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‘Youthful defenders’ take to Scottish Parliament

20th June 2018

Superheroes, protectors and guardians dominate this summer’s blockbusters and the Scottish Parliament will host its own group of youthful defenders (on June 20 2018).

Twelve young people will assemble at the Scottish Parliament and link up with groups at the Welsh Senedd to discuss the role of Human Rights Defenders. They will debate how to recognise and support those who challenge inequality and stand up for the rights of all young people.

The session is sponsored by the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee and has been organised by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and supported by partners including Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), the Children’s Parliament and the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Commissioner, Bruce Adamson said that taking on the role of ‘human rights defender requires personal courage and determination: “When children act as human rights defenders they promote and protect not just the rights of other children and young people, but all of our rights.  Itis my role to ensure that children are supported and protected when they speak truth to power.

“Children don’t have the same political or economic power as adults and are often excluded from decision making, yet we see children and young people from across Scotland acting as human rights defenders on a local, national and international level. As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders it is important that we recognise the potential of children, but also the duty of those in power to recognise, empower and protect young human rights defenders.”

‘Human Rights Defender’ is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights. It can include addressing prejudice or discrimination, promoting LGBTI rights, tackling environmental degradation, challenging arbitrary arrest and detention, or advocating for better access to mental health provision, housing or health care.

The role references rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many of which are reaffirmed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Emily, age 13, Member of the Children’s Parliament (MCP) from East Lothian, said, “We’re really looking forward to finding out what rights children in Wales feel need to be defended as it could be really different to what children think in Scotland. We’re excited to present the work we have been doing across Scotland and what we’ve learned so far.”

SYP Trustee, Josh Kennedy MSYP, said: “We are delighted to have the chance to share our experience as Human Rights Defenders with young people from Wales. With our current campaign, Right Here, Right Now, calling for greater awareness and protection of young people’s rights, and the recent publication of the results of our UN General Day of Discussion survey on the topic of children as Human Rights Defenders, now is the perfect time for us to share our knowledge and learn from others.”

Equalities and Human Rights Committee Convener and event sponsor, Christina McKelvie MSP, added:  “The Equalities and Human Rights Committee is delighted to host this event promoting young human rights defenders in the Scottish Parliament. In this Year of Young People, it’s really important for us to hear the voice of youth while we as a Committee consider what more the Scottish Parliament can do to guarantee human rights.

“Everyone in the world has human rights, and that’s a message the young people our Committee has worked with have taken to heart. By linking up with other young human rights defenders across borders, we hope this encourages young people in Scotland to stand up for their own rights, as well as defend the rights of others too.”

Today’s discussion is part of preparation for the United Nations Day of General Discussion: “Protecting and Empowering Children as Human Rights Defenders” which will take place in Geneva on September 28.

The UN Day of General Discussion will be the first ever global discussion focusing on children as human rights defenders. Its main goal is to bring together a global movement for children human rights defenders including children, States, National Human Rights Institutions, Children’s Ombudspersons, the UN, civil society and the private sector to promote understanding about the role of children as human rights defenders,  identify what needs to be done for child rights-related laws, policies and practices to take adequate account of children as human rights defenders; and for human rights defenders-related laws, policies and practices to be child-sensitive.