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  4. December 2000 - Volume 22
  5. Message for Human Rights Day 2000

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FOCUS December 2000 Volume 22

Message for Human Rights Day 2000

Following is the text of a statement made by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of Human Rights Day, commemorated on 10 December 2000:

Five years ago, we began the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education. The idea was to encourage everyone -- governments, international organizations, public and private groups, professional associations, schools and colleges, and ordinary people -- to work together in making human rights better known and understood.

Today, half way through the Decade, we still have a long way to go. Only a few countries have developed effective national strategies for human rights education. There is a big gap between the promises made under the Decade and the resources actually committed.

But non-governmental organizations are doing a lot. Clearly, governments need to work more closely with them, and learn from them.

Why is human rights education so important? Because, as it says in the constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed".

The more people know their own rights, and the more they respect those of others, the better the chance that they will live together in peace. Only when people are educated about human rights can we hope to prevent human rights violations, and thus prevent conflict, as well.