individual’s human rights are respected by offering access to justice on an equal and non-discriminatory basis with others. It does this by addressing issues of autonomy and choice, and by supporting an individual’s voice and opinions to be meaningfully heard. The Principles, Standards & Code of Best Practice for independent advocacy are based on an approach that promotes and defends human rights. Independent advocacy helps statutory services to practise a human rights-based approach.

The internationally recognised PANEL Principles are of fundamental importance in applying a human rights-based approach in the practice of independent advocacy. They are a practical tool for describing what a human rights-based approach looks like in practice

The five PANEL principles are:

Participation

Accountability

Non-discrimination and equality

Empowerment

Legality

Independent advocates are human rights defenders. Independent advocacy is built on enabling people to know and claim their rights and on increasing the ability and accountability of individuals and institutions responsible for respecting, protecting, and fulfilling rights. Within the context of independent advocacy, a human rights-based approach is about ensuring that both the standards and the principles of human rights are integrated into procedures and processes, as well as embedded into the day to day running of organisations.

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