About the Universal Periodic Review
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a peer review process to assess the human rights situation in every UN Member State. The UPR assesses how states are putting human rights into practice and it is an opportunity for countries to tell each other what they are doing to improve human rights and organisations like ours to highlight what could be better. Other countries can make recommendations on how to improve human rights in a country. The aim of the UPR is to improve the overall human rights situation in each member country and share best practice around the globe.
On 27th March 2023, the Human Rights Council accepted the Outcome of the United Kingdom’s Universal Periodic Review of its human rights compliance. We were pleased to see lots of recommendations on key issues relating to children’s human rights in Scotland, including ones from states we met with during the pre-session, including Chile, Finland, Sweden and Lithuania.
Poverty is the biggest human rights issue affecting children in Scotland and this was reflected in the recommendations. It was disappointing that the UK Government said that they thought they have “a robust approach to tackling poverty” despite the evidence that reforms to social security are having a hugely detrimental impact on children.
A total of 14 countries recommended that the age of criminal responsibility be raised at least in line with the international minimum acceptable age of 14. This needs to be done immediately and the Scottish Government should be looking at raising it to at least 16, as we recommended in our joint report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
While some contributions to the UPR process highlighted the progress in Scotland on incorporation of UN treaties, the UK Government rejected calls for incorporation of rights at a UK level. It is essential that the Scottish Government brings the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill back to the Scottish Parliament for reconsideration as a matter of urgency and commits to immediate commencement to mitigate the two year delay.
A number of recommendations were also made about the Bill of Rights Bill. The UK Government told the Human Rights Council that the Bill wouldn’t reduce human rights protections. We disagree.
Worryingly, the potential impact of the Illegal Migration Bill introduced by the UK Government on 7th March 2023 and rapidly progressing through the parliament, received very little scrutiny. The UK Government was unable to confirm that the Bill is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights when it was introduced.
The UK Government has agreed to provide the Human Rights Council with an update on their recommendations in 2025.
Topics and issues raised
On Monday 29th August, at a UPR pre-sessional, the Commissioner provided delegations from around the world with an outline of some of the main issues affecting children’s rights in Scotland today.
The UPR pre-sessional provides human rights institutions and civil society organisations with an opportunity to speak directly with diplomats from around the world, but competition for a speaking slot is fierce – the Commissioner is only 3 speakers from Scotland and only 8 from the UK and he had only 5 minutes to speak.
The Commissioner highlighted the following issues:
- Incorporation and Accountability
- Youth Justice
- Restrictive practices (including restraint and seclusion
- Mental Health
- Education (particularly inclusive education)
These issues were partly informed by our Young Advisers’ written submission for the UPR.
Resources and Fact Sheets
If you are interested in exploring our work during the UPR further, then we have a range of resources. Here you can find copies of the Commissioner’s speech and presentation as well as fact sheets which were produced to help diplomats understand the topics the Commissioner discussed.
Speech and Presentation