Human rights monitoring

As part of the UK, Scotland has made many human rights promises to children and young people. Human rights monitoring is how we make sure they keep them.

Background to monitoring human rights


We can find out if Scotland and the UK are keeping their human rights promises by:

  • asking young people who live here about their lives and any challenges they face,
  • asking decision-makers like the Government and local councils what work they are doing and laws they are making to protect and promote children’s human rights,
  • asking organisations and researchers who know a lot about children and young people to tell us if they think Scotland isn’t keeping its human rights promises.

International human rights treaties and agreements, such as the UNCRC, are developed through a process of negotiation among Member States of the UN. Individual States then decide for themselves whether to be legally bound by the treaty— to sign and ratify it.

When a state like the UK signs and ratifies an international treaty – as it has done with the UNCRC – then it’s pledged to make sure its domestic laws and policies comply with it.


The domestic laws of a country are laws that can be upheld in its courts.

Scots law is the kind of domestic law that’s enforced in Scotland’s courts.

If someone wasn’t keeping promises they’d made under an Act of the Scottish Parliament, or an Act of the UK Parliament that applies to Scotland, they’d be breaking domestic law, and so could be taken to a Scottish court.

If they weren’t keeping promises made under international law this couldn’t happen, unless those promises had also been written into domestic law.

Which human rights treaties has the UK signed?

In addition to the UNCRC, the UK has signed human rights agreements including:

  • the European Convention on Human Rights
  • the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights
  • the UN Convention on Discrimination against Women
  • the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,
  • the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination, and
  • the European Social Charter.

Read the full list of human rights agreements signed by the UK.

What can we do if Scotland and the UK don’t keep their human rights promises?

Children’s rights defenders, including the Commissioner, have an important role to play in human rights monitoring. When we find out that Scotland and the UK are not keeping their human rights promises, we can tell the UN or Council of Europe.

There are different processes across the UN and CoE for monitoring how well States keep their human rights promises. Once the UN or CoE have read evidence from the Commissioner’s office and others, they can then question and put pressure on the government to make things better for children and young people in Scotland.

Monitoring human rights: 2020-22

Between 2020 and 2022, we are working with other Children’s Commissioners and children and young people, on a big report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Our report from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales was submitted to the Committee in November 2022.

Read about how we report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.


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