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  5. First State Conference on Human Rights Education in Schools "Human Rights Education: - A Shared Responsibility" 31 January 2000, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

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FOCUS March 2001 Volume 23

First State Conference on Human Rights Education in Schools "Human Rights Education: - A Shared Responsibility" 31 January 2000, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Message from Mary Robinson United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

It is a pleasure for me to send greetings to all of you - authorities and political leaders, students, teachers, school personnel and human rights educators - gathered for this Conference in Chennai. I would also like to express my congratulations to People's Watch-Tamil Nadu and the Indian Social Institute for having developed such a broad campaign in the State of Tamil Nadu for the introduction of human rights education in schools, which is culminating today with this meeting.

Human rights education is a learning and participatory process by which we understand together our common responsibility to make human rights a reality in our lives and in our communities. Its fundamental role is to empower individuals to defend their own rights and those of others. It is education for action, not only about human rights but also for human rights.

In schools, human rights education should take account of the developmental stage of children and their social and cultural contexts, in order to make human rights principles meaningful to them. Teachers, administrators, outside resource persons and parents should be involved in this process as well as the students themselves. The "human rights climate" that exists in the classroom and the school is also important: it should be based on reciprocal respect between all parties involved.

Factors that will help to promote human rights education within the school system include

  • The incorporation of human rights education in national educational legislation;
  • Appropriate provision for human rights issues in curricula and textbooks;
  • Pre-service and in-service training for teachers on human rights and human rights educationmethodologies;
  • The organization of extracurricular activities, both at the school level and reaching out to the family and the community;
  • The development of educational materials;
  • The establishment of support networks of teachers and other professionals from human rights groups, teachers' unions, non-governmental organizations or professional associations.

The state campaign you are carrying out is a valuable contribution to the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004), during which Governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, professional associations, all sectors of civil society and individuals are especially encouraged to establish partnerships and to concentrate efforts for human rights education, training and public information.

Recent evaluation of progress made in the Decade's first five years, conducted by my Office, has shown that much greater efforts are needed at all levels, if the Decade's remaining years are to leave a strong foundation of achievement for human rights education beyond the Decade.

I would like to encourage all of you to continue to further human rights education and ultimately, the realization of human rights of your communities, and to get involved and support such efforts. The realization of human rights is our common responsibility. Its achievement will entirely depend on the contribution that each and everyone of us willing to make.

My best wishes to all attending this Conference

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