What do the words ‘young people’s rights’ mean to you? Obviously that’s the theme of our new national campaign, but does it go any deeper than that? If you’re serious about standing up for Scotland’s young people, it should.
When I think about young people’s rights, I think about the ability of every young person to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly wherever they go – whether that’s going to the shops with their friends, walking to or from school, or just waiting for a train. But sadly, young people can’t do this in many areas of Scotland because of ‘mosquito devices’, which violate the rights of young people.
I think about the right of every young person to be protected from economic exploitation, and be paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work. But again, this isn’t always the case, and thousands of young people fall foul to bad business practices every year, which again violate the rights of young people.
And I think about the right of every young person to know what their rights are. But so many in today’s world just don’t, because of a fundamental deficiency in our education system.
That’s why I’m delighted that back in June, we chose young people’s rights to be our new national campaign – change in this area is very sorely needed. It’s needed now, and SYP is absolutely the right organisation to deliver that change.
We’ve already seen what individual Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) can do to protect young people’s rights, so just imagine what all 160 of us can and will achieve by the end of this campaign next October.
Given the past successes of SYP campaigns, I’m optimistic that we’re going to make a real difference.
And that’s not only a political difference, in that we want to see decision-makers at all levels taking a human-rights based approach to policy and law-making, service provision and planning, and ensuring that Scotland’s young voices are at the heart of every decision they make. We also want every young person in Scotland to be aware of their rights, and most importantly, to be empowered to take action to defend and promote their own and other people’s rights.
After all, how can you know if your rights are being violated if you don’t know what they are in the first place?
To achieve this, we’ve split the campaign into three main themes: Advocacy, Action and Awareness.
The Advocacy theme is the overarching theme of the campaign, aiming to influence law, policy and practice at all levels of government in order to strengthen the protection of young people’s rights. This will include a call to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law to make it a legally binding convention.
That being said, we’re not limiting ourselves to the UNCRC – incorporation is only a part of our campaign. As SYP represents young people up to the age of 25, this campaign will not just focus on the UNCRC. Instead, it will take a broad approach to rights, calling for better awareness and the strengthening of rights wider than the UNCRC. This will make sure every young person in Scotland, not just those up to the age of 18, is recognised in all of the campaign activities, that young people are aware of and advocating their binding rights under the Human Rights Act (1998), and that rights protection is stronger when young people become adults.
As just two examples, we’ll be putting pressure on organisations we know are actively using ‘mosquito’ devices to deactivate them, and we’ll be trying to stamp out economic exploitation wherever we see it, among other things.
And that’s on top of a section of our campaign dedicated to over-18s regarding how Brexit might impact their rights – we’ll be fighting tooth and nail to ensure they will be protected.
Advocacy means taking action to make the change you want to see – we want to see young people’s rights protected better, and that’s exactly what this strand aims to do.
Then we have the Action theme, focused on the right of young people to have their opinions listened to on all matters affecting them (which is more or less everything!). SYP is built on the foundation of Article 12 of the UNCRC (the right to an opinion, and for it to be listened to), so this part of the campaign will be focused on strengthening the status of MSYPs at a local level and within national voluntary organisations, as well as enhancing links between SYP and stakeholders like the Scottish Parliament.
We’re the representative voice of Scotland’s young people, with a unique mandate to represent our peers across the country – it’s only right that we’re taken as seriously as we deserve to be, so we can be well-positioned to defend young people’s rights.
It’s through stronger links with decision-makers, improved relationships between MSPs and MSYPs, and being recognised as the democratically-elected voice of Scotland’s young people that we can stand up for young people with an even stronger collective voice, and this strand of the campaign hopes to achieve just that.
And that brings us on to the Awareness theme.
This is all about promoting young people’s rights to both young people and those responsible for upholding them, and empowering individuals to defend the rights of others. If there were official statistics about how many young people in Scotland actually know what their rights are, it pains me to say that I think the number would be very low.
As I’ve said before, it’s a deficiency in our education system that rights are not a statutory part of the curriculum, and as a result barely any young people leave school knowing what basic social, economic and cultural protections they’re entitled to.
Through a series of interactive workshops, social media activities, events, and consultations, this theme aims to change that.
And that is our national campaign.
Each and every one of our MSYPs has a key part to play over the coming year in strengthening the protection of young people’s rights, and I can’t wait to see what we achieve together.
So as of right now, the Scottish Youth Parliament is taking a stand.
We want better protection of young people’s rights. We want the UNCRC incorporated into Scots law. We want assurances that rights will not be affected by Brexit. We want every young person to know what protections they are entitled to, and to be empowered to take action.
Right Here, Right Now.
* To find out more about Right Here, Right Now, click here.