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A Magna Carta for All Humanity: homing in on human rights

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  • 27 February 2015
  • Speaker: Professor Francesca Klug
  • Chair: Professor Conor Gearty

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'.

How has the Magna Carta, initially considered a failure, achieved such iconic status? And can how those who proudly commemorate its 800th year simultaneously pledge to repeal the more modern laws which seek to protect our fundamental rights and freedoms?

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 in June 2015, Francesca Klug will argue that the reasons given for opposing the UKs Human Rights Act are very similar to the reasons that the Magna Carta has stayed relevant for eight centuries. Features that are lauded as ‘totemic’ when applied to the Magna Carta are condemned as ‘dangerous’ when applied to contemporary human rights laws.

Are human rights palatable in a mature democracy only as long as they are contained in an ancient document that no longer has any direct legal impact? Are they useful only as a benchmark by which to judge the rest of the world, especially our enemies or rivals, but dangerous when applied to us?

Professors Klug and Gearty map the connections between the Magna Carta and Human Rights Act, explore the ethic behind universal human rights and deconstruct the current debate in the UK on the future of human rights protection.

Francesca Klug is Professorial Research Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Human Rights.

Conor Gearty is Professor of Human Rights Law at LSE and Director of LSE’s Institute of Public Affairs.

This event was part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2015, which ran from Monday 23 - Saturday 28 February 2015, with the theme 'Foundations'.

Event recording

Video and audio recordings of the event are available here

Foundations - LSE Literary Festival