UNCRC incorporation: the date we make history
16 Mar 2021
Our Head of Policy, Projects & Participation Amy Woodhouse on what today means for children and the country's future
I do cringe a bit using words like ‘historic’ to describe events. They can be overused and become meaningless. But I think it is ok to use this word today. Because today we expect the Bill to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to be passed by the Scottish Parliament – and this really is a historic event.
It is historic because of its significance. It means that children’s rights as outlined in the convention will become enshrined in law. This offers children protection and a course of redress if society fails them. It will also mean that public bodies will have a legal duty to work in ways that uphold children’s rights – and this should mean positive, recognisable change across Scotland.
I’ve never really liked the stated Scottish Government aspiration for Scotland to be the ‘best place in the world to grow up’. Only a few countries have taken the step we are taking today towards incorporation, but do we need to mark our progress in relation to our performance against other countries? I personally don’t think so. We only need to be the best we possibly can be in relation to our own hopes, dreams and ambitions.
And an exciting thing about today is that we have got here because of our collective vision for a country that puts the rights of children at its heart. This has been the result of superb child rights leadership over many years, which has galvanised and motivated civil society, marshalled the arguments for incorporation, dealt with any concerns and encouraged Scottish Ministers to be confident enough to introduce this Bill and see it through parliament.
I’m hesitant to list individuals for fear of missing anyone, but we should take time to acknowledge the role of Together (the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament in particular for their unfailing commitment to driving this agenda forward and placing children and young people’s voices at the centre of their campaigning.
At Children in Scotland, we’re proud to have played our part, supported these efforts and been part of the wider movement. We’ve supported children and young people to get involved and kept our members engaged through events and discussions. I know many of our members and partners will feel a similar pride today.
We’ve also done our bit to reflect on our own organisational practice, and how we can evolve to work in a way that upholds children’s rights - across our whole organisation. This continues to be an area of reflection and growth for us, as it will be for all duty bearers considering how they can meet their responsibilities to uphold children’s rights within the context of their own services. In many ways today is only the first step in a long journey.
I’m also conscious that child rights advocates often describe the UNCRC as the floor rather than the ceiling. It provides the foundations on which to build a much more ambitious vision. And as a country Scotland will continue to be ambitious in this area, you can bet on it. The work is not done.
However, good foundations are absolutely essential all the same. Fundamental even. Today may not be the topping out ceremony, but we can see the shape of the building now, and that is exciting, motivating – and, yes, historic.