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Better Human Podcast

Better Human Podcast

By Adam Wagner
Can human rights make our societies better? This podcast explores the most important human rights issues of the day through engaging and accessible interviews with high-profile guests and straightforward guides to key concepts and key events. Presented by leading human rights lawyer Adam Wagner.
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22 - Coronavirus and human rights 28 days later

Better Human Podcast

35 - Fifty years of law centres making human rights a reality
Human rights can be illusory if you can't afford to claim them. For 50 years, law centres have been making human rights a reality and helping people experiencing crises to access a lawyer. In this episode, I am joined by  Peter Kandler, founder of the North Kensington Law Centre, Julie Bishop, Director of the Law Centres Network and Annie Campbell,  director of the North Kensington Law Centre. Show notes as always at 
September 21, 2020
34 - Why the rule of law matters
The government has admitted that a new Brexit bill will break international law. Its chief lawyer has resigned. Why does this matter and what, exactly, is the rule of law? I am joined by David Allen Green, lawyer and writer. You can see show notes at
September 10, 2020
33 - The Covid-19 lockdown and the law (part 5)
I am delighted to be joined again by lawyer and writer David Allen Green to discuss six months of lockdown laws, passed with almost no parliamentary scrutiny and imposing the most stringent restrictions on human rights since the Second World War. Can these be justified by even the most extreme public health crisis in decades? And if not, what is the alternative? You can read show notes at  Nothing in this podcast is intended to suggest that people should not follow government coronavirus guidance or the legal regulations. 
September 4, 2020
32 - What is happening to the Uyghur Muslims in China?
Right now, there is widespread and systematic persecution of the over a million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim people in Xinjiang, China, including forced 're-eduction' in concentration camps. This is surely the kind of state behaviour which the post-war human rights system was designed to prevent. So what is being done to stop it and how can human rights ideas and institutions help? I am joined by Agnès Callamard, United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Schona Jolley Q.C., barrister and Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee. Show notes at
August 3, 2020
31 - Business and human rights (Part 2/2)
What responsibilities do businesses have to protect human rights during the COVID-19 crisis? In the second part of this episode I am joined again by barrister Krishnendu Mukherji to discuss the Leicester garment industry revelations and how companies can prevent human misery in their supply chains during this tumultuous time. You can catch the first part here and get the show notes here
July 20, 2020
30 - Business and human rights (Part 1/2)
How can businesses help protect human rights? What is modern slavery? Is the law tough enough on companies when human rights abuses take place in their supply chain? This week I am joined by Krishnendu Mukherjee of Doughty Street Chambers and Rae Lindsay from Clifford Chance. This episode was recorded just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the U.K. Show notes including some updates from recent months are at
July 13, 2020
29 - Racial injustice after George Floyd
In this episode I am joined by Katrina Ffrench, CEO of StopWatch and Matthew Ryder QC, a barrister at Matrix Chambers and formerly London's Deputy Mayor. We discuss why Black, Asian and minority ethnic people  are 54% more likely to be fined by the police under Coronavirus powers, how this fits into the bigger picture of stop and search in the UK and what impact the death of George Floyd has had on the fight against racial discrimination in the UK. You can find show notes at
July 1, 2020
28 - Women, sexual violence and the police
The police handling of sexual violence is one of the most complex and difficult issues in our society today. Why are rape conviction rates so low? Are the police doing enough to investigate? And how can human rights laws help? This week I’m joined by Harriet Johnson, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers. This episode was recorded before coronavirus so excuse us they a couple of the references are out of date - please check for the show notes.
June 25, 2020
27 - The Covid-19 lockdown and the law (Part 4)
Can people who don’t live with each other have sex? What is “overnight”? And many other questions. I am joined again by David Allen Green as we take a detailed look at the newly updated lockdown regulations. As always, please make sure to follow the government’s guidance. You can find the two previous episodes with David here (Part 1 and here (Part 2
June 2, 2020
26 - The people who volunteer to go to prison
Every year, in every kind of setting where people are detained, thousands of visits take place to monitor for human rights violations. Those visits, to prisons, police cells, mental health hospitals, are by volunteers. In this episode I talk to four key players in the "National Preventative Mechanism" - Alison Thomson, ,Anne Finlayson, Dame Anne Owersand  Louise Finer who tell me about their work and why it matters. This interview was recorded before COVID-19 hit so I have added a short extra interview with Professor Sir Malcolm Evans,  Chair of the United Nations Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, who gives an update on how monitoring systems worldwide are working (or not) during the pandemic. More info at
May 31, 2020
25 - The Covid-19 lockdown and the law (Part 3)
I am delighted to be joined again by lawyer and legal commentator David Allen Green to discuss the latest lockdown legal developments and what a public inquiry into the Covid-19 outbreak might look like. We had a spirited and sometimes critical conversation about the law but nothing is intended to suggest people shouldn’t follow government guidance. Follow the government guidance! Further resources at
May 14, 2020
24 - The shield and the sword
Human rights are tools which protect everyone from beaches of aspects of their essential humanity. They are all the more important in times of crisis such as in the present day. In this talk I start with the five years in 1946-51 which created the modern human rights movement and show how the lessons understood by the movement's founders are exactly those which we need to understand most today in the age of Covid-19. This lecture was first given to Limmud Together. You can find the slides at 
May 11, 2020
23 - The hostile environment and Covid-19
What is happening to migrants during the Covid-19 crisis? This conversation with Chai Patel from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants was both enlightening and worrying. The 'hostile environment' policy pre-existed Covid-19 but it made it harder to control the spread of the virus amongst migrant communities. We also discuss the disproportionate effect the virus is having on BAME communities, immigration detention and other aspects of the immigration system which are causing hardship during this crisis.
May 4, 2020
22 - Coronavirus and human rights 28 days later
A month after our first coronavirus and human rights special, I am delighted to be joined again by barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Nichola Higgins and academics Aoife Nolan and Judith Bueno De Mesquita. We have a wide-ranging discussion on   the International dimension of the crisis, the healthcare response and the lockdown. You can hear the first discussion in Episodes 16 and 17 at and - we had a few technical issues so not everybody was present for each part of the discussion - sorry about that.
April 24, 2020
21 - Coronavirus tech, contact tracing apps and the risks of Zoom Life
I am joined again by barrister Susie Alegre to discuss the many human rights implications of social distancing, including whether contact tracing apps breach the right to privacy, the risks of moving even more of our lives online and how to manage fake virus news online. Show notes at
April 15, 2020
20 - The untold story of the Covid-19 digital courts revolution
One of the largely untold stories of the Covid-19 crisis is that many courts in the UK have for the first time ‘gone online’. This is for good reasons - the justice system must continue even if we mostly cannot physically meet in court rooms. But there are huge risks to fair trials and open justice from this sudden mass experiment with online courts. My guests for this episode are Natalie Byrom from the Legal Education Foundation and Penelope Gibbs from Transform Justice. You can get show notes at 
April 13, 2020
19 - The Covid-19 lockdown and the law (Part 2)
The response to Covid-19 is the key human rights issue in the world right now as states move to enforce ‘lockdowns’ of billions of people. In the UK the government has issued guidance on social distancing and emergency regulations which give the police  extensive new powers over people's everyday lives. In Part 2 of this episode, I speak to Kirsty Brimelow QC about the new 'lockdown regulations' and the criminal law, and then with Aswini Weererante QC and Sophy Miles about the impact of the new laws on people with mental health issues. You can read source materials and other links at
April 5, 2020
18 - The Covid-19 lockdown and the law (Part 1)
The response to Covid-19 is  the key human rights issue in the world at the moment as states move to enforce ‘lockdowns’ of billions of people. In the UK the government has issued guidance on social distancing and emergency regulations which give the police  extensive new powers over people's everyday lives. This podcast is a discussion of those laws. I am joined by David Allen Green, lawyer and legal commentator, to take a ‘deep dive’ into the new regulations. We recorded this episode at 9am on Tuesday 31 March so apologies if it has already been overtaken by events when you listen to this. Remember, everyone should follow the government’s guidance to save lives and protect the NHS. If you have any concerns about your own actions, there is a useful Frequently Asked Questions guidance on the website. You can find other links in the episodes notes at at
April 1, 2020
17 - Coronavirus and human rights special (part 2/2)
This week the UK parliament will debate the Coronavirus Bill, the most sweeping set of emergency powers since the Second World War. The bill will bring huge changes to mental health law, the entitlement to social care, burial and coronial laws, police powers... and more. The 329-page law will be debated in days rather than months. What impact will this have for human rights? In Part 2 of this coronavirus special I discuss the bill, and other issues arising from the pandemic, with an expert panel including barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Nichola Higgins and academics Aoife Nolan and Judith Bueno De Mesquita. Part 1 is here:
March 23, 2020
16 - Coronavirus and human rights special (Part 1/2)
No recent issue has raised so many human rights issues in such a short space of time as the coronavirus pandemic. How can governments protect the right to life without unnecessarily undermining freedoms? What rights do we have in quarantine? Can good governance survive such an acute crisis? I am joined in this episode by four human rights experts from various fields, barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Nichola Higgins and academics Aoife Nolan and Judith Bueno De Mesquita. In this first part we explore the utility (and limits) of human rights as a lens to understand the pandemic and the governments' response, in the second we look at the UK's new emergency powers. Part 1 is here
March 21, 2020
15 - Liberalism in the age of Coronavirus
Can our liberal values survive the pressure of a global pandemic? This week I interview Adam Gopnik, a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine and author of a new book on liberalism, A Thousand Small Sanities. We didn't intend to talk about Coronavirus but as we met last week the world was beginning to respond to the new reality. The conversation also broadens out so hang on in there if you are already a little Coronavirus weary. More details as always at
March 16, 2020
14 - Religion, belief and human rights
Gay cake and free speech, Orthodox trans fathers, religious symbols in public places... what happens when fundamental beliefs conflict with other peoples' human rights? I find issues over religion and belief to be fascinating examples of how human rights laws balance almost impossibly difficult conflicts between people and groups. In this episode I am joined by Yehudis Fletcher of Nehamu and Andrew Copson of Humanists UK. I think it is a wonderful discussion. More details at
March 2, 2020
13 - The European Convention on Human Rights is working
As the government’s plan to “update” human rights laws gather pace, and the calls to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) re-emerge from the Brexit fog, this episode explores the too little known story of how the ECHR helps keep illiberalism at bay throughout Europe. I talk to Philip Leach and Joanna Evans from the amazing European Human Rights Advocacy Centre about their work in Eastern Europe standing up against truly horrific human rights abuses. This should be required listening for MPs who blithely say the UK should abandon the human rights system it was so instrumental in creating. More info at
February 17, 2020
12 - The threat to human rights and judicial review
Page 48 of the 2019 Conservative manifesto promised wide-ranging changes to the Human Rights Act and judicial review, two important tools we have for challenging decisions of the state. I am joined by Tom Clark, Martha Spurrier, Tessa Gregory and Charlie Falconer to discuss what is likely to happen and why we could be facing an important constitutional upheaval. This is Part 2 of a special episode in partnership the Prospect Magazine Podcast. You can hear Part 1, on the independence of the judiciary, over at 
February 11, 2020
11 - Billy Bragg says we're missing the point about freedom
I am delighted to be joined in this episode by Billy Bragg, singer and activist. Billy and I talk about his new book, the Three Dimensions of Freedom, and much else beside. What is freedom? What is it worth without accountability? And why is the sometimes toxic environment on social media so central to Billy's understanding of freedom in the modern world? Most importantly, can music change the world (the answer will surprise you)? 
February 3, 2020
10 - The Holocaust, human rights and the dying of the light
The modern human rights system emerged from the flames of the Holocaust. Professor Philippe Sands QC has done as much as anyone to tell that story through the prism of his own tragic family history. In this discussion, recorded live at an even organised by Tzedek, we discuss how Philippe's wonderful book East West Street came to be written, why the lessons of the 1940s are still fundamentally important today and what we can do to honour them as living memory of the Holocaust disappears. 
January 20, 2020
9 - Algorithms, mind control and the right to freedom of thought
Are algorithms controlling our thoughts? Does Facebook resemble a totalitarian state? How can we stop political parties exploiting our innermost thoughts? International human rights barrister Susie Alegre and I discuss why the human right to freedom of thought might be the most useful prism through which to answer these questions. An absolutely fascinating discussion which gets to the heart of some of the most important issues involving the fast evolving technology which we all use but barely understand. As always, more information at
January 6, 2020
8 - Why climate change is a human rights emergency
The climate emergency is a human rights emergency. As global temperatures rise, along with sea levels, there is likely to be a profound effect on people's access to their basic needs such as food, water and clean air. In this week's episode, I speak to Molly Lipson and Tobias Garnett from Extinction Rebellion and Keina Yoshida, barrister and expert on human rights and the environment, about how the human rights and environmental activist worlds overlap and sometimes collide. More info on
December 23, 2019
7 - The fascinating inside story of the Human Rights Act's birth
Professor Francesca Klug OBE and Jonathan Cooper OBE relate the fascinating inside story of how the UK passed its first modern bill of rights: the Human Rights Act 1998. In our current times of division it is inspiring to hear how cross-ideological consensus was built and practical solutions found to seemingly impossible problems. This was an amazing discussion and timely given the Conservative Party's commitment to "update" the Human Rights Act.
December 9, 2019
6 - Election Special: What do the manifestos mean for human rights?
Will the Human Rights Act survive the next government? What other human rights issues are in the party manifestos? A conversation with Natasha Holcroft-Emmes. We have tried to pick out some of the main points from the manifestos but inevitably there is so much which could impact on human rights that the review is not comprehensive, but hopefully helpful for those considering who to vote for.
December 3, 2019
5 - The UK's dark and dangerous constitution
The UK has a dark and dangerous constitution...  this episode is about how Brexit shows it's finally time to write it down. The mismanaged referendum, an attempt by a Prime Minister to shut down Parliament to avoid scrutiny and the continued efforts to water down fundamental rights are all reasons, in my view, for working towards a written constitution. This was recorded at a lecture I gave to the Pembroke College Cambridge Politics Society. As always, you can find out more at
November 25, 2019
4 - The past, present and future of LGBT+ rights
This is a fascinating and at times moving conversation with Jonathan Cooper OBE, a barrister who has been involved in some of the defining LGBT+ cases of recent times. We take a journey from 1967 when homosexual acts were partly legalised, through decades of state persecution of gay people, to highlight some of the landmark human rights cases which changed the law not just in the UK but across Europe. Jonathan shared both his professional and very personal experiences. It's quite a journey. As always, episode notes are at
November 10, 2019
3 - The curious case of social and economic rights
In societies based on human rights principles how can people still live in poverty? This episode is about an important but, in my experience, poorly understood area - social and economic rights. I interview the brilliant Professor Aiofe Nolan about the principles and politics behind the rights to food, social security, health and other rights which are essential to human flourishing, and surely just as important as so-called 'political' rights. So why aren't they more widely adopted? You can find episode notes on 
October 28, 2019
2 - How will Brexit impact on our human rights?
This is an important discussion with Schona Jolly QC, barrister and Chair of the UK's Bar Human Rights Committee. As with everything Brexit, this issue generates misinformation and exaggerated claims, so the point of this episode is to explain in plain English what Brexit is (yes, you have to start there) and how it could impact on all of our rights, including in the workplace, environmental rights, anti-discrimination and freedom of movement. I'm afraid it's not for the faint hearted, especially the bit at the end about no deal.. As always, find show notes and how to support the podcast at
October 13, 2019
1 - Do we have enough free speech?
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". In the age of social media, is that still true? This week I speak to Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship about the human right to freedom of speech. Sometimes described as the life blood of democracy, why is this important right so controversial? Do we have a right to offend, or not to be offended? Is Julian Assange a journalist? What about Tommy Robinson? Where is the  dividing line between racial hatred and protected opinions? And much more... You can get episode notes including links for further reading at 
September 29, 2019
Introduction to the Better Human Podcast
Welcome to a brand new podcast all about human rights presented by me, Adam Wagner. In this short introduction I explain the idea behind setting up the podcast. I think that in today's polarised and dangerous political times, human rights  can give us the lens we need to understand what's happening and make our societies better. Each episode will explore a key human rights issue with expert guests.  More info and how to support the podcast: 
September 22, 2019