Lucy highlights some ALLIANCE human rights activity from this year and to mark Human Rights Day 2023.

On 10 December each year people around the globe observe Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is Freedom, Equality and Justice for All and 2023 also marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The UDHR is the foundation of international human rights law and the most translated document in the world. Created in the aftermath of the horrors of World War 2 and the Holocaust, it sets out some of our most basic, universal and inalienable human rights, including to equality, freedom from discrimination, and – as one of its drafters put it – “to live free from want and oppression”.

However, despite further great strides in international human rights since then, too may people continue to experience serious infringements of their rights, including here in Scotland.

Many of the issues in Scotland are well known, and I know that, like me, ALLIANCE readers will have their own personal and professional experiences. These issues are wide-ranging, persistent, and affect numerous sectors of our society.

Recognising the need for everyone’s rights to be respected, protected and fulfilled, the ALLIANCE has defended and championed human rights since our inception. Indeed, we pin our colours firmly to the mast with our vision, and rights run through our strategic plan like letters through a stick of rock.

This month, our Academy programme launched the Five Ambitions for the Future of Health and Care. Working closely with our members, we developed these to help realise our vision for the future, underpinned by human rights, equality, and intersectionality. We also published a piece about the importance of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for health and social care.

Earlier this year, the ALLIANCE commissioned independent research called The Opportunity is Now. This unpacks some of the questions and emerging issues in human rights, health, and social care. Featuring a range of case studies, the report is also accompanied by a series of Opinions from our members and partners, including experts by experience.

The voice of lived experience, our members, and partnership working are at the heart of what we do at the ALLIANCE. A great example of this in practice is the Human Rights Principles for Digital Health and Social Care, which we developed with Scottish Care and Voices of Experience (VOX).

Others include hosting the Action Group for Advancing Human Rights in Health and Social Care, and our work with civil society across the UK to campaign against the Rights Removal Bill and reform of the Human Rights Act. Meanwhile, our support for the National Collaborative has led to the publication of a national consultation on a draft Charter of Rights for people affected by substance use (open until 3 June 2024).

It’s welcome that the human rights rhetoric from Scottish leaders has been positive for some time. Two prominent initiatives in 2023 are the publication of SNAP 2 – Scotland’s second national human rights action plan – and a consultation on proposals to incorporate international human rights treaties into domestic law through a Scottish Human Rights Bill.

The ALLIANCE was heavily involved in the development of SNAP 2, as well as its predecessor SNAP 1. There are 54 specific, realistic and achievable actions in the new action plan, aimed at addressing injustices relating to a broad range of everyday rights like food, housing, private life, and health. Having been launched eight months ago, it’s time to put SNAP 2 into action; we cannot afford for it to be yet another strategy that sits on a shelf gathering dust.

SNAP 2 actions are also one way to plan and support the proposed Scottish Human Rights Bill. The ALLIANCE has been calling for human rights incorporation for many years, and worked closely with members and partners on our response to the public consultation on what should be in this Bill. We have signed an open joint letter calling on the First Minister and the Cabinet to make sure the Scottish Government put #AllOurRights into law for everyone, and a petition calling for an enforceable right to a healthy environment.

Last, but by no means least, we added our name to a joint open letter to the UK Prime Minister and other political leaders marking Human Rights Day, organised by the British Institute for Human Rights.

Having a specific day of the year to educate and mobilise around human rights is – as the UN notes – a powerful advocacy tool. But human rights are for everyone, every day, and it’s often our everyday rights that are the most at risk. That’s why we at the ALLIANCE will continue to pursue the work outlined above and to champion a Scotland where everyone can name, claim and enjoy their rights.

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