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United Nations' 70th Anniversary

Scotland and the United Nations

On 24 October 2015 Scotland celebrated the United Nations' 70th anniversary by lighting the iconic Edinburgh Castle blue as part of the global initiative to turn the World UN Blue.

Edinburgh Castle

Scotland shares the UN’s value and goals – peace, development and human right - and is committed to promoting them. That is why the Scottish Government is proud to support, and to cooperate with the UN on a broad range of issues to achieve its objectives that will benefit people in Scotland and the world over. It has therefore placed cooperation with the United Nations and its partners at the centre of its International Framework’s strategic objectives on global partnerships and on international development.

Find out more how this is done in the areas of:

International Development

The First Minister supporting the Sustainable Development GoalsScottish Government has worked directly to date to support the UN’s work on sustainable development as well as humanitarian and disaster relief. The Scottish Government is clear that Scotland has a unique contribution to offer the world, in support of UN priorities, through its people’s expertise on climate change and energy, education, health improvement and research along with the Scottish Government’s innovative approach to international development. Our international development policy, supported by a £9M per annum International Development Fund targeted on 7 priority countries and dedicated themes, seeks to harness existing links that Scotland has, and our model of civil society-led partnerships in our work in Malawi is of international interest. The Scottish Government has additionally responded to international humanitarian crises in recognition of Scotland's role as good global citizen, including through UNICEF, UNWRA and UNHCR.

For the Post 2015 Agenda, the Scottish Government was one of the first countries to sign up to implementation of the UN’s new Global Goals, recognising that many of the Goals chime with what we are already doing in Scotland to tackle poverty and inequality: we have identified existing domestic frameworks to ensure implementation domestically. We are also working to implement the new Global Goals through our international work, including our international development programme. We are further working with UNITAR Scotland on a programme entitled “Integrating the SDGs in Scotland”, to enable Scottish civic society to understand what the SDGs means for them and how to implement them through vertical and horizontal alignment.  

Human Rights

SNAPHuman rights have been integral to the United Nations from the beginning. The adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights laid the foundations for an international framework of treaties which enshrine respect for human dignity, and the principle that every person is born free and equal. The Scottish Government, working in partnership with the public, private and third sectors, remains fully committed to that original vision. By protecting and promoting human rights at home, and condemning abuses wherever they occur, Scotland is playing its own active part in supporting the work of the UN.

In keeping with UN recommendations, Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP) was launched in December 2013 as a roadmap for the progressive realisation of international human rights standards in Scotland.  The Scottish Government was closely involved in its development and is committed to working with partners from across Scottish society to take forward a shared vision of a Scotland in which everyone is able to live with human dignity.  SNAP contains commitments to improve cross-governmental coordination and engagement with civil society in implementing international obligations arising from UN treaties.  Alongside international experts, and speakers from Scottish civil society, the Scottish Government will contribute to a SNAP Innovation Forum in December 2015, examining how to give better effect to international human rights obligations in Scotland.

Seven ‘core’ United Nations human rights treaties apply in Scotland, covering civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; the prohibition of torture; and the rights of specific groups, such as children, disabled people and women.  The Scottish Government is committed to the principles set out in these treaties and to reflecting their requirements in law and policy. Scotland plays an active and committed part in UN reviews of progress on implementation, most recently under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (in July this year) and is  proud to welcome visits to Scotland by senior UN representatives, including Special Rapporteurs.

World Heritage

St Kilda World Heritage Site (picture provided by Historic Environment Scotland)The Scottish Government supports the values and objectives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) through our commitment to Scotland’s culture and heritage.  Scotland is home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with the Forth Bridge being the most recent to be given this status in July 2015, in recognition of these sites’ internationally significant cultural or natural heritage, whose outstanding universal value transcends national boundaries and are important for all of us and for future generations alike.  The Scottish Government, its agencies, individuals and organisations across the country work together to ensure our diverse historic environment is understood, valued, cared for and protected now, and for future generations.

As part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to the global heritage, Historic Scotland has been at the forefront of efforts to increase virtual access to heritage through the Scottish Ten project, with The Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio and non-profit organisation CyArk. The project has used cutting edge 3D technologies to create exceptionally accurate digital models of Scotland’s World Heritage sites and five international heritage sites. At a time when world heritage is increasingly threatened, when precious heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed due to conflict, poor safeguarding or a simple failure to prioritise their care for future generations, the Scottish Government hopes to continue to play a prominent role in digital documentation of our shared global heritage.

Each April on World Heritage Day, we celebrate our World Heritage Sites, recognising the important role which individuals and groups play in supporting these, and highlighting the cultural, social, environmental and economic benefits they bring individual communities.

Scotland is also the only country in the world to have three UNESCO creative cities, highlighting the central role that culture and creativity play in the sustainable development of our cities: Edinburgh was awarded UNESCO City of Literature status in 2005, Glasgow was awarded UNESCO City of Music status in 2009, and Dundee became a UNESCO City of Design in 2014. 

Climate Change

SE4all launchThe Scottish Government is strongly supporting UN efforts to secure an ambitious climate change agreement at Paris in December 2015 to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius or less and avoid the worst impacts of climate change falling on the global poor and vulnerable.  Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has said, “Scotland’s ambition to create a strong and healthy renewables sector and a low carbon economy is a shining example of measures that can be taken to diversify energy supplies, attain energy security and attract investments. With its actions, Scotland joins the ever increasing interconnected ecosystem of global climate action that must carry us towards a truly sustainable, climate-resilient future”

In 2012, Ban Ki Moon asked Scotland’s First Minister to support the UN’s Sustainable Energy For All initiative (SE4ALL), in recognition of Scotland’s leadership on renewable energy and climate change. Since 2012 the Scottish Government has made over £3.8 million available from the International Development Fund for off-grid community energy projects in Malawi. This contribution funded our flagship Malawi Renewable Energy Acceleration Programme (MREAP), which is part of our International Development Programme. Between 2012-2015 MREAP brought new or improved energy access to nearly 80,000 people in rural Malawi, through a range of technologies including efficient cook stoves, solar pumps, solar panels for electricity, and solar lanterns.  We are also working towards delivering two specific commitments on SE4ALL: seconding an energy policy expert to the Government of Malawi, and developing a community renewables toolkit.

Scotland is sharing the learning, particularly on community energy, globally as a further development contribution and has received international recognition for this work.  The European launch of UN Sustainable Energy for All was held in Glasgow during the 2014 Commonwealth Games where Dr Kandeh Yumkella, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All and UN Special Representative praised Scotland’s championing of climate justice.


Children’s Rights - UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

UN Rights of the Child - image provided by the CYPCS The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is one of the core international human rights treaties - a universally agreed set of minimum child rights standards which is the most widely ratified of all the international conventions.  Having played a key role in negotiating its 54 Articles, the UK Government ratified the UNCRC in 1991.  The 18-member UN Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors the implementation of the Convention, and provides guidance to governments in the interpretation of the Articles of the Convention through the publication of General Comments.  The Scottish Government contributes fully to the monitoring and reporting process. 

Scotland’s UNCRC action plan, Do the Right Thing, sets out priority actions to improve children’s rights in 21 areas of work, based on the UN Committee’s 2008 set of Concluding Observations. A progress report was published in 2012.  The Scottish Government’s submission to the UK Government’s fifth periodic report sets out actions taken by government since the 2008 examination before the UN Committee. The UK Government is due to be next examined by the Committee in 2016.

The Scottish Government has made a clear commitment to progressing UNCRC implementation, reflecting the Convention’s principles in domestic law and policy, where it is right and proper to do so. The UNCRC is at the heart of our commitment to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.  It underpins Scotland’s unique Getting it Right for Every Child approach to improving the wellbeing of children and young people.

From 15 June 2015, the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 placed new duties on Scottish Ministers to keep under consideration whether there are steps that can be taken to give better or further effect to the UNCRC, taking action as appropriate, to promote and raise awareness of children’s rights in Scotland and to report to the Scottish Parliament every 3 years on relevant progress.  The views of children and young people will be integral to the effective implementation of these new duties.  The 2014 Act also requires specified public authorities to report every 3 years on the steps taken in that period to secure better or further effect of the UNCRC requirements.  These provisions are due to be commenced in April 2017.  In addition, Scottish Government officials have developed, in consultation with partners, a model for Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIA) for use across Government from 15 June 2015.  This will ensure that Government must consider the extent to which proposed policies will impact on the rights and wellbeing of children in Scotland.  It will also make sure that we listen to the views and voices of children and young people themselves.

Public Health

Picture provided by World Hepatitis SummitScottish Government has worked directly to support the UN’s work on health by working closely with the World Health Organization on viral hepatitis. This included seconding a member of NHS Scotland to the WHO during 2014 to support work to develop the Global Hepatitis Programme, building on the world-leading experience Scotland has in responding to hepatitis C. This work led directly to the first World Hepatitis Summit in Glasgow in September 2015. This was a joint World Health Organization/World Hepatitis Alliance summit which the Scottish Government hosted. The event brought together patients, policy makers, public health and global funders to build momentum and to support the WHO Global Hepatitis Programme.



Image credits (in order): Crown Copyright: HES (Edinburgh Castle), Scottish Government (SDGs), Scottish Government (SNAP), Crown Copyright: HES (St Kilda), Scottish Government (SE4all launch), Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland (UN Rights of the Child), World Hepatitis Summit (World Hepatitis Summit panel).