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FOCUS March 1997 Volume 7

Right to Human Rights Education

Human rights education is itself a human right. Thus declare the participants in the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Education Workshop that was held in Sydney, Australia last year.

With the UN Decade for Human Rights Education entering its second year, a call was made in this workshop for a more effective implementation of human rights education programs by the NGOs, government agencies and the UN bodies.

The statement of the workshop proclaims that human rights education is "...a right of all individuals and groups, irrespective of class, gender or national, ethnic, religious or linguistic background. So too is the right to impart human rights education."

Human rights education is also seen as tool for social/structural transformation and therefore linked to significant issues confronting society - poverty, illiteracy, discrimination based on various grounds, environmental degradation, absence of democratic systems, ineffective government structures for securing justice, among others. Human rights education must be able to equip people with the capacity to confront the problems that currently hinder the promotion and protection of human rights. Human rights education must likewise be participatory, creative, innovative, empowering at all levels of society (quoting the 1993 UNESCO World Plan of Action for Human Rights and Democracy).

Considering the obstacles to the promotion of human rights in the Asia-Pacific region, the participants call on the UN to:

  1. stress the importance of the role of NGOs in the tasks of the Decade and avoidance of their marginalization through the undue reliance on governments in implementing national human rights education programs;
  2. establish a voluntary fund for human rights education with a special provision for support to the activities of the NGOs;
  3. convene regional meetings (through the High Commissioner for Human Rights) so that Asia-Pacific priorities, needs and experiences are reflected in the documents of the UN Decade;
  4. sensitize UN personnel on human rights such as those in the UN High Commission for Refugees;
  5. adopt comments (through its treaty bodies) on the States' obligation on human rights education and public information;
  6. monitor (through UN bodies and affiliated agencies) the impact of development on human rights and foster technical and financial cooperation in human rights education and literacy programs;
  7. accord (through ESCAP) higher priority and allocate adequate resources to human rights education in promoting economic and social development in the region.

They also call on the governments in the region to:

  1. consult the NGOs and people's organizations in making action-oriented national plans for human rights education;
  2. adopt non-discriminatory participation of NGOs in the planning and implementation of human rights education activities;
  3. develop as a priority cooperative human rights education programs with the NGOs (through the national human rights institutions);
  4. prevent preempting the human rights education activities of NGOs.

The participants also stress the need for human rights education to promote values of tolerance, respect for democratic processes, recognition of pluralism; promote education for just ethnic relationships and for conflict resolution and peace-building, and awareness of "human rights history and human rights truths".

The UN Decade is seen as an opportunity for enhancing the capacity of human rights programs through the:

  1. provision of human rights education to people in difficult situation;
  2. contribution to sustainable capacity-building through the further education of human rights educators;
  3. development of strategies for human rights education which address the diverse conditions of learners and build on local concepts and cultural sensitivities;
  4. provision of public access to primary human rights documentation in relevant forms and languages;
  5. provision of information about international human rights supervisory procedures, including information about opportunities for NGOs and individuals to participate in those procedures.

Addressing the NGO community in the region, the participants urge it to:

  1. safeguard the integrity of all human rights education activities;
  2. undertake evaluation of the impact of human rights education activities;
  3. forge solidarity alliances to address the human rights education needs in particularly different country situations;
  4. enhance the exchange of experiences, knowledge and skills in the area of human rights education; and
  5. prevent monopolization of human rights education activities by national governments and human rights commissions.

For more information contact: Diplomacy Traning Program/Australian Human Rights Information Centre c/o Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales, Sydney NWS 2052 Australia, tel. no. (612) 9313-6563; fax no. (612) 9385-1175, e-mail: dtp@unsw.edu.au

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