UN human rights specialist visits Scotland to share expertise on economic and social rights

A United Nations specialist on human rights is visiting Scotland this week to share her international expertise on the best ways to protect people’s economic and social rights, including rights to food, housing, social security and health.

Virgínia Brás Gomes, Chair of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, will tell a 70-strong meeting of government officials, lawyers, public bodies and civil society groups that Scotland should incorporate economic and social rights directly into domestic law so that they become enforceable in Scotland’s courts.

The meeting takes place in Edinburgh on Monday 21st May and is being organised by the Scottish Human Rights Commission as part of a wider series of events on economic and social rights.

During her visit to Scotland, Ms Brás Gomes will also visit Leith in Edinburgh to meet a group of local residents who have been taking part in a pioneering project to realise their housing rights. The Housing Rights in Practice project, which began in 2015, has seen local people working together to monitor housing conditions, assess where these fall short of international human rights standards, and work with the local authority to secure housing improvements. The project is supported by the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Edinburgh Tenants Federation and Belfast-based Participation and the Practice of Rights.

Welcoming Ms Brás Gomes’ visit, Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission said:

“As a country, we’ve signed up to the international laws that set out our economic and social rights – these include the rights to housing, food, health and social security. It’s the Government’s responsibility to make sure these rights are realised for everyone. Putting them into Scottish law is one important way to make sure that happens.

“The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has global oversight of how these rights are implemented around the world. As its Chair, Virgínia Brás Gomes brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise about how to monitor and hold states to account for the realisation of economic and social rights and the benefits that can be achieved in people’s lives when this is done effectively. The Commission is delighted to welcome her to Scotland as part of our ongoing programme of work in this area.”

Speaking ahead of her arrival in Scotland, Ms Brás Gomes said:

“I am keen to see Scotland advance incorporation and justiciability of rights because it is the best way to realize economic, social and cultural rights for all, especially those most in need of protection by the State. These rights are everyday rights that are essential for people to live in dignity in everyday life. If Scotland wishes to honour its social justice commitments, it should pursue the incorporation debate without losing momentum and make economic, social and cultural rights justiciable in Scotland’s courts. In the present context of Brexit, every day matters and every argument counts.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with Virgínia Brás Gomes or Judith Robertson, contact Emma Hutton on 07833 402289 or emma.hutton@scottishhumanrights.com.