Child human rights defenders

A boy holding up a name badge signed by Scotland's First Minister.

In international law, human rights defenders are anyone who protects or promotes human rights— whether these are their own, or the rights of others.

A child human rights defender is someone who does this and is under 18.

When children and young people defend human rights in Scotland, they aren’t likely to be shot or thrown in jail. But there are still real reasons they might be reluctant to be human rights defenders – like fear of bullying or of not being taken seriously by adults – and real things adult duty bearers can do to help support them.


All adults can support children and young people to be human rights defenders, and that’s something we’d encourage them to do.

But there are some adults – duty bearers – who international law says have a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil children and young people’s rights.

Because the State is the main duty bearer when it comes to defending human rights, these responsibilities often fall on people who are employed by it.

These would include:

  • Scottish Ministers,
  • Scottish Government officials,
  • local authority staff,
  • teachers,
  • social workers,
  • health workers, such as doctors and nurses, and
  • police officers.

Child human rights defender resources

A stylised image of a smiling shield on a sun-like background.

The Rights of Child Human Rights Defenders: Implementation Guide

This guide from Child Rights Connect explains how to create a world where children are respected and protected when they act as human rights defenders. It was created with input from an Expert Advisory Group upon which the Commissioner sat.

Day of General Discussion 2018

In 2018 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child invited experts to discuss children as human rights defenders for a day of general discussion. Among these experts were several children and young people from Scotland, who talked about their own experiences as human rights defenders.

Learn about the experiences of Members of Children’s Parliament at the Day of General Discussion.

Read the report of the 2018 Day of General Discussion.

Back to top