United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - concluding observations 2023: SG initial response

This report sets out the Scottish Government’s (SG) initial response to the UN Committee’s Concluding Observations. It outlines the progress made in relation to children’s rights in Scotland since the publication of the Position Statement of November 2022


Background to and Purpose of this Report

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s interactive dialogue session with the UK State party, including the devolved administrations, took place in Geneva on 18 and 19 May 2023. The Scottish Government participated as part of the UK Delegation.

Following this session, the UN Committee published its Concluding Observations for the UK on 2 June 2023. These set out around 200 recommendations for taking forward children’s rights. The Concluding Observations are relevant across a wide range of Scottish ministerial portfolio interests, including Equalities, Justice, Education, Health, and Environment.

This report provides the Scottish Government’s initial response to the UN Committee’s recommendations, as these relate to Scotland. Scottish Government reports and standalone position statements on progress made in taking forward the UNCRC do not form part of the formal documentation submitted to the UN Committee, nor are they part of the formal process for reporting to the UN Committee. Rather, they are intended to assist the Scottish Parliament, civil society, and other interested parties in engaging with treaty reporting processes and in scrutinising the Scottish Government’s human rights record. This report also includes updates on actions in our Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: Action Plan 2021 to 2024. An End of Plan report on this Action Plan will be published in autumn 2024.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights Treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of all children, regardless of their circumstances. The UK ratified the UNCRC in 1991. Governments are expected to do all they can to implement the UNCRC and to ensure all laws, policies and decisions which impact on children from birth to 18 years of age comply with their human rights as set out in the Convention.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors the UK State party’s compliance with the Convention through a process of cyclical reporting and in-person dialogue sessions. As part of the required reporting ahead of the May 2023 dialogue session, the Scottish Government contributed to the UK-wide response to the UN Committee’s List of Issues Prior to Reporting. This report, which included an update on relevant activity across all areas of the United Kingdom, was collated by the UK Government as the State party and forwarded to the UN Committee in June 2022. In addition, in November 2022, the Scottish Government published the Embedding Children’s Rights in Scotland: Position Statement which set out in detail progress made in further embedding children’s rights across Scotland.

Layout of Report and Next Steps

This report provides the Scottish Government’s initial response to the UN Committee’s Concluding Observations. It should be read alongside the Embedding Children’s Rights in Scotland: Position Statement, published in November 2022. Where relevant, this Report will include an update on steps taken since the publication of the Position Statement and possible next steps.

The document will follow the layout of the Concluding Observations, and the established format for reporting to the UN Committee, with individual chapters reflecting the cluster groupings of the articles of the UNCRC as follows:

  • Chapter 1 - General Measures of Implementation – focuses on the structures and resources to implement the UNCRC.
  • Chapter 2 - General Principles - focuses on upholding the four general principles of the UNCRC: the rights to be applied without discrimination; the best interests of the child to be a primary consideration; the right to life, survival, and development; and respect for the views of the child.
  • Chapter 3 – Civil Rights and Freedoms - focuses on children’s civil rights and freedoms, including children’s right to move freely in public spaces, to access information and to privacy.
  • Chapter 4 – Violence Against Children - focuses on preventing violence against children including abuse and neglect and the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • Chapter 5 – Family Environment and Alternative Care - focuses on the needs of children within families and the care system.
  • Chapter 6 – Basic Health and Wellbeing focuses on the basic health and welfare of all children and young people and the consideration of the rights of disabled children.
  • Chapter 7 – Education, Leisure, and Cultural Activities - focuses on the right of all children to an education that will help them to achieve their potential, without discrimination; the right to play and leisure and to participate in cultural life and the arts.
  • Chapters 8 and 9Special Protections and Optional Protocols focus on rights for children and young people who require special protection.

The Concluding Observations specifically identified six priority areas for action:

  • non-discrimination;
  • abuse, neglect, and sexual exploitation and abuse;
  • children deprived of a family environment;
  • mental health;
  • asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children; and
  • child justice.

This report includes a range of actions relevant to these priority areas.

The report will inform the ongoing discussions the Scottish Government is having with key stakeholders across policy areas as we take forward the Concluding Observations ahead of the next dialogue session with the UN Committee, which is due to take place in around 2030. We look forward to our engagement with children and young people, civil society, and public authorities as we advance children’s human rights in Scotland.

The next update from the Scottish Government on the Concluding Observations will be published in 2026, approximately half-way through the next UN Committee reporting cycle.


Email: UNCRCIncorporation@gov.scot

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