The UN’s annual climate change conference, COP26, will be held in Glasgow later this year.

COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and this will be the 26th one to happen.

What does “Conference of the Parties” mean?

A Party is a State that’s signed up to a particular international law. In this case, it’s the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

So at a Conference of the Parties these States take part in talks and negotiations around this Convention, other agreements, and solutions to climate change.


Your human rights and the ways they should be protected are written down in lots of different documents, so they can be part of international law and guidance.  An international human rights instrument is one of these documents― like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

International human rights instruments usually contain:

  • a list of promises that governments have to keep, and
  • explanations of how governments can keep these promises

When a State – like the UK – signs up to an instrument like this, it agrees to keep the promises it contains.


All children and young people have the right to live free from discrimination, and it’s protected for everyone in the UK by the Equality Act.

I’m a child concerned about racism

Childline has a list of things you can do if you or someone you know is experiencing racism. It also has some explanations about why people might be racist in the first place.

I’m a young person concerned about racism

If you or someone you know is experiencing racism, Young Scot has a dedicated page that may help. It has:

  • links to resources that can support you, and
  • ways in which you can take action.

I want to report a hate crime

Young Scot has information on how to report a hate crime if you think you or someone else has experienced one.


When we talk to children and young people, you often ask us why you have a human rights convention of your own― the UNCRC. Why isn’t there a convention for adults?

But children and young people aren’t the only group of people who have a convention of your own.

Other groups do, too. For example, women have the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and people with disabilities have the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

There are two reasons why a group of people might have their own convention, and both of them apply to children and young people:

You’re less likely to have your rights respected

Human rights are for everyone, but not everyone is equally likely to have them respected in their lives.

Adults – including those in power who make decisions – might forget that they apply to children and young people.

That’s especially true because children and young people don’t have the same power adults do. You don’t have as much money as they do, and if you’re under 16 you can’t vote.

So the UNCRC exists to make it clear: human rights are for you.

It helps adults remember that children and young people are humans, just like them.

You have the right to special protection

It’s also true that as a child, you can be more at risk than adults are.

You’re still growing and developing into the person you’re going to be, and what happens to you now can affect you in the future.

For example, if you don’t get enough nourishing food, you might grow up to be less big and strong.

And if bad things happen to you, they might be harder to deal with than if the same things happened to adults.

So the UNCRC is also about giving you these special protections.

Other groups of people have special protections, too― like people with disabilities.

And if you’re in one of these groups, you also have those protections, including the ones in the UNCRC.


A legal remedy is a way to set things right when your rights aren’t respected.

When your rights aren’t respected, sometimes the law is able to take action.

A court might make whoever didn’t respect your rights change their behaviour. That means they would have to respect your rights in the future.

Or the court might make whoever didn’t respect your rights give you something in return. For example, they might have to give you money.

These are just two kinds of legal remedy. Depending on what’s happened, there may be others.


The UNCRC is one of the few human rights instruments that directly says there are promises that States have to keep around the environment.

Where is the environment directly mentioned in the UNCRC?

Article 24

Article 24 of the UNCRC says that children and young people have the right to the best health possible.

As part of that, it says that States should think about the dangers and risks of environmental pollution when they take steps to combat disease and malnutrition.

Article 29

Article 29 of the UNCRC is about the aims of education. It says that one of these is to make sure children and young people develop respect for the natural environment.

What are some other rights impacted by the environment?

In 2016 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child held a Day of General Discussion around children’s rights and the environment. You can read the report of the Day here.

This report says that many more articles of the UNCRC are impacted by damage to the environment, even if this isn’t directly stated in the Convention’s text. These include:

  • the right to non-discrimination set out in Article 2,
  • the general principles of the rights to life, survival and development set out in Article 6,
  • the right to an identity set out in Article 8,
  • the right to be heard set out in Article 12,
  • the rights to freedom of expression and information set out in Articles 13 and 17,
  • the rights to protection from all forms of violence and to physical and mental integrity set out in Article 19,
  • the rights to food, water, sanitation and housing set out in Articles 24 and 27,
  • the right to education set out in Article 28,
  • the rights to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts set out in Article 31,
  • the right to freedom from exploitation set out in Article 32,
  • the right to an adequate standard of living set out in Article 37.

A new general comment on the environment

In June 2021, the Committee on the Rights of the Child committed to creating a new General Comment around the environment, which will have a special focus on climate change.


Since the cancellation of 2021’s exams was announced, our office has raised concerns around the appeals process.

When the SQA consulted around the 2021 appeals process, we raised concerns that their consultation wasn’t accessible to young people and didn’t encourage them to participate. Our own response to the consultation raised  human rights concerns with the process.

In April we highlighted that the SQA’s Alternative Certification Model needed to take exceptional circumstances into account, just as they are in years where there isn’t a global pandemic. We also published an FAQ about how to ask for extra support at school.

And currently we’re continuing to highlight the need for these critical changes, sharing the concerns of young people and pointing to where Scottish Government can step in if needed.


Children and young people tend to be brought up by their birth parents, but some are brought up in other ways. Alternative care is a term used to describe these.

Some forms of alternative care are:

  • residential care,
  • foster care,
  • adoption,
  • kinship care― living with a family member other than a parent.

Unaccompanied children can also be placed in alternative care.


It doesn’t have to.

The UK Government’s challenge will delay the Bill getting Royal Assent― where the King approves a Bill and so makes it become a law.

The UNCRC Incorporation Bill says it must come into force within six months of receiving Royal Assent. But that doesn’t mean children and young people in Scotland have to wait the full six months: they’ve already waited long enough.

After Royal Assent, the Scottish Government has the power to make the law commence before six months have passed.

Adult duty bearers across Scotland should work to make sure incorporation happens as soon as possible. Nothing about the UK Government’s challenge changes that.



The Scottish Parliament has limited powers, so there are some things it can’t make laws about.

The UK Government believes some parts of the Bill go beyond these powers, and these are the parts it is challenging.

But it is only challenging these parts, and not the Bill as a whole. On 24th May 2022, the Deputy First Minister said the Scottish Government is looking at the changes that need to be made to the Bill to address the Supreme Court judgment. 

Together Scotland’s website has more detail about the specifics of the UK Government’s challenge.

Together Scotland’s Website also has more detail about the latest statement made by the Scottish Government, explaining what amendments to the bill are needed which may mean incorporation can happen sooner.


The four general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are that all children and young people:

Together, these four principles underpin how the Convention should be interpreted and put into practice.


It is important people are protected from crime – including crimes committed by children – and that victims are given some remedy. 

However, this has to be balanced with the fact that some children in conflict with the law may have experienced difficulties in their childhood – such as poverty, family breakdown or drug and alcohol use –which has led to their behaviour.

Some of them may also be victims themselves.  

Where the law says that a child should be punished for their actions in the criminal justice system, this can impact their future. States must recognise children’s vulnerability both as victims and perpetrators of crime. 


Everyone has the right to a fair trial, whatever their age.

For children, this includes:

The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty

Children have the right to be assumed innocent of a crime until the prosecution – whoever brought a case against them to court – has proven they are guilty of it.

The right to privacy while being tried

While a child is being tried, the media shouldn’t publish any information that might lead to them being identified by members of the public. This would include their name or address.

The right to effectively participate in their trial

A child must be able to follow their trial and understand what’s going on. They must also be able to express their views, and the judge must properly take their views into account.

All of these rights are set out in Article 40 of the UNCRC.


A Compulsory Supervision Order is a formal order made by a Children’s Hearing. It’s for children who need additional protection or support.

When an Order like this is made, it means a child’s local authority has to support them and give their family help.

It also means there are certain rules the child has to follow. For example, they may have to live in a certain place, such as in secure care or a children’s house, away from their family.

As a result of these laws, many 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland are not recognised as children when they commit crimes. Instead, they are instead treated as adults in adult courts.


Secure accommodation is a place where children can go to get help if it isn’t safe to live at home because they might hurt themselves or someone else.

To make sure that they get the help they need and to keep them safe, they are locked in and can’t leave. It is a place that children should only go if there is no other place where they can get help.

It is important that children are involved in the decision to send them to secure accommodation. They should understand why it is in their best interest to be there.

Facemasks beside a question mark with a stylised image of a virus forming the dot.

Children have told us they’re worried that people aren’t getting rid of facemasks properly, and that people are forgetting about the environment because we’re so busy with Covid-19.

They’ve been unhappy to see so many disposable masks on the ground as litter. And they think people should use reusable face masks where they can, or other types of reusable face coverings.

Disposable masks can often only be used once. They’ve been in the news due to the amount of plastic waste they’ve generated.

Taking children seriously

Children often tell us they’re concerned about the environment, and that it’s not something adults think about enough. As Article 12 of the UNCRC says, this is an opinion which we should listen to and take seriously.

So we’ve agreed to highlight that this is something that matters a lot to them.

What does the Scottish Government say about getting rid of face masks?

The Scottish Government has advice on its website explaining:

  • how to take proper care of reusable face masks, and
  • how to get rid of face masks which can’t be used again.

As it says, disposable face coverings and gloves can’t be recycled, so will be more damaging to the environment than reusable alternatives. But if you do use them, you should still make sure to put them in a bin.


There is an important difference in the UNCRC between rights to protection and rights to participation.

Rights to participation are about our ability to make decisions, such as voting or making decisions about medical treatment. For example, the law in Scotland says that under 16s can consent to medical treatment if a doctor believes they understand what the treatment or procedure means.

However, rights to protection exist to protect children from harm. Because punishing children, and treating them as adults when they commit crimes, can be harmful, Article 37 and Article 40 of the UNCRC are both protection rights.

That means that every child should enjoy them until they are 18. 

Someone has their hand up beside someone else, who is thinking of a thumbs up and an equals sign.

UNCRC Article 37

If I break the law, I have the right not to be punished in a cruel or unnecessary way

A judge holds up their finger as a person beside them thinks of a thumbs up and an equals sign.

UNCRC Article 40

I have the right to be treated as a child if I break the law


Full incorporation means writing the whole of the UNCRC into Scots law— all of it, not just specific parts.

Direct incorporation means that the full legal text of the Convention would be written into Scots law— so no part of it is rewritten.

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