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FOCUS December 2013 Volume Volume 74

Fourth International Conference on Human Rights Education

Shiow Duan Hawang and Sev Ozdowski

The Fourth International Conference on Human Rights Education: Global Convergence and Local Practice was held from the 21st to 26th of November 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan. The conference was convened by Professor Shiow Duan Hawang and hosted by the Chang Fo-Chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights, Human Rights Program, and Department of Political Science at Soochow University, Taipei. Soochow University is the first private university in Taiwan, and has over 15,000 students.
The Chang Fo-Chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights at Soochow University was founded in 2001, the first human rights research institute in Taiwan. It aims to promote human rights education and research in Taiwan, train human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) workers, and contribute to international exchange. The undergraduate Human Rights Program was set up in 2004 and then in 2008 the master human rights program was established. It is designed for students to deepen their understanding of human rights through the integration of theory with practice.

Conference Objectives

The 4th conference had the following objectives:

  • • To support and promote the United Nations' objectives in human rights education (HRE);
  • • To explore the role of HRE in advancement of peace, democracy and multicultural understanding around the world;
  • • To foster HRE across the Asia-Pacific region and to build networks and dialogue;
  • • To discuss and compare how different countries deal with the transitional justice during the period of political transition;
  • • To seek advancement of HRE in Taiwan through incorporation of best international practice in school curricula;
  • • To discuss and debate the entanglement of Asian Values and Universal Human Rights Standards in Asia;
  • • To explore the interplay of the global, regional and local mechanisms within the process of implementation;
  • • To discuss the role of human rights museum in HRE;
  • • To explore the relations between Globalization, Civic Education and HRE;
  • • To discuss and explore the diverse issues in different areas of human rights, such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, (LGBT), Abolition of Death Penalty, Migrant Workers and Marriage Immigration, and other related topics.

Taiwan has left the United Nations for forty-two years and was not allowed to participate in many international organizations. The Taiwanese organizers wanted to show their eagerness to keep contact the international community and abide by the international human rights standards. Thus the conference theme was "Global Convergence and Local Practice."

Participants

The Conference attracted high quality national and international speakers with diverse backgrounds and expertise - from leaders of national human rights organizations and well-known human rights education experts and researchers to NGO practitioners and students working in the area of human rights education.
There were five hundred thirty eight participants, from thirty eight countries (with two hundred seventy-four male and two hundred sixty-four female participants). There were one hundred forty-five international delegates from five different continents, with five participants sponsored by AusAID. There was a broad representation of civil society with a large number of students (41 percent), teachers, academics (23 percent), activists, human rights advocates, human rights education practitioners, NGO workers (19 percent), professionals (1 percent), government representatives (3 percent), and others (13 percent) interested in human rights education.
Some of the represented organizations and institutions were the Legislative Yuan of Taiwan, Council of Europe, Centre for Architecture and Human Rights in Canada, Australian Council for Human Rights Education, Chinese Association for Human Rights, Presidential Advisory Committee on Human Rights in Taiwan, Human Rights Commission at Hamadan Bar association in Iran, Estonia Institute of Human Rights, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center (HURIGHTS OSAKA) in Japan, Uganda Coalition for Human Rights Education, Centre for Citizenship and Human Rights Education at University of Leeds in UK, Indonesia's Coalition for Justice and Democracy, Institute for Population, Family and Children Studies (IPFCS) in Viet Nam, and Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor.

Conference Program

The Conference program covered a broad range of human rights education issues, the topics include:

  • • The Role of the Human Rights Museum
  • • Human Rights Education (four panels)
  • • National Report on the Implementation of the Two International Covenants
  • • United Nations and the International Legal Framework
  • • Rights Defending Documentaries of China
  • • Women's Rights and LGBT (two panels)
  • • Democracy, Human Rights and Multiculturalism
  • • Education on Abolition of Death Penalty (two panels)
  • • Human Rights Practice and Public Interest Groups in China
  • • Prison Reform in Taiwan
  • • Image of Human Rights, Taiwan
  • • Migrant and Refugee Rights
  • • Asian Regional NGOs (two panels)
  • • Translating Educators' Commitments to Justice and Human Rights into Practice
  • • State in Transition (two panels)
  • • Environmental Rights (two panels)
  • • Labor Rights in Taiwan
  • • Legal Pluralism and the Rule of Law
  • • Training of Government Officials
  • • Taiwan Rural Front
  • • Rule of Law Education in Hong Kong
  • • Prison: Treatment and Reform
  • • Militarization of Border Islands and the Right to Peace
  • • Human Rights and Civilization
  • • Education on Rule of Law in China
  • • Reflection on Human Rights Journey: from Authoritarianism to Democratic Rule
  • • Social Welfare Rights
  • • Rights to Health and Children's Rights.

 Networking among Participants

The Conference provided an opportunity for participants and presenters to network and discuss issues pertaining to human rights education, to share knowledge and skills in the facilitation of human rights education and best practice ideas in the area of human rights, peace and social justice. One of the most prevalent comments at the Conference was appreciation of the opportunity to network with like-minded practitioners and academics. The request for further networking has been addressed by referring all participants to the existing Human Rights Education Net work at http://www.hre2013.org.tw/.

Jingmei and Green Island Human Rights Parks Tours

The Conference provided an opportunity for the participants to visit Jingmei Human Rights Park and the Green Island Human Rights Park. Thirty participants joined the tour to Jingmei Human Rights Park in Taipei. In Jingmei Human Rights Park, the participants had a conversation with two former political victims during the era of the White Terror. In the afternoon, the participants visited the February 28th Memorial Hall, and the Machangding Memorial Park where political prisoners were executed during the White Terror. The next day, the participants visited the Palace Museum and Longshang Si and the historical part of the city of Taipei.
Green Island is a small volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean, about thirty-three kilometers off the eastern coast of Taiwan. During the martial law period, the island was a place for political prisoners and thosewho were considered the most dangerous criminals and gangsters. It was an isolated island, which served as a perfect spot for political prisoners and can be easily compared to Robben Island of South Africa.
Sixty-five participants visited Green Island. They had a discussion with two former political prisoners, Mr. Tsai and Mr. Chen. Mr. Tsai was sentenced to ten years in 1950, and sent to Green Island the following year. He was arrested due to his participation in a study group. Mr. Chen was arrested in 1971 for the crime he did not commit, and was jailed in Jingmei (then a military camp). In 1972, he was sent to Green Island. He was finally released in 1983.
After a meeting with the two political victims, the participants decided to adopt a resolution urging the Taiwan Government to address the situation of former political prisoners.

Resolution Adopted on the Political Prisoners

The participants of the 4th International Conference on Human Rights Education heard directly from former political prisoners in Taiwan while discussing the situation of human rights education in the world. They acknowledge the positive activities of the Taiwanese Government to compensate the victims of the human rights violations during Martial Law period in Taiwan and their efforts to establish a human rights museum in Taipei and on Green Island. But they are also concerned about the unresolved situation of the former political prisoners.
This Conference therefore calls on the Government of Taiwan to:

  1. 1.Provide a formal public apology to former political prisoners for their suffering under martial law;
  2. 2. Provide publicly funded rehabilitation services to all former political prisoners;
  3. 3. Provide unrestricted public access to all government records about political prisoners;
  4. 4. Ensure that the past human rights violations are acknowledged and taught to school children in Taiwan in order to promote democracy and the rule of law;
  5. 5. Ensure that individuals responsible for human rights violations during martial law are prosecuted;
  6. 6. Establish an independent commission of truth and justice to record the stories about persecution from former political prisoners and to facilitate reconciliation and prosecution of those that are responsible for human rights violations;
  7. 7. Remove the criminal records of former political prisoners.

Promotion of Human Rights Education

The human rights education theme of the Conference was promoted widely across a broad range of mediums, an extensive media and communications strategy that included media releases, articles and advertisements in internal and external publications, and web presence maintained via the Conference website, Facebook, and Twitter. There were media exposures on print media and broadcast media (television), especially the Symposium on Human Rights Museum and speeches of former Vice-president and the Speaker of the Legislative Yuan. The news of 2013HRE conference can be searched via CNA News, Udn News, Liberty Times, Taiwan Times, TSSD News, Epoch Times, Coolloud, New Net News, Lipao News, SETTV, FTV, CTV, TVBS, CtiTV.

Concluding Statement

The international human rights education conference series were initiated by Dr Sev Ozdowski, Adjunct Professor of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of  Sydney and Director of Equity and Diversity at the University of Western Sydney. Sev is also President of the Australian Council for Human Rights Education.
The first international conference on human rights education was held in Sydney, Australia in 2010, followed by Durban, South Africa in 2001, and Krakow, Poland in 2012. The fifth conference will be held at the American University in Washington DC, USA in November 2014.

Professor Shiow Duan Hawang is the Director of The Chang Fo-chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights, and former Chair of the Department of Political Science, Soochow University, Taiwan.

For further information, please contact Sev Ozdowski, PO Box A959, Sydney South, NSW 1235, Australia; ph (612) 9678 7375; e-mails: sevozdo@gmail.com; s.ozdowski@uws.edu.au.


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