Amnesty Urges Belfast City Council to put Human Rights on the Agenda

As the third birthday of the sister city agreement between Belfast and Hefei, China, approaches and against the background of the Olympic games in Beijing, Amnesty International will be presenting a report to Belfast City council’s development committee today, August 13, 2008. This will explore the human rights situation in its sister city. The report is recommending that the council raises the issue of human rights when engaging with officials from Hefei.

Belfast has been twinned with Hefei since August 2005, when the Lord Mayor of Belfast and the Mayor of Hefei signed a Sister City Agreement. The Sister Cities Programme is one which seeks to “stimulate environments through which communities will creatively learn, work and solve problems together through reciprocal cultural, educational, municipal, business, professional and technical exchanges and projects.”

Patricia Campbell, Amnesty International campaigner, stated:

“Belfast has a lot to gain from a close relationship with Hefei, not least in terms of investment, education and cultural exchange. We have seen a great change in Belfast in recent years; it has become a leader in human rights protection through legislation, institutions and academic excellence.”

“Belfast City Council is in a unique position to support the development of Hefei by sharing knowledge with the city’s leaders as they form fair systems, policies and governance arrangements in this rapidly developing city.”

Amnesty International calls on Belfast City Council to:

· promote the integration of human rights dialogue and education into plans for the relationship with Hefei;

· put human rights on the agenda of all future meetings with the Hefei civic leadership

· raise human rights issues with all official visitors from Hefei to Belfast

· ensure Council representatives raise human rights concerns during all official visits to Hefei

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