How the third sector can help Scotland get human rights right


Ruth Maguire MSP says the sector can provide a vital insight as Scotland looks to lead on human rights

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26th November 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the UN adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, due to be marked around the world on 10 December, the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee is publishing its report on how we deal with human rights in Holyrood.

This report should be seen as: an opportunity for MSPs to upskill their human rights knowledge; a chance for the parliament and public bodies to adopt world-leading human rights processes; and a call for people in Scotland to take on a greater power sharing role by exercising their rights.

The committee is setting out steps to help the parliament get better at defending, promoting and protecting human rights in Scotland, but we cannot achieve this alone. Partnerships with the third sector and public bodies will be key to improving outcomes for the people we all seek to serve.

Ruth Maguire MSP

Ruth Maguire MSP

Within our recommendations, we envisage:

• charities and voluntary organisations supporting people to speak up and share their experiences with Parliament;

• the third sector taking on a bigger role in pointing out areas where international human rights obligations are not being met by public services or policy;

• and, of course, the committee wants to ensure the sector has the necessary resources to do this.

We understand the value of this work as the committee has been using a human rights-based approach ourselves, putting real people at the heart of the law-making process. This has provided us with many helpful insights while scrutinising the Government’s work. It has also complimented the equalities work the committee has done since 1999.

The concepts of equalities and human rights, when taken together, are a powerful place to start from when considering how to tackle an issue, or robustly test a proposed law.

For example, when looking at issues like bullying and harassment of young people, the frameworks of both protected characteristics and human rights have been instrumental in shaping the Committee’s thinking. While human rights are a strong starting point, and the Committee saw the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as offering extra protections, prejudice-based discrimination is often made more obvious and urgent when we also take into account equalities legislation.

 As we implement and monitor the progress of the recommendations in the report, we want to continue the dialogue we have started with people around Scotland who are standing up for their human rights. We are starting with a major event in the Scottish Parliament to mark World Human Rights Day on 10 December. If you’ve got a question you want to be discussed by panellists at the event, share it with us on twitter (@SP_EHRiC), using the hashtag #rightstakeover.

You can also watch the plenary from the event on the Scottish Parliament website or come along on the morning of 10 December to watch the speeches and discussion in the Scottish Parliament’s debating chamber.  Tickets are free, and we’d love for you to join us.

We understand that parliaments should ensure laws comply with international human rights obligations. However, parliamentarians need to hear voices of people on the frontline. The truth is that even well-intentioned policy may not fully meet needs and rights in reality. And very often it is the third sector that picks up on these issues first.

In short, to improve human rights, we need your insights. We hope you join us on this journey to ensure the Scottish Parliament is the best human rights guarantor it can be.

Ruth Maguire MSP is convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee