Launch of the Observatory
Information about the launch event for the Observatory of Children's Human Rights Scotland
The Observatory of Children's Human Rights Scotland was launched on 28 February 2020 alongside Together's State of Children's Rights Report 2019. Over 80 people came to the University of Edinburgh to hear about the Observatory and the Report, and to help the Observatory plan its priorities for making children’s rights real.
LProfessor Lesley McAra, Assistant Principal Community Relations, welcomed everyone on behalf of the University of Edinburgh. She proposed that the Observatory should provide a mechanism to judge whether Scotland really is the best place in the world for children to grow up – the strapline of the Scottish Government.
The launch event was opened by Emili and Arden, from the Children's Parliament, and Jack Dudgeon, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament. Emili and Arden were really positive about how the Children’s Parliament empowered them and other children who want to make a difference. They had concerns about children’s rights that are not currently respected, particularly for children going through hard times but there isn’t enough support for them. Their hope is that the incorporation of the UNCRC into law will mean that people really understand why children’s rights are important.
Jack was clear that while Scotland has made amazing progress on children’s rights there is still a long way to go. Getting a commitment from Scottish Government for incorporating the UNCRC into law was part of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s 'right here right now' campaign, and it was successful because lots of people from different organisations were all working together. The State of Children’s Rights Report is crucial to helping us work together now to make incorporation happen effectively across all the areas where we know there are gaps, to make children’s rights binding and not guiding.
Juliet Harris, Director of Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), introduced the State of Children’s Rights Report, highlighting positive progress in Scotland such as the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019. However, there are also a lot of lowlights, with legislation and policy commitments not always translating into real change for children and young people. Key issues include that one in four children are living in poverty and our failures to recognise the rights of children in conflict with the law.
Professor Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director CELCIS and Inspiring Children's Futures, University of Strathclyde and Professor Kay Tisdall, Childhood and Youth Studies Research Group, University of Edinburgh introduced the new Observatory of Children’s Human Rights Scotland. The task of the Observatory is to enable us to change this culture so that children’s human rights become real. This is “we”, all of us together. The work of the Observatory is going to include identifying the gaps in what we know and working out how to fill them and providing the spaces for conversation between the different organisations, across research and the third sector, to challenge each other and work out how to implement these rights in the best way.
Next, everyone at the launch was put to work thinking about the priorities for making children’s rights real in Scotland. People were asked to write down:
- What should we be celebrating? (Green)
- What do we not know enough about … or are worried about … that we’d like the Observatory to find out more about? (Orange)
- What are the potential barriers to implementation? Where are we currently in breach of our obligations? (Red)
Key themes were:
- Child participation is something to celebrate, something we are worried about, and something where there are barriers.
- Adults, in particular public attitudes and culture, are identified as a key barrier and issue to be tackled.
- There are lots of concerns about how we move from the current positive language and atmosphere in Scotland to concrete improvements for children.
- How children and young people will inform the Observatory is an important consideration.
Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Children and Young People, responded to the discussion so far and described the Scottish Government’s approach to implementation as maximalist, seeking to directly and fully incorporate the UNCRC using its language.
Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland, facilitated a panel of all the speakers.
It was a colourful event, as people held green, orange or red balloons to identify their question or point for discussion.
The questions picked up on the concerns about how we move from saying good things about children’s rights to doing children’s rights and how to effectively engage and work with adults, including parents and carers. There were questions about the rights of children with disabilities and children affected by abuse in particular.
These issues are forming a priority list for the Observatory to take forward in the next months.