The first UN-sponsored Northeast Asia training workshop on human rights education in schools was held in Seoul on December 4-6, 1999. It was attended by delegations from Korea, China, Mongolia and Japan. In line with the UN workshop guidelines, country delegations included NGO representatives. The government of North Korea, unfortunately, failed to send a delegation.
The three and a half-day workshop had the following objectives:
- Develop a common understanding of human rights education in schools;
- Discuss strategies, based on lessons learned from other countries, towards the effective incorporation of human rights education in the school system;
- Identify key components and sub-regional and national priorities for human rights education programmes in schools;
- Facilitate sub-regional cooperation in the area of human rights education among relevant partners (Governments, national human rights institutions, educational institutes and NGOs);
- Develop national and sub-regional plans for human rights education in schools.
The workshop document entitled "Seoul Declaration" provides a good picture of the current state of human rights education programs in Northeast Asian schools. There is a clear environment for education reform in view of the changing economic and political situations. Democratization and economic development are pushing societies to adopt appropriate programs that support human rights education.
There is also a recognition of the involvement of various sectors of society in developing human rights education programs. Government education officials are therefore working with students and parents, local authorities, universities, research institutes and NGOs, among others, in this task.
Likewise stressed are the various limitations of the existing programs including the lack of systematic inclusion of human rights in the curricula, the insufficient courses on human rights in the pre and in-service teacher training, and the inadequate financial support.
The recommendations generally encourage governments to increase support for the development of human rights education programs in schools in the Northeast Asian subregion. They stress the importance of making human rights become part of the curricula at various education levels and activities, giving support to the teachers, linking with the parents and the local community institutions (including the NGOs), working closely with appropriate government agencies, and getting the support of regional and international institutions (UN).
The training workshop was hosted by the Ministry of Education in Korea and supported by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and HURIGHTS OSAKA. Resource persons from Asia and the Pacific were invited to help facilitate the workshop. The Minister of Education of Korea (Dr. Duk-Choong Kim), UN Regional Adviser for Human Rights (Justice P.N. Bhagwati), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights officer (Ms. Helga Klein), the Secretary-General of the Korean National Commission for UNESCO (Dr. Kwon Tai-joon), and the Director of HURIGHTS OSAKA (Dr. Dong-hoon Kim) addressed the opening ceremonies of the workshop.