The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. It is intended to be a transformational agenda which provides a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its 169 targets are an urgent call for action by all countries. They provide a cohesive and indivisible combination of the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental. At their heart, they seek to realise everyone’s human rights. Stimulating action to eradicate poverty in all its forms and in doing so heal and secure the planet for future generations, leaving no one behind.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission (the Commission) was established by The Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act 2006, and formed in 2008. The Commission is the national human rights institution for Scotland and is independent of the Scottish Government and Parliament in the exercise of its functions. The Commission has a general duty to promote human rights and a series of specific powers to protect human rights for everyone in Scotland.
Recognising the potential of NHRIs, in 2015 the Mérida Declaration identified several important roles for NHRIs in the SDG agenda. These include: knowledge exchange; impact assessment; facilitating partnership working; enabling participation; collecting data; promoting human rights based approaches; monitoring progress; conducting inquiries; and facilitating access to justice.
In June 2019, the UK Government submitted its voluntary national review (VNR) of progress on the SDGs to the UN’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF), a document to which the Scottish Government contributed. To ensure a fuller reflection of Scottish progress and areas for improvement, a Scottish Supplementary Review has also been produced for Scotland by the SDG Network. This Network led by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, was created to support partnership working across Scotland and beyond to: build awareness of the SDGs; engage across civil society, government and business; support implementation where possible; and ensure all voices are heard by decision makers. The Commission is part of this growing network which now has 300+ people and organisations, including the Scottish Government, working together on the SDG Agenda.
The Commission welcomes the opportunity to provide this short briefing about our reflections on both Scotland’s and our own process of engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals. The scope of this briefing does not cover the progress under the specific Goals, as our contribution to this has been done via the SDG Network Scottish Supplementary Review. This briefing instead focuses on some of our key concerns (and areas of further action) within the Scottish Government’s current approach to SDG monitoring and implementation, as well as some reflections of the benefit a formal process for NHRI engagement could bring to the VNR process.