So what prospects does 2008 offer for a humble Scottish human rights campaigner? On the one hand I expect well see more of the same in the sense of human rights being dragged through the media as part criminals charter, part distant concern about what one foreigner is doing to another. Well make the occasional front page but, as in 2007, most likely regarding prisoners wanting sex with their partners or caught having sex with their bicycles.
On the other hand we will at least have some new allies, with the Scottish Human Rights Commission finally arriving on the scene. At one point, when accused of being part of a human rights industry, I was able to point out that there are more professional banjo players in Scotland than there are professional human rights campaigners. Its always nice to win an argument, but come on. Amnestys experience in Northern Ireland is that there is plenty of space for both ourselves and a human rights commission so I look forward to working with them to build a human rights culture in Scotland. Theres a long way to go.
2008 will bring a new curriculum for Scotlands school students. A Curriculum for Excellence it may be, but will it be a curriculum for human rights? The latest draft made no reference to human rights so it remains to be seen how the Scottish Government will meet its international obligations to inform children about their rights.
Heres a New Years resolution for the Scottish Government keep up the welcome rhetoric of a new internationalism and start fleshing out what that actually means. In March it will be a year since the UK signed up to the European Convention Against Trafficking so take the opportunity to commit to providing the support and security that the victims of trafficking need. Enforce a policy against rendition flights at the eleven Scottish airports you control. And every time you pursue trade agreements with China, make sure they know that their human rights record is a real problem for you.
Finally, on the larger scale, 2008 is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that great triumph of hope in the face of adversity. I can think of no better way to mark the anniversary than by pushing to make all of those rights a reality, here and everywhere else. Whos up for it?
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