Scotland’s children and young people help UN grill governments on children’s rights

Two Young Advisors have been busy in Geneva – joining Members of the Children’s Parliament and Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament to work with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The MCPs’ and MSYPs’ involvement was coordinated by Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights).  

Ally and Grace have been roving reporters behind the scenes at UN HQ as the influential Committee on the Rights of the Child scrutinises the progress the UK has made on children’s rights in the last few years. 

Young Advisors Grace and Ally, MCPs Arden and Omima from the Children Parliament, and Beau and Daisy from the Scottish Youth Parliament have been working together in Geneva to make up #TeamScotlandUN.  

This week’s session at the UN is the latest stage in a process called “reporting”, which will ultimately culminate in the Committee publishing a powerful list of improvements for children’s rights for governments. 

On Thursday, with children and young people from Northern Ireland and Wales, Team Scotland met the UN Committee’s UK task force members ahead of the first session with UK and devolved government representatives. Team Scotland influenced some key questions that Committee members then asked the Scottish Government. 

During the session, Ally and Grace watched Committee members asking representatives from the UK, Scottish, and other devolved nations, key questions about important rights issues like child poverty, education, mental health and incorporation of their rights into law. 

The roving reporters got Team Scotland’s reaction after the session. 

MSYP Daisy said: “I was really impressed by the Committee. I was so happy with how much the Committee echoed what we had said in our earlier meeting with them. I felt my words and priorities were echoed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really satisfied with the government’s answers.” 

MSYP Beau said: “Some of the answers were lacking in proof of how they have helped advance children and young people’s rights in the UK.” 

MCP Arden was disappointed with the Scottish Government’s answers, especially around incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law. She said: “Instead of giving us a timeline of when the UNCRC will be in law, the Scottish Government answered it the same as when you ask your parents for something, and they say “maybe” or “we will think about it”. You feel it’s never going to happen.” 

MCP Omima said: “I’m disappointed with the lack of progress for the implementation of the UNCRC. The government side-stepped that question. I commend the Committee’s attempts to get our questions through to the Scottish Government, the Committee really listened to us.” 

Ally and Grace also interviewed Committee member Professor Philip Jaffe after the session, who was scathing about child poverty rates. 

Professor Jaffe said: “The government announced that one in four, one in five children are living in absolute poverty, which is an astounding figure for a developed country such as the United Kingdom. I’m really concerned because these kids are very vulnerable, they are exposed to all kinds of other adverse childhood experiences, and they need help urgently.” 

Professor Jaffe told Grace he is coming to Glasgow next month, and will focus on Article 31, the right to play. He added: “I’m looking forward to playing because leisure, culture, and play are essential for mental wellbeing. We call it (Article 31) the forgotten right but it’s so important from birth onwards. It is the essential ingredient for cognitive, emotional development. I hope Scottish children will show the world how they deal with the most fundamental right, Article 31.” 

After a whirlwind three days covering all the big moments, Grace said: “Being a roving reporter has been fabulous. It’s been very exciting hearing what the delegation have been saying and hearing what the Committee have been asking about. It’s just been an incredible experience.” 

Ally said: “It’s been fantastic meeting Committee members, hearing from the government delegation, and then to be able to report on it. It’s also been interesting to see such a huge delegation of children and young people here. There are so many people involved in the whole process.” 

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