The countdown begins! Scotland’s child rights record to be reviewed by UN

In just nine days, Scottish Government officials will sit across from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child ready to give evidence on Scotland’s children’s rights record. In the first blog of our #TimeForUNCRC series, we look at the background to the review and explore one issue that’s sure to come up – incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law.

On 18-19th May 2023, the United Kingdom will go under the microscope when it is reviewed by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Members of #TeamScotlandUN, including Beau Johnston MSYP, Daisy Stewart Henderson MSYP, Omima MCP, Arden MCP, and CYPCS Young Advisors Grace and Ally will travel to Geneva to ensure children and young people’s views and experiences are put at the heart of the review.

The examination will look at UK and devolved governments’ progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (‘UNCRC’). It is the 5th time that the UK has been reviewed since it ratified the UNCRC in 1991. The last review took place in 2016 and resulted in over 150 recommendations across a wide range of topics including child poverty, participation in decision-making, disabled children’s rights and mental health.

The upcoming review is an important opportunity to assess Scottish Government’s progress towards achieving these past recommendations and to identify where more work needs to be done. It is also a chance to examine new and emerging issues. Together has been leading civil society engagement in the lead up to the review, including the submission of a comprehensive State of Children’s Rights Report to the UN Committee which drew on evidence from our members, and supporting children and young people’s participation as part of #TeamScotlandUN alongside Children’s Parliament, Scottish Youth Parliament and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.

The review comes at a time of considerable change within Scottish Government. The election of the new First Minister and appointment of a new Cabinet means it is not yet clear how existing Scottish Government commitments will be affected or what new priorities might emerge. While we have seen an acceleration of existing commitments around childcare, we have also seen plans to restrict alcohol marketing get temporarily shelved, despite clear calls from children and young people that such restrictions are necessary to uphold their rights.

During the election campaign, Members of Children’s Parliament and Scottish Youth Parliament wrote to all candidates asking them to restate their commitment to incorporate children’s human rights into law. They explained children and young people’s frustration at delays around the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill which, despite having been passed over two years ago with full cross-party support, is still not law. Humza Yousaf’s response offered reassurance that the Bill remained a priority but offered little in the way of specific actions that would be taken to address the deadlock.

Next week, Together’s UNCRC Implementation Strategy Group, this time to the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and the new Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise. It sets out our hopes that the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill will soon return to the Scottish Parliament and enter into force shortly thereafter. It also sets out our commitment to work constructively with Scottish Government to ensure the next set of UN recommendations are fully implemented, and that permanent structures are put in place to ensure children and young people have a key role in holding Scottish Government to account on progress.

There has been significant and welcome progress since the UK’s last review in 2016, including legislation to end the physical punishment of children by their parents/carers, greater prominence for children and young people’s views in decision making and the ratification of two international agreements to protect children from violence to name a few. Yet the world also feels like a very different place than it was in 2016 and this has brought with it a range of new challenges for children’s human rights. Since 2016, we have had Brexit, COVID-19, ever-present threats to our Human Rights Act, the #RefugeeBanBill and a rapidly deteriorating cost-of-living crisis. There are real opportunities ahead to drive forward efforts to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights in Scotland. It is more important than ever that children’s human rights are embedded in law so we can fully harness these opportunities and deliver lasting change for children and young people’s lives.

Over the next nine days, our blogs will explore a range of children’s rights themes likely to come up during the UK’s review. Each one will look at what the key issues are, what children and young people have said and what recommendations we want to see the UN Committee make. Make sure you keep up to date with our daily articles by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn or directly on our blog.

Stay tuned for our next article coming out at 8:00am tomorrow!

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