On January 1, 1995 the first year of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education begun. The United Nations held some ceremonies launching the Decade which did not get to the attention of many people in the Asia-Pacific due to inadequate promotion through the media and other means.
The Decade, however, received considerable attention among some NGOs in the region who saw in it the potential for positive collaborative work with governments. The Decade is likewise viewed as a justification for continuing (and expanding) human rights education work among grassroots communities. Several NGOs implemented plans under the banner of the Decade.
As human rights education continuously gets mentioned in intergovernmental fora as one of the key areas of concern, matching actions are naturally expected to be seen. There are some indications that concrete actions do exist. The Japanese Cabinet has created a Committee on Human Rights Education. The national human rights institutions in India, Indonesia and the Philippines report their HRE activities. The same may be said of the national human rights institutions in Australia and New Zealand (Aotearoa).
Before the first year ended, several Asian and Pacific governments sent representatives to a workshop on human rights education and development - a most timely issue at this point in Asia-Pacific history. This workshop was likewise attended by NGO representatives.
Though there is still much to be desired, the first year was not a bad start.
What the first year shows is the fact that there is still much to be accomplished in the human rights education field. The ongoing discussions about the value and meaning of human rights education is good but there need to be more human rights education actions. There are still many people within the government, and in the society as a whole, who need to be affected by human rights education.
The recent Asia-Pacific intergovernmental workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights in Kathmandu organized by the United Nations is the latest expression of governmental support for human rights education. In its conclusions, it recognized the importance of human rights education for both the promotion and protection of human rights as well as recommended the development of national programs on human rights education, during and beyond the Decade, and sharing of the experiences in the region regarding such programs. This is considered as one area for regional cooperation which can eventually lead to the establishment of a regional arrangement for human rights.
With this, we must move on.