This section of Campaign Central takes you through the rights you have, and the restrictions you may face, as a campaigner.
Campaigning often arises from a sense of injustice about a status quo and something that might be lawful. So, if you are campaigning against something that is lawful (even if you think it is unethical), depending on what campaign tactics you use, you might come up against the law. Just because you may have a moral justification for breaking the law, it won’t mean that you can get away with it! So, you need to understand what some of the laws that your actions could potentially bring you up against.
There is also a range of ways in which the activities of campaigners may be curtailed – whether these curtailments are reasonable or not is a matter of opinion. So, this section also looks at some of the key pieces of legislation that might affect you.
However, the law can be a very important and useful ally to campaigners and we also look at what some of the key ones are.
Finally, we explore the legalities around charities undertaking campaigning. Many well known campaigns are run by charities, but it is not necessarily the right legal structure. Depending on the nature of your campaign, there might be a more appropriate legal structure for you to adopt. We also look at some of these other options.
The law as your ally
The law can help you to achieve your campaign goals.
You don’t need to have studied law to know important and basic facts. Across the world during 2010/11 there have been a huge number of social movements covering a wide range of issues, and as tactics and methods change, the law is increasingly tested. Questions arising over human rights, freedom of information, and use of social media have all been particularly hot topics and no doubt will continue to be so.
Human rights legislation
Think about whether you can use human rights legislation as the basis of your campaign.
Human rights standards, such as The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) and the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), can inform and indeed underpin a campaign.
Many national laws, local authority policies, actions by corporations etc may (inadvertently) contravene human rights legislation. Effective campaigning can be built on invoking relevant legislation. Human rights legislation is actually quite complicated, but if you believe that your campaign is a rights issue (for example, if you feel that the closure of your local post office will affect the rights of some members of your community) you can try to identify if there are relevant aspects of human rights legislation that can support you by clicking here.
The British Institute of Human Rights produced an excellent guide in 2008 which illustrates how the HRA has empowered people to “benefit from the law without resorting to the law”. BIHR describe the HRA as a “framework for protecting and balancing everyone’s human rights”.