Getting our act together on human rights

Written by: David Allan, Deputy Director, Scottish Community Development Centre

David notes that human rights are a key part of community development practice and we all need the knowledge and skills to make rights real.

SCDC have recently become involved in a couple of pieces of work with an explicit focus on human rights. We’re working with the Scottish Human Rights Commission and Edinburgh Tenants Federation in organising a conference on human rights (this link will take you away from our website) and community development in early September. We’re also facilitating a conversation about the developing recommendations on human rights from the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership in Scotland (this link will take you away from our website) (phew – let’s just call it the FMAG for now!).

All this work has set me to thinking about my own knowledge and awareness of human rights which, despite the fact the fact I’ve been a community development worker all my life, is fairly low. So how do human rights relate to our broader work around community empowerment, engagement and participation?

As always there are strong connections across various strands of work, but a rights-based approach is the fundamental starting point for community development practice. We’re also seeing the development of human rights thinking beyond civil and political rights (which are still extremely important) to areas of social, economic, cultural and environmental rights, which is a very positive step. This direction of travel can only help us to ‘make rights real’ for people who experience discrimination, disadvantage and prejudice in this country.

The process of speaking to people about the developing recommendations from the FMAG (a new human rights act for Scotland being the top priority) has been fascinating. The passion of people who work in and with our most disadvantaged and excluded communities about human rights is both impressive and contagious. As is their fundamental commitment to making things happen for the better in helping people to realise their rights, sometimes despite the laws and the structures that we have rather than because of them.

If we can reflect even a small fraction of this passion and commitment in our report to the FMAG we will be doing well. We still have a lot of discussions and conversations to have – there’s an online survey that will be coming out soon and we’re doing workshops in Glasgow (fully booked, sorry!), Dundee (17 September) and Inverness (25 September) (places still available – you can book online here (this link will take you away from our website)) so there will be plenty of more opportunities for you to have your say. You can get more information from the human rights leadership website (this link will take you away from our website) on what else is happening.

I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation and hopeful that this will be just a small first step in a process which we hope will be more extensive, broad-reaching and participatory over the coming months and years.

David Allan is Deputy Director at the Scottish Community Development Centre, the lead body for community development in Scotland.

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