Children as Human Rights Defenders

Children across Scotland are realising their capacity as human rights defenders. 

Between March 2018 and June 2019, Children’s Parliament worked with experienced Members of Children’s Parliament to design and deliver Children as Human Rights Defenders; a programme exploring children’s views on what rights they feel need to be defended in Scotland and what support is required from adults to ensure children can be both empowered and protected in their role as human rights defenders.


2018 was both the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the 70th Anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. To mark this occasion, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child chose ‘Children as Human Rights Defenders’ as the theme for its Day of General Discussion in September 2018. To prepare for this event, Members of Children’s Parliament worked with local, national and global networks of children to advocate for the realisation of their rights, their peers’ rights and the human rights of all. 

What we did

  • Two Members of Children’s Parliament participated in the international Children’s Advisory Team for Child Rights Connect, helping to design the UNCRC Day of General Discussion (DGD), September 2018. Watch Hannah talk her about her experiences as a Child Advisor here.  
  • Over 200 children across Scotland were introduced to their rights as outlined in the UNCRC. These workshops were designed and co-delivered by Members of Children’s Parliament supported by an adult staff team. 
  • The evidence, collected through the children’s workshops, was represented through an art exhibition of five giant shields. These were exhibited internationally at the UNCRC Day of General Discussion; nationally at the Children’s Parliament National Sitting in November 2018 and Human Rights Day Takeover at Scottish Parliament in December 2018; as well as locally at a stakeholder event in East Lothian in May 2019. Before making their way to their permanent home at Ross High School in Tranent, East Lothian, the shields were exhibited at the World Community Development Conference in Dundee in June 2019.  

Working together for a shared vision

A collaborative, participative approach ensured that the programme’s outcomes were embedded at local, national and international levels. Children as Human Rights Defenders was a partnership between Children’s Parliament and the following strategic organisations: 

  • Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS) 
  • Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) 
  • Child Rights Connect and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child 
  • East Lothian Council  
  • Recharge Youth Project 


Building on our learning from this project in Scotland, we designed a toolkit for individuals and organisations who wish to explore the role and support that children need from adults in order to be empowered and protected as human rights defenders.
There are two parts to this toolkit.
Part 1: background to the initial project and some suggestions as to how to apply a children’s human-rights based approach to this work.
Part 2: practical activities for you to undertake a similar project. 

We hope this toolkit will: 

  • Support you in recognising the role of children in defending their human rights and opening up conversations about what adults can do to empower and protect child human rights defenders.
  • Provide you with creative, rights-based activities to explore these issues with and for children.
  • Increase children’s participation and engagement in local, national and international decision-making, in turn, demonstrating the positive impact of a children’s human rights approach in improving outcomes for children.

The final film for the project can be used in context of the toolkit to bring the children’s experience to life:

Date: 2018
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