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Defending rights with a shield

Child Human Rights Defenders to travel to Geneva

Every good superhero needs a shield, and that’s just what a group of young Scottish Human Rights Defenders have taken to Geneva this week.

The 12 children – who are from Tranent in East Lothian and aged 11-13 – have helped involve 200 more children across Scotland to explore and present their views of defending human rights.

They also helped the children look at what they need from adults so they feel able to act as rights defenders, and so they’re all protected when they do.

Children's Parliament Shield: Having an imagination

A year of Human Rights Defenders

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and the 70th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

To celebrate, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has chosen Children as Human Rights Defenders as the theme for its Day of General Discussion (DGD) in September 2018.

People of any age act as Human Rights Defenders when they promote or protect human rights, whether they do so alone or with others. But children and young people aren’t always recognised as defending human rights or supported so that they can, and this DGD aims to come up with ways that this can change.

Preparing for the DGD

Children from Scotland travelling to Geneva

Children from Scotland who are Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) have been involved in the runup to the DGD. Two of them – Hannah and Cameron – travelled to Geneva earlier this year to help the UN plan the day. They were the only children from the UK represented, working alongside children from across the world.

Together with 10 other MCPs, Hannah and Cameron have created a set of five giant papier-maché shields reflecting five human rights themes that children across Scotland feel are most significant, including the importance of play, learning, diversity, safety and love.
The shields are now being presented to the United Nations in Geneva and are on display until the end of the month.

And the MCPs will be in Geneva for the discussion day, representing the views of children from across Scotland on the global stage.
Just before heading to Geneva, Hannah said:

“Don’t be afraid to speak up and defend what’s important to you. We need to look after rights and make sure that they are always there for every child, every human.”

Another of the young participants, Dylan, explained why he thinks being a Human Rights Defender is important:

“Children as Human Rights Defenders is a great theme for the DGD as adults don’t always know what’s important in our world.

“If someone is being bullied, I speak up. If rights are not being respected, I fix that problem.”

Children & Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson, said:

“People often think of adults in faraway places when they hear the term human rights defender, but children and young people in communities across Scotland are making a difference by defending their rights and the rights of others— and we should recognise and celebrate their important work.

“It is my role to ensure that children are supported and protected when they challenge and speak truth to power. Children don’t have the same political or economic power as adults and are often excluded from decision making, yet we see children and young people from across Scotland changing lives as human rights defenders on a local, national and international level.”