Human Rights Impact Assessment

Equality and human rights impact assessments (EQHRIAs) are an important mechanism for enabling equality and human rights considerations to be embedded into the policies, practices, procedures and priorities of both government and  public bodies in Scotland.

In an environment where there are financial constraints, a human rights framework can provide objective guidance which will assist balanced decision making on the use of resources. These criteria include:

  • maintaining those minimum services and standards necessary to enable a dignified existence
  • prioritising the most vulnerable and ensuring no direct or indirect discrimination
  • limiting the extent and duration of any retrogression. This is done by identifying and using the maximum available resources for the progressive realisation of rights.

The adoption of a human rights based approach can set legal ‘red lines’ below which state actions must not fall, for example by ensuring the cumulative effects of policy and practice do not allow people to fall in to situations of poverty.

It also ensures there is no disproportionate impact upon the most vulnerable by requiring a reasonable balance to be struck between any such impact and the potential cost savings. In this way better outcomes and improved performance will be achieved through taking account of the rights of individuals whose interests may otherwise be overlooked.

EQHRIAs can also encourage individuals and communities to participate in decision making processes, giving them ownership of decisions and transforming institutional cultures and decision making.

The Commission recommends approaches to human rights impact assessment are further explored by the Scottish Government as an overarching or integrated framework or guiding tool for the proliferation of impact assessment methodologies.