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FOCUS December 1998 Volume 14

The Osaka Declaration

Challenges of Human Rights Education for the 21st Century
The Century of Universal Realization of Human Rights

Declaration of the International Conference on Human Rights Education in the Asia-Pacific Region
November 25-27, 1998, Osaka, Japan

Supporting the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) which promotes human rights education all around the world, and re-affirming the recommendations and calls to action in the Conference-Workshop on Asia-Pacific Human Rights Education for Development (Manila, 1995) and the Workshop on Asia-Pacific Human Rights Education: Tasks for the UN Decade for Human Rights Education in the Asia-Pacific Region (Sydney, 1996);

Emphasizing the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guided efforts during the last 50 years towards universal realization of human rights and stimulated the adoption of many international human rights instruments;

Considering all the international human rights instruments which clearly set out our rights as persons and as peoples, and prohibit all forms of discrimination against women, indigenous peoples, untouchables, Buraku and other minorities, people with different abilities, foreigners, immigrants and migrant workers, the elderly, children and victims of HIV/AIDS;

Considering the situation in the Asia-Pacific where many countries still suffer from the damage brought about by armed conflicts, religious conflicts, colonial rule and invasion, where many people suffer from dictatorship, where traditional practices in conflict with human rights dominate many societies, where ethnic conflicts are aggravated by globalization, where discrimination based on caste continues, and where xenophobia and racism are rampant;

Being concerned about the abuse of power by law enforcement agencies, military and paramilitary forces in many countries in the region;

Being concerned about the hardships and persistent discrimination that all oppressed people in the region face, especially women, children, minorities, indigenous peoples, untouchables, immigrants and migrant workers;

Being concerned that such hardships have been exacerbated by the emphasis of several governments on economic growth at the expense of human rights and environment, and by the current economic crisis in the region resulting in a widening gap between the rich and the poor;

Being concerned about the hypocrisy of the so-called Asian values promoted by some Asian government leaders, the lack of attention to positive local traditional values, the manipulation of religion by political and social institutions, and the hegemonic use of human rights for political purposes which result in selective application of human rights standards;

Being also concerned about the absence, or lack of implementation, in most countries in the region, of national action plans called for by the UN General Assembly and the Plan of Action for the UN Decade, the lack of human rights curriculum in most institutions of formal education and in programmes of non-formal education, and the lack of awareness by many people of their own human rights guaranteed by the international human rights law and their own national constitutions and laws;

Recognizing the importance of human rights education as a strategy to address the abovementioned problems in the Asia-Pacific region notably inter-related problems of globalization, discrimination and oppression;

Noting the need for integrating ideas of sustainable development and other global issues into human rights education;

Recognizing the efforts of many groups in the region who believe in the inherent power of people and therefore adopt participatory human rights education approaches to conscienticize and bring out the creativity of people, and to make political leaders accountable to their responsibilities, obligations and commitments to achieve universal realization of human rights;

The participants of the International Conference on Human Rights Education in the Asia-Pacific Region declare that:

  1. All forms of discrimination against women, indigenous peoples, untouchables, Buraku and other minorities, people with different abilities, foreigners, immigrants and migrant workers, the elderly, children and victims of HIV/AIDS should be eradicated not only in the field of education but in other fields as well. Their own culture and identity should be affirmed. The principle of unity in diversity should be promoted, and structural and subjective causes of discrimination should be challenged;

  2. Since popular human rights education has often arisen in response to violations of human rights at the grassroots level, learning from the reality of human rights violations is an imperative need. Human rights education should be relevant to the lives and the realities of the community;

  3. All governments in the region must ratify and implement international human rights instruments in fulfillment of the commitments they made in the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna;

  4. Governments must develop programmes with an integral human rights empowerment focus for the oppressed as well as literacy and basic education programs for all. Non-discriminatory ecological and development education perspectives should be incorporated in these programmes. Such programmes should include the pedagogy of the oppressed and adopt participatory approaches;

  5. Governments must provide human rights training for the military and paramilitary forces, law enforcement agency officers, and prison officials as a matter of highest priority;

  6. Governments should facilitate human rights training for government officials notably immigration and border officials, members of legislative bodies and local authorities;

  7. Professional groups, notably journalists and the medical and legal professions, should assume responsibility for enhancing human rights awareness of their members, and ensuring that their conduct conforms to human rights standards;

  8. All schools - public and private - should place emphasis on human rights as an integral part of the curriculum as well as as separate subject in its own right. All school authorities should provide a learning environment free from intimidation and discrimination which fosters participation and respect for human dignity;

  9. Human rights education in the region will be further strengthened by cooperation with the United Nations:

    • in the dissemination of the United Nations human rights instruments and related mechanisms and procedures;

    • in the more effective realization of United Nations human rights mechanisms and procedures including the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education and the UNESCO communications procedure;

    • in the mid-term global evaluation of the UN Decade to be held in the year 2000; and

    • in the development and implementation of national action plans in full compliance with the UN Guidelines for National Plans of Action for Human Rights Education.