The participants of the Asia and Pacific Regional Conference on Education for Human Rights, organized in Pune, India, by the World Peace Centre of MAEER's MIT (Pune), National Human Rights Commission of India and the Indian National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO, at the initiative and with the support of UNESCO to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004), discussed the status of education for human rights and the obstacles and special needs for its promotion in the region.
The conference notes that the Asia and Pacific region
- is characterized by significant social, political and cultural diversity and varying levels of economic development;
- suffers in large parts from extreme poverty and illiteracy;
- is experiencing the adverse impact of globalization processes especially in the economic and cultural fields in many cases detrimental to human rights;
- suffers from the prevalence of different societal maladies such as child labour, sexual exploitation of women and children, gender inequality, contemporary forms of slavery, discrimination of persons belonging to national or ethnic or religious or linguistic minority groups, exclusion based on social status, deprived and disadvantaged communities and other grounds which seriously impede the promotion of human rights;
- is disturbed by the sufferings of innocent people as a result of acts of terrorism, armed conflicts and abuse of power;
- is experiencing serious degradation of the environment affecting the quality of life of the people and threatening the very survival of humanity.
The conference reaffirms that education is a basic right and an essential precondition for the implementation of all human rights for all. Further, the participants of the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference feel that a comprehensive, integrated and holistic approach is called for to popularize education for human rights from school level to Graduate and Post-Graduate level. A similar effort is also called for to bring about attitudinal changes to accept the value of human rights education as an important component of self-development. This ultimately results in creating the awareness rights from the childhood. Elementary education shall be free and compulsory. Education shall be directed, in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the full development of human personality and the strengthening of respect for human rights. It should enable the society to address civil, social, political, economic and cultural problems preventing enjoyment of human rights, to improve the quality of life of the people, and to resolve conflicts through peaceful means.
The conference notes the efforts of the inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, educational community and other segments of the civil society to promote education for human rights. The conference is concerned that only very few States in the region have adopted National Plans in conformity with the Plan of Action for the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004). The conference further noted that though no formal regional mechanism has been set up in the Asia and Pacific to address human rights issues, other regional arrangement exist through the association and joint efforts of national human rights institutions as well as non-governmental organization for the promotion of human rights education at the regional level.
Further, the conference reaffirms all human rights - civil, social, political, economic, cultural - are universal, inter-related, indivisible and interdependent and should be treated on the same footing and with the same emphasis.
The principal aims of education for human rights are:
- to strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
- to develop fully the human personality and the sense of its dignity;
- to develop attitudes and behavior to promote respect for the rights of others;
- to ensure genuine gender equality and equal opportunities for women in all spheres;
- to promote understanding and tolerance among diverse national, ethnic, religious, linguistic and other groups;
- to empower people to participate actively in the life of a free society;
- to promote democracy, development, social justice, communal harmony, solidarity and friendship among nations;
- to further the activities of the UN system, in particular UNESCO, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNICEF, aimed at the creation of a culture of peace based upon universal values of human rights, international understanding, tolerance and non-violence.
Education for human rights, should be aimed at full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms and for that purpose have regards to the following:
- All human rights are universal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, and all are essential for the full development of human personality;
- While regional and national particularities are to be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, civil, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
- Universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms contribute to stability, security and well-being, necessary for socioeconomic development;
- Human rights, democracy, peace and development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing;
- Rights of women and girl-child are inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.
- Human rights education should be aimed at the full and equal participation of women in political, economic, social and cultural life. Awareness towards prevention of gender-based violence, sexual harassment and exploitation should be component of education programmes;
- Promotion and protection of the rights of the child is a priority and required dissemination of knowledge of relevant standards. Special efforts are needed to eradicate child labour, child prostitution, and child pornography;
- Special attention should be paid to the rights of persons belonging to various vulnerable groups - national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, indigenous people, refugees and internally displaced persons, migrant workers, persons with HIV/AIDS and other health problems, disabled, and elderly;
- Special attention should be also given to the mobilization of the public opinion against major threats and challenges to human rights: terrorism, organized crime, corruption, trafficking of human beings for exploitative purposes, drug trafficking, violence, etc.
Education for human rights should be multidisciplinary and should include the following:
- knowledge of internationally recognized human rights standards enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenants, international conventions, declarations and protocols, and international procedures and mechanism for human rights protection as well as norms of international humanitarian law;
- knowledge of national laws and procedures related to human rights;
- skills necessary for the application of these standards and procedures in everyday life;
- behavioural patterns based upon vigilance against violations of human rights wherever they occur;
- knowledge of social realities and impact of globalization process.
Education in and for human rights should also be aimed at the elimination of prejudices and negative stereotypes which in many cases become the source of discrimination, hatred and violence. These concerns should be reflected in manuals, textbooks and other educational materials.
Programmes for education for human rights should be developed in accordance with the Plan of Action for the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004), the UNESCO World Plan of Action on Education for Human Rights and Democracy (Montreal, 1993) and the Declaration and Integrated Framework of Action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy (Paris, 1995).
The conference stresses that education for human rights is, by itself, a human right. It further underlines that it is the duty of the State to take all necessary measures to ensure the realization of this right.
Appropriate methodology and materials for the teaching of human rights should be developed in full conformity with the human rights principles and standards.
Special attention should be given to the elaboration of educational materials suitable for formal and informal settings, and adapted to the needs and demands of various target groups. Such materials should be made available in various national and local languages, in different forms and in sufficient number. Bearing in mind, the special characteristics of the region and prevailing high level on illiteracy, innovative audio-visual programmes should be prepared. An effort should also be made to reach the population especially in the remote and rural areas.
Environmental education is an essential part of education for human rights.
Participatory methodology for the teaching of human rights which takes into account the involvement of the target groups in the learning process should be adopted.
Further, special attention should be given to the training of :
- trainers who will ensure a multiplier effort in the promotion of human rights education;
- educators and other professionals involved in formal and informal education programmes;
- journalists and other media professionals.
Emphasis should be given to the elaboration and dissemination of human rights training programmes designed for professionals having special responsibilities related to the protection and implementation of human rights, in particular, security, army, police, prison, immigration and other government personnel and public functionaries at different levels as well as medical doctors, other health professionals, and scientists engaged in biological research.
The conference is convinced that the achievement of the goals of education for human rights can be ensured only through active cooperation and participation of all those who have the duty and obligation to promote and protect human rights. Parliamentarians and other elected representatives of the people at different levels, organs of State, educational and research institutes, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations, the mass media and in fact every segment of the civil society have a very important role to play in promoting education for human rights.
The family is crucial for the education of children in the spirit of human rights.
National human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations and their regional associations have a very important role to play in the implementation of national and regional plans and strategies in the field of education for human rights.
Technical assistance and support of the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNESCO and other organizations and bodies in the UN system have an important role to play in the development and implementation of national plans for education for human rights.
The mass media has a positive and a constructive role to play in the promotion of human rights. It should include dissemination of information on human rights issues including information on violation of human rights and problems that demand urgent intervention. In addition, they should highlight the successful work and positive experiences accumulated by the governmental and non-governmental players at national, regional and international levels.
Private foundations, private enterprises, associations of business and industry, should be encouraged to contribute to the promotion of human rights.
With a view to accelerate the process of promoting education for human rights, the Asia and Pacific Regional Conference on Education for Human Rights adopted the following recommendations:
I) Appeal to the states in the Asia and Pacific region:
II) Request elected representatives, Parliamentarians and other elected representatives of the people, actively support the promotion and protection of human rights and human rights education through appropriate actions within and outside the legislature.
III) Urge non-governmental organizations working in the area of human rights to contribute to the effective implementation of human rights education programmes and the National Plans of Action;
IV) Invite mass media to increase its contribution to the enhancement of awareness of human rights, sensitization of the general public on violation of human rights and threats to human rights, and formation of public opinion on human rights issues;
V) Demand national human rights institutions, individually and jointly through their forum in Asia and the Pacific, to support the efforts of government, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and other players for the implementation of the national programmes in line with the aims of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004);
VI) Request UNESCO Chairs, associated schools, clubs and associations in the region, to contribute actively in implementing activities in the field of education for human rights;
VII) Invite United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNESCO, other agencies and bodies within the UN system, as well as other interested inter-governmental organization to provide technical assistance and support in the development and implementation of national programmes for education for human rights.
The conference also recommends that in order to have an on-going experience exchange in the Asia and Pacific region on O`Education for Human RightsO', a regional network with a focal point should be created. It should ensure development and exchange of curricula, training methodology, technical support materials, student-faculty exchange programmes, field visits, etc.