A report published by the Danish Institute of Human Rights in 2022 estimates that at least 140 national human rights action plans (NHRAPs) have been adopted in 75 countries. Like Scotland, 35 countries have adopted more than one plan.
The development of SNAP builds on the experience of European countries such as Finland, Sweden and Spain and Commonwealth countries such as Australia, South Africa and New Zealand as well as guidance from the United Nations, Council of Europe and Commonwealth.
Over the past three decades the UN has encouraged and supported countries to develop NHRAPs), stressing their importance in identifying gaps in human rights protection, clarifying the responsibilities of States, and establishing monitoring systems so that progress made in promoting and fulfilling human rights protection can be measured over time.
In 2009, the Council of Europe (CoE) also recommended that national human rights action plans be used to systematically implement human rights by countries across Europe – a message the CoE repeated in 2017.
Scotland has the benefit of learning from the experience of others in developing a NHRAP, and reflections on this are below.
Mattias Falk, former International Coordinator of the Swedish Equality Ombudsman said “Our experience of National Action Plans in Sweden, where the Government is currently drafting its third action plan, has been both positive and productive. The purpose of the National Action plan was to carry out a coherent review of the human rights situation in Sweden and, on the basis of the review, to propose measures for more systematic work with human rights at the national level. We warmly welcome the development of a National Action Plan for Scotland and strongly recommend that everyone works together with the Scottish Human Rights Commission in this important process for securing human rights in Scotland.”
Sirpa Rautio, Director of the Human Rights Centre of Finland said: “Finland has recently adopted a National Action Plan on Fundamental and Human Rights, which translates into concrete terms the duty to guarantee the observance of fundamental rights and human rights imposed on public authorities by the Constitution. The action plan will enhance the implementation of fundamental and human rights in Finland, and was drafted by a working group which brought together representatives of all Ministries, the Office of the Chancellor of Justice and the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The drafting process also involved open dialogue and engagement with representatives of NGOs and other human rights actors. We are very pleased to learn of the development of a National Action Plan in Scotland and offer our full support. National Action Plans are an important tool in the realisation of human rights, they can hold states to account, ensure coordination in implementing and reporting on international obligations and promote a culture of human rights.”
Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: “It is very important that countries develop and implement national action plans with the participation of civil society, public bodies, United Nations experts, academics, parliaments and individuals. National action plans can bring clarity to States in identifying the steps they must take to improve the promotion and protection of human rights, especially for the most vulnerable people. I am pleased to welcome the initiative taken by the Scottish Human Rights Commission to carry out this broad consultation.”
Nils Muižnieks, former Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe said: “I welcome the development of a National Action Plan for Human Rights in Scotland. To develop an action plan openly presenting problems and a process of developing practical solutions is a signal of commitment to human rights. Scotland is joining an increasing number of countries across Europe that have developed and implemented National Action Plans to support the full realization of human rights in practice. I look forward to engaging with this process.”
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