Rhetoric and Reality: from Magna Carta to human rights today

Hosted by Centre for the Study of Human Rights

Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building,


Shami Chakrabarti

Professor Francesca Klug


Jane Gordon

The Magna Carta, sealed in 1215, has come to stand for the rule of law, curbs on executive power and the freedom to enjoy basic liberties. When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in 1948, it was heralded as 'a Magna Carta for all human-kind'. Yet in the year in which this medieval Charter's 800th birthday is widely celebrated, the future of the UK's commitment to international human rights standards is in doubt.

Why is it that features which are lauded as ‘totemic’ in the Magna Carta are condemned as ‘dangerous’ when applied today? Are human rights palatable in a mature democracy only when they are associated with an ancient English document with minimal legal impact? Are universal values commendable as a benchmark by which to judge the rest of the world, but unacceptable when applied ‘at home’?

In A Magna Carta for all Humanity: homing in on human rights, published by Routledge to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, Professor Francesca Klug invites us to consider what is distinctive about the ethic and practice of universal human rights. The author takes us on a journey through time, exploring such topics as 'British values', 'natural rights', 'enlightenment values' and legal rights'.

This event celebrates the launch of A Magna Carta for all Humanity: homing in on human rights, and brings together Francesca Klug and Shami Chakrabarti in a public conversation, chaired by Jane Gordon. Join some of the UK's leading human rights thinkers and advocates in exploring the ethic behind universal human rights and deconstructing the current debate in the UK on the future of human rights protection.

Shami Chakrabarti is Director of Liberty and author of On Liberty.

Francesca Klug is Professorial Research Fellow and Director of the Human Rights Futures Project at the LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights.

Jane Gordon is Visiting Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE and an independent human rights barrister. 

The Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE(@LSEHumanRights) is a trans-disciplinary centre of excellence for international academic research, teaching and critical scholarship on human rights.

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