Monday 9th December marked International Day of Human Rights Defenders and 2019 marks 21 years since the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
People who defend human rights across the globe often do so at incredible risk to themselves and their families. Challenging brutality, oppression and injustice carries great risk, and holding powerful people to account, wherever a person is based and whatever power those people have over them, is never risk free.
As a good global citizen, the Scottish Government is committed to securing democracy, the rule of law and human rights across the world. Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to endorse the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, which are fully embedded in the national performance framework.
We live in turbulent times, in a world in which many people’s rights in many countries are under threat, so we in Scotland must stand in solidarity with those who seek freedom and justice through dialogue and democracy.
Here in Scotland, the Scottish Government demonstrates a commitment to human rights in policy making and delivery in a huge number of ways. On the final day of 16 days of activism, I would like not only to recognise the good work in the equally safe strategy, but to acknowledge the work that is still to be done to gain equality for women and girls. So far this year, 90 women have been murdered by their partners. Violence against women is a violation of women’s fundamental human rights: the right to life, the right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman and degrading way, and the right not to be discriminated against.
Here in our developed wealthy country, there are still far too many people whose human rights are not realised. I hope that we can have the courage of the human rights defenders whom we host in dealing with those injustices, and that we can be brave, honest and focused as we navigate the challenges of defending rights, particularly where rights can be perceived to be competing. Let us resolve never to shy away from speaking our truth to power, or from listening openly and generously to those who speak theirs to us.