Everyone has the right to participate in decisions which affect their human rights. Participation must be active, free, meaningful and give attention to issues of accessibility, including access to information in a form and a language which can be understood. The provision of independent advocacy is fundamentally about enabling people who may require help in speaking for themselves to participate in decisions that affect them, whether they be about healthcare, social activities or legal processes.
Accountability requires effective monitoring of human rights standards as well as effective remedies for human rights breaches. For accountability to be effective there must be appropriate laws, policies, institutions, administrative procedures and mechanisms of redress in order to secure human rights. Independent advocacy helps people to access a wide range of accountability mechanisms such as complaints processes, courts and tribunals.
A human rights based approach means that all forms of discrimination in the realisation of rights must be prohibited, prevented and eliminated. It also requires the prioritisation of those in the most marginalised situations who face the biggest barriers to realising their rights. There are times when those in need of independent advocacy can be amongst some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society – a human rights based approach means we must pay particular attention to the protection and realisation of their rights. Sometimes, because of their support needs, people are discriminated against in access to services or in opportunities to express their views. People also have different identities based on their gender, ethnicity, religion and many other grounds. Each of these identities should be respected when receiving any services, including independent advocacy.
A human rights based approach means that individuals and communities should know their rights. It also means that they should be fully supported to participate in the development of policy and practices which affect their lives and to claim rights where necessary. Independent advocacy plays an essential role in helping people to know and understand their rights, participate in legal processes and hold decision makers to account.
A human rights based approach requires the recognition of rights as legally enforceable entitlements and is linked in with national and international human rights law. All public bodies in Scotland must be sure that their practices and procedures are grounded in human rights thinking. Under the law they must not breach the human rights of anyone. The situations which independent advocacy supports people are grounded in legally enforceable human rights, such as the right to private and family life, the right to liberty and the right to a fair trial. They are also grounded in non-legally enforceable, but internationally agreed human rights such as the right to health, the right to education and the right to an adequate standard of living. Making the explicit connection to human rights helps back up representations made on behalf of people.