Yesterday, SCVO joined over 100 other bodies on Human Rights Day calling for political leaders to ensure hard won rights are protected. People of good conscience from across the political spectrum would find it difficult to challenge the view that we should all live with equal dignity and respect, although reaching agreement on how we get there from here is a little trickier.  

For as long as I’ve known SCVO, we have promoted and encouraged human rights-based approaches in the Scottish voluntary sector and across society. From launching the Right Approach campaign and working with partners to establish The Scotland Declaration on Human Rights, to our most recent appearance at the Scottish Parliament’s Equality and Human Rights Committee, the universal application of human rights-based approaches is an ultimate goal.

From the broad to specific, you’d be hard pressed to find a voluntary organisation that isn’t working towards human rights outcomes, be that the independent advocacy that’s essential for people to realise their rights, critical services that work with people and communities to enhance and save lives, or the campaigns instigated to secure a future Scotland that we all can be proud of. Promoting, encouraging and realising rights is part of the voluntary sector’s very existence.  

We are, though, a long way off a vision for ‘a Scotland where all can live with human dignity.’ And, as the Scottish Parliament recently reaffirmed, change is needed to overcome the public funding challenges faced by the voluntary sector if organisations are to maintain and build on their vital roles in realising human rights in Scotland. What more can the voluntary sector realistically do to ensure our sector continues to deliver more than the sum of our parts?

SCVO welcomes the leadership of the Scottish Human Rights Commission to deliver proposals for Scotland’s second National Action Plan for Human Rights – SNAP 2. As with its predecessor, SNAP 2 is a collaborative programme of action that brings together people with lived experience of human rights issues, civil society organisations, government and public authorities with a shared aim of building a Scotland where everyone’s human rights are fully respected, protected and fulfilled.

Whether its children and young people’s rights, the rights to housing and employment, or the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum, the proposed actions in SNAP 2 are about creating a space for cross-sector support for change. It’s about ensuring public bodies, voluntary organisations, businesses and others come together to create programmes, services and policy solutions that make a real difference for communities across Scotland.

Developed on the back of a national participation process involving over 1,500 people and in collaboration with civil society and public bodies, the recently published proposals identify 25 key human rights themes – all covered by voluntary organisations in some form – and 62 possible actions to be delivered in the first half of the next decade. It’s also shaped from intel gathered on SNAP 1, including an independent analysis of what worked and what could be improved.

While the first plan received a high level of commitment from the voluntary sector, a criticism was the variable commitment from duty bearers, including the Scottish Government. The independent review highlighted a lack of state funding when compared with other countries supporting their own national action plans. It is unthinkable that the ambitions of SNAP 2 can be realised without the full commitment of government and the message this time is clear; the plan will not go ahead without adequate resourcing.

There’s a strong focus across the actions on collaborating and drawing on the perspectives of right holders, recognising the gaps in connecting wider civil society work on specific outcomes and using the plan as a launchpad for proactive action. The plan focuses on mainstreaming standards and good practice models, developing training and instigating public awareness initiatives to challenge stigma and inaction. What’s also pleasing to see is some flexibility in the plan, allowing it to respond to emerging priorities that may challenge people’s rights and require a collective response.

It’s one thing to talk human rights, but it’s another to SNAP into action! This plan requires the fullest of commitment from all sectors, including government, to realise the real ambition of what it sets out to achieve. Voluntary organisations across Scotland have until Monday 16th December to submit their response on the proposals to the Scottish Human Rights Commission.