Counting the Change : Why human rights matter

Our Human Rights Defenders Network meeting is on tomorrow (11th April). There are a handful of places left: Register Here.

We are working with Carole Ewart on developing the network: read her Blog article below for information on the background to the event, and why a Network is an important step for us to take in Glasgow.

The fragility of peace and democracy after World War II prompted a list of human rights to be agreed at the UN and delivered globally by governments through a system of evaluation and enforcement.  The rights were supposed to empower the person, but not at the expense of the rights of others, so we have to balance not to compete for the equal share of resources.  Human rights ensured transparency and accountability of governments for their actions on making rights real.  This history matters as we need to remind ourselves, as well as decision makers and opinion formers, that human rights are there for a reason and we still have a responsibility to give them practical effect.

In Scotland we are always looking to make human rights meaningful to people’s daily lives as too often we interpret them narrowly such as ensuring fair trials or restricting them to vulnerable groups such as the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.  Excluding people, intentionally or accidentally, make human rights weak as a tool to make Scotland fairer.  Therefore, GCVS is convening a Human Rights Defenders meeting on 11th April to discuss a change in approach, and I hope you will be there to give your views.

If we had a Scottish human rights report card, what would you say for you, your family, your colleagues and those you serve in the course of your daily paid or voluntary work?  Do you think our UK and Scottish governments have recognised their responsibilities on ensuring that each one of us enjoy the defined rights equally?   Of course, how we arrive at equality necessitates many different routes.

Judging performance and delivery came together last week with a visit by the Bank of England to GCVS, which wanted to hear the views of the Third Sector.  The event was not a comfy chat over tea and scones but a working meeting to discuss the economy and its impact.  The meeting prompted many of us to reflect and plan on what could be done by the Third Sector using our knowledge, skills and resources.

In judging the performance of the Scottish Government, the duty bearer for respecting protecting and delivering our devolved rights, it is essential to capitalise on current opportunities.  For me a key one is to ensure the economy and our spend of the Scottish budget makes Scotland fairer.  Currently there are opportunities to do that, but we need to get better organised and pool our resources.

The report of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee at the Scottish Parliament provides guidance on what to do next.  In its 40 recommendations, Recommendation 4 stands out as it wants to Third Sector to be enabled to act: ‘Equalities and Human rights advocacy support – Investigate the capacity and resourcing of civic society equalities and human rights advocacy’; ‘Recommendation 14: Third sector UN rights treaty monitoring- Resource of civic society to improve engagement with the United Nations. (Public authorities)’.   In amongst this mix, the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has a human rights budgeting project and we can tap into its tools to analyse spend on a geographical basis and/or in a subject area.

Lots to think about and act on, enabled by the Third Sector discussion.  A report of the initial Human Rights Defenders Meeting will appear shortly on the website as we want an inclusive way forward for mainstreaming human rights.

Carole Ewart is a public policy and human rights consultant who is working with GCVS on developing the network.



Carole Ewart April 2019.



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