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MHR Student Dedicates Summer to Defending Children's Rights in Scotland

Student Internship Spotlight: Katie Burke
September 23, 2019

Katie Burke is a second year Masters of Human Rights student with a concentration in children's rights and a minor in law. She spent this summer in her home country of Scotland interning with Together, the Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights. We asked Katie to tell us a bit about her internship experience, the work it entailed, and what she gained from it:

With the help of the Human Rights Program I interned this summer at Together, the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, which is a coalition non-profit that works with children’s charities across Scotland to promote adherence to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). I was based in the wonderful city of Edinburgh, Scotland, working to research and draft a comprehensive report, called the State of Children’s Rights. This report – written every 3 years - lays out the challenges in policy and practice to realising children’s rights in Scotland. My research focused on issues of civil and political freedoms and violence against children. 

My day-to-day work involved examining recommendations from the UN Committees, speaking to experts across the sector in Scotland and reading research reports on specific issue areas. There really was no typical day for me – my mornings ranged from attending parliamentary committees and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament, to desk research and data analysis or meeting with senior police officers to discuss practices used against children in custody that breach their rights.  The report will be published on International Human Rights Day, December 10th.

Together has spent the last 10 years leading calls in Scotland to incorporate the UNCRC into scots law. It is currently a very exciting time for human rights advocates there as our government has recently committed to incorporating the international children’s rights treaty before the next national elections in 2021, and has opened up a national consultation on the issue. UNCRC incorporation is the opportunity of a lifetime for Scottish young people and it is vital that we get it right. Because of this, my team spent the summer partnering with charities, children and young people across Scotland to help them understand the consultation, and working with the government to help them draft legislation that is truly a “gold standard” for human rights in Scotland. As a part of this work I wrote two briefings – one for children and the other for young people – to help them better understand the consultation and have their voices heard in the process of shaping the legislation that will be the bedrock for children’s rights in Scotland going forward. 

My internship really gave me hands on experience with the research and advocacy that goes into human rights work, and has taught me so much about the value of teamwork across sectors in advancing policy change. I now feel empowered to conduct human rights research independently, and am looking forward this year studying at the University of Minnesota to learn even more about how to be a better advocate for children and young people. I’m also very excited that my summer internship has now turned into a part time job – albeit working remotely - with Together’s office in Scotland whilst I complete my studies this semester!

Katie with a copy of the 2016 State of Children’s Rights Report
Katie with a copy of the 2016 State of Children’s Rights Report