National Taskforce for Human Rights: leadership report

The report and recommendations of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.

Annex F: Glossary of Terms

Aarhus Convention

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters that was adopted in June 1998 in Aarhus, Denmark.


Human rights laws create legal duties. If governments and public bodies fail to protect human rights, there should be effective and fair ways for people to challenge this.


Primary legislation which creates a new law or changes an existing law.

Best practice

A working method or set of working methods that is officially accepted as being the best to use in a particular scenario.


Is a formal proposal for primary legislation to create a new law, or a change in the law, that is put forward for consideration by Parliament.

Bonavero Institute

The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights is a research institute within the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford.


The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly.


The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly.


The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1965 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Civil and political rights

Rights which protect our freedoms, such as right to life, right to liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of belief, freedom of association.

Civil society

Is the "third sector" of society, along with government and business. It comprises civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations.

Comparative law

This is a field of law which looks to compare experiences in different countries or jurisdictions, for various purposes, such as undertaking legal reform.

Concluding Observations

Concluding observations are the observations and recommendations issued by a treaty body after consideration of a State party's report. Concluding observations refer both to positive aspects of a State's implementation of the treaty and areas where the treaty body recommends that further action needs to be taken by the State.


The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, being held in Glasgow in November 2021.

Council of Europe

This organisation protects human rights, democracy and the rule of law through overseeing the implementation of the ECHR. Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe includes 47 member states, 27 of which are members of the European Union.


The infectious disease caused by the coronavirus that led to a global pandemic being declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020.


The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international human rights treaty adopted in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Devolved competence

Devolution is a system of government which allows decisions to be made at a more local level. In the UK there are several examples of devolved government including devolved legislatures like the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament has power over all aspects of life in Scotland which are not reserved under the Scotland Act 1998. The powers it has fall within devolved competence.


Are those who have a particular obligation or responsibility to respect, promote and fulfil human rights and to abstain from human rights violations, including, Governments, public bodies and other actors.

European Convention on Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a Council of Europe (not EU) treaty that protects civil and political rights of people in countries that belong to the Council of Europe, it came into force in 1953.

Economic, social and cultural rights

Rights which we need to live in dignity, for example rights to health, housing, food, social security, and protection against poverty.

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is an independent public body which operates across the UK. In relation to human rights in Scotland, the EHRC's remit covers human rights issues arising in reserved areas.

Equalities and Human Rights Committee

A committee of the Scottish Parliament which considers and reports on matters relating to equalities and human rights including their observance.

Equality Act

The Equality Act 2010 provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.

European Charter of Fundamental Rights

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrines certain political, social and economic rights for EU citizens. The Charter became legally binding on EU member states when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force in December 2009.

European Social Charter

A Council of Europe treaty that guarantees fundamental social and economic rights as a counterpart to the European Convention on Human Rights. The original version from 1961 has been ratified by the UK. A revised version from 1996 has not yet been ratified by the UK, so is not in force as respects the UK.

European Union (EU)

Is a group of 27 countries that operates as a cohesive economic and political block.

Fairer Scotland Duty

Places a legal responsibility on particular public bodies in Scotland (under Part 1 of the Equality Act) to actively consider how they can reduce inequalities of outcome caused by socio-economic disadvantage, when making strategic decisions.

First Minister's Advisory Group (FMAG) Report

The FMAG on Human Rights Leadership was set up by Scotland's First Minister to make recommendations on how Scotland can continue to lead by example in the field of human rights. The report was published on 10 December 2018.

First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls

The National Advisory Council on Women and Girls exists to advise the First Minister on what's needed to tackle gender inequality in Scotland through annual reports that demonstrate their findings and recommendations.

General Comments

These are comments developed by the committees in charge of monitoring the different UN human rights treaties. They advise on how we should understand and interpret human rights.

Human rights

Are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world. They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted.

Human Right Act

The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. It incorporates most of the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic British law.


The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1966 by the United Nations General Assembly.


The idea of including UN treaty rights within our domestic law in Scotland. Although after ratifying a treaty a state has consented to be bound by the treaty in international law, unless the rights are incorporated into our law they can be difficult to uphold under our law.

Independent advocacy

Is a way to help people have as much control as possible over their own lives, it is standing alongside people who are marginalised and speaking on behalf of people who are unable to do so for themselves.


The idea that all human rights are equally important. Economic, social and cultural rights are as important to human dignity as civil and political rights.

Istanbul Convention

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence opened for signature in 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.


The judicial authorities of a country; judges collectively.


A law or set of laws, usually suggested by Government, approved by Parliament.

Maximum available resources

The idea that a country spends as much of its budget as it can on making economic, social and cultural rights real.


The idea that things should get better, not worse; governments should not take decisions which they know will create setbacks in making rights real.

National Performance Framework (NPF)

Is a Scottish Government framework that provides broad measures of national wellbeing covering a range of economic, health, social and environmental indicators and targets.


The worldwide spread of a new disease. In this report, 'pandemic' refers to the 'Covid pandemic'.

Progressive realisation

The idea that some rights can be made real over time rather than immediately; the United Nations recognises that in some cases it is not possible for governments to ensure that everyone gets their economic, social and cultural rights straight away. However, governments still have to take continual action toward realising rights.

Public Sector Equality Duty

The duty in section 149 of the Equality Act on public authorities to have due regard, when carrying out their functions, to the equality and non-discrimination needs listed in that section.


An act by which a State signifies an agreement to be bound in international law by the terms of a particular treaty. To ratify a treaty, the State first signs it and then fulfils its own national legislative requirements.


A return to a previous and less advanced or worse state. The opposite of non-regression.


In international human rights law, appropriate remedies can come in the form of:

  • Restitution – restoring the victim to the original situation before their rights were violated;
  • Compensation – providing economic damages;
  • Satisfaction – can include: finding out the truth, an apology, proper investigation and commemorations and tributes;
  • Rehabilitation –including medical and psychological care as well as legal and social services; and
  • Guarantees of non-repetition – steps so that the violation cannot occur again.

Respect, Protect, Fulfil

This is a way of describing the different types of duties which governments have towards people's human rights:

  • Respect means that governments must not act in a way that violates people's human rights.
  • Protect means that governments must protect people's rights from being violated by the actions of others.
  • Fulfil means that governments must take positive steps to ensure that people's rights are real.


Are individuals who can, therefore, ask that their human rights are respected. Duty-bearers are responsible for upholding rights, they can be held accountable for not respecting the rights of individuals.

Scottish Human Rights Commission

The Scottish Human Rights Commission is an independent public body which promotes and protects human rights for everyone in Scotland.

Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights (SNAP)

SNAP – Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights – was launched in 2013 as a roadmap to giving effect to Scotland's international human rights obligations.

Scrutiny bodies

Made up of regulators, inspectorates and complaints handling bodies (there may often be overlap between these three areas):

  • Regulators/regulatory body
    Exercise a regulatory function, including; imposing requirements, restrictions and conditions, setting standards in relation to any activity, and securing compliance, or enforcement. Regulatory bodies are usually established and given powers by an Act.
  • Inspectorates
    Bodies which inspect and report on organisations/activities in their relevant field.
  • Complaints-handling bodies
    Bodies who look into complaints about companies and organisations (an ombudsman is a person who has been appointed to look into such complaints).

Structural interdict

A remedy for structural issues whereby the courts order a set of measures to be implemented, then play a part in monitoring the compliance of the measures until the court is satisfied the violation has been remedied.

Sufficient interest

In law, 'standing' is the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to the case in order to bring an action. While standing differs between jurisdictions, a person or organisation with the ability to demonstrate 'sufficient interest' is one of many methods of determining standing internationally.


A treaty is an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law.

Treaty body

A committee of independent experts appointed to monitor the implementation by State parties of the core international human rights treaties.


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1989 by the United Nations General Assembly.

UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 1st September 2020.

United Nations (UN)

Is an international organisation founded in 1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States. The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.



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