Unlocking UNCRC incorporation: An interview with Juliet Harris
25 Oct 2022
Ahead of our Annual Conference, members of Changing our World, our children and young people's advisory group, interviewed some of the speakers. Here, Kaydence is in conversation with Juliet Harris, director of Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights).
Kaydence: Hi Juliet, I thought it might be nice if you could start by introducing yourself.
Juliet: Of course. I’m Juliet Harris, and I'm the director of Together. Everybody calls me Jules – Juliet's my smart name.
Kaydence: Brilliant. I wanted to ask you, what work that you've done are you the most proud of?
Jules: It's definitely around making children's rights binding in law through UNCRC incorporation. The power of human rights is the fact that they're legally binding; it’s not something that you have to think about, it's not aspirational. It's every child and young person's entitlement to have those rights.
It's taken a really long time and we're not there yet, but I really believe that Together (and all the children and young people that we've worked with) has played a massive role in making incorporation happen. And I think once it does happen, we’ll play a massive role in making sure that what we're aiming for is experienced by children and young people, because it's not enough to have it written down, it has to be something that people can feel.
Kaydence: With incorporation, what needs to happen to make sure that children can then enforce those rights?
Jules: It doesn't happen immediately but there needs to be a cultural change across Scotland. Most importantly, children and young people need to actually know that they've got rights and what they are, otherwise how will they recognise it if they’re breached? And then those around them – teachers, social workers, politicians, bus drivers – they all need to know that children have rights too.
Kaydence: That's so important. I should probably ask you some questions about the conference! You spoke at the 2019 conference, but for people who haven’t attended before, what should they expect?
Jules: They should expect their brain to hurt by the end of it, but to be really, really inspired! Children in Scotland manages to get this brilliant balance between giving you good ideas and things to take forward, but also challenging you and making you think of things from a different perspective and in a different way.
There’s always really good networking opportunities as well. That's so important, particularly after the pandemic. Just being able to talk to people over coffee and make connections with people that you don't meet around the Zoom screen. It’s the opportunity to talk to people you’ve never met before.
Kaydence: Hearing that makes me really excited – this will be my first one. You’re attending as a panellist. What do you hope to talk about in the session?
Jules: I'm going to talk about how important it is to take a rights-based approach to budgeting. If we're going to achieve the vision that we've got for UNCRC incorporation, money has to be spent in the right way. And we have to make sure we’re collecting data on which children have rights that are most at risk, where extra capacity is needed. It's so important that you invest more in some groups of children and some areas of public services if you're to achieve equality in children's experiences of their rights.
I hope that people leave the panel thinking, ‘Actually, this is really important. It's something we all need to be doing, and we need to involve children and young people’. It's the key to unlocking incorporation, it's the key to making sure we achieve what we want with it.
Kaydence: I'm assuming for it to be a child rights-based approach, you need to include children and young people in it. How do you go about that?
Jules: There's a UN Committee that monitors how well countries are doing in realising children's rights, and they provide advice through General Comments. General Comment 19 is on children's rights budgeting and it’s the first one where they actually involved children and young people in writing it, which seems unbelievable!
Now that we have this General Comment developed with children, we can essentially give it to the government and say ‘this is your to do list, this is how you do it’, and then just work with them to take it forward.
Kaydence: I’m shocked that it took them 19 Comments to actually include young people! One last question, why do you think the Children in Scotland annual conference is going to be amazing?
Jules: Because, first of all, it always is. Secondly, we haven't been together for so long, so everyone will just be delighted to see each other, to meet new people. If you think about all the new young people who've joined the children's sector since the last one – whether it as volunteers or as a staff – there's going to be so many new people to meet. And that's really exciting.
Since the last one, we've also had the UNCRC Bill through, but that’s become super challenging with the cost of living crisis. However, the conference brings together a load of people with shared values, who will help to inspire each other, look after each other and make sure that we've got the energy we need to get through this really challenging time.
Kaydence: I think that's a brilliant answer. Before we finish, is there anything else you’d like to say?
Jules: Well, what do you think we should be doing, as panellists, to make sure we reflect the work you’re doing at Changing our World?
Kaydence: Good question. I think it’s just making sure that you speak to children and young people about what you're going to be speaking about, and ask them their views on it. There’s no children or young people on that panel, so this would be your opportunity to advocate for them.
Jules: That’s really good advice, I'll definitely be doing that. Otherwise I'd be even worse than the UN with their first 18 General Comments!
Juliet Harris will speak as part of a panel discussion at Children in Scotland's Annual Conference 2022 on 8 November at 12:30pm.
Click here to browse the programme #CiSAC22