The Commission has a unique role as a bridge between Scotland and the international human rights system.
Scotland is signed up to many international human rights obligations, set out in laws, treaties and conventions, as part of the United Kingdom.
Our international work spans a broad range of issues from the treaties themselves, including business and human rights, climate change and social justice, and refugees and asylum seekers.
The Commission is Scotland's National Human Rights Institution (NHRI). NHRIs are independent bodies established to stand up for those in need of protection and to hold governments to account for their human rights obligations. They also help shape laws, policies and attitudes that create stronger, fairer societies. NHRIs are supported and accredited within the United Nations by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Strong and effective NHRIs help bridge the "protection gap" between the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of the State by:
- Monitoring the human rights situation in the country and the actions of the State
- Providing advice to the State so that it can meet its international and domestic human rights commitments
- Undertaking human rights education programs for all sections of the community
- Engaging with the international human rights community to raise pressing issues and advocate for recommendations that can be made to the State
NHRIs act as a bridge between civil society and the State. As state-mandated bodies, independent of government, NHRIs sit between the state and civil society. They cooperate with a variety of civil society actors, and bring an accurate overview if the human rights situation, with recommendations, to governments, parliament and other state bodies.
NHRIs also act as a bridge between the national and international arenas. They apply international human rights standards on the national level, with a full understanding of the local context. At the same time, they report to international and regional human rights mechanisms a true picture of the human rights situation on the ground.
European and Global Networks
The Commission is one of 107 NHRIs worldwide that make up the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI). NHRIs are reviewed by GANHRI every five years to assess their effectiveness and their compliance with international standards. The Commission was reviewed in 2010 and 2015 and received the highest “A status” rating in both reviews.
At the global level we work closely with the United Nations, particularly the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). As an “A status” NHRI we have a special place within the UN system including speaking rights at the Human Rights Council and close engagement with UN Treaty Bodies.
The Commission is also an active member of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI), taking part in several working groups:
- Legal Working Group (focused on European human right structures)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Working Group
- Business and Human Rights Working Group
- Economic and Social Rights Working Group
Read ENNHRI's recent statement warning agains the weakening of the European Convention on Human Rights system.
The Commission also plays an active role in the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI) where it acts as a focal point on climate justice.
The Paris Principles
Our work complies with a set of guidelines called the Paris Principles.
These were adopted by the UN General Assembly and set out specific requirements that an “A Status” National Human Rights Institution must fulfil.
The Paris Principles require the Commission and other NHRIs to:
- have a foundation in national law
- be independent from government
- have a mandate to cover a broad range of international human rights standards
- demonstrate pluralism and independence in the selection and appointment of members
- have a responsibility to work with both civil society and the state.
Please note this process has been postponed by the relevant authorities because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation. We will update this page with new dates as soon as they are available.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission is starting the process of re-accreditation as a National Human Rights Institution in 2020. The Commission is currently accredited as an ‘A Status’ NHRI within the United Nations (UN) system.
This means the Commission can report directly to the UN on human rights issues and is the only Scottish organisation that can make direct contributions to the UN Human Rights Council. Our full duties and powers are set out in the Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act 2006.
The short animation below introduces our aims and approach. You can also read the animation script.
The accreditation process assesses our compliance with the Paris Principles both in law and in practice. The process is carried out by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) which is part of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI).
Civil society organisations in Scotland are encouraged to make submissions by 1 June 2020 about the functioning of the Commission. Full details can be found here.