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Twofold challenge to achieve human rights in Scotland: Commission chair

Today

Scotland is fortunate to have both a Government and Parliament that consider rights as core business, according to the chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

Speaking at the Parliament at an event to mark International Human Rights Day, Judith Robertson warned that even so, "too often people’s rights are not fully realised in everyday life in Scotland". 

While great progress had been made in the 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ms Robertson warned that in the UK and internationally, there was still "a worryingly negative rhetoric" around rights, with too many states failing to acknowledge their obligations to uphold the rights set out in the Declaration, and too many states "forgetting the lessons of history and turning their backs on the international rule of law and collective action to respond to global issues".

This was where Scotland was in a fortunate position, bolstered by the work of the Parliament's Equalities & Human Rights Committee, and now also the advice of the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights, whose "significant and bold" recommendations were also published yesterday. 

The "twofold challenge" for Scotland, Ms Robertson stated, was "First, to make sure that people know, understand and value their human rights. To get to a place where rights are truly owned in people’s hearts and minds as belonging to everyone." And secondly, "to sharpen the hard edge of accountability for all rights". This meant going beyond the use of rights as guiding principles or as a general approach to making laws and policies, and establishing "a broader set of concrete legal standards, building on those that already exist, that people can use to hold government and public bodies to account". This would enable human rights to do what they were meant to do, "balancing power between people and the state in all its forms".

"Our hope as a Commission is that we can all unite behind a vision of a Scotland where the full range of rights – civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental – are embedded in both our culture and our laws", she added.

Click here to access the full speech.

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