By Jaya Ramachandran
BERLIN | GENEVA - “Everyone has the right to know, seek and receive information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms and should have access to human rights education and training,” says Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration adopted by the General Assembly on December 19, 2011.
Two years on, a global coalition of civil society organisations has been set up to promote human rights education by supporting and strengthening the implementation of existing international standards and commitments as envisaged in the Declaration, which reaffirms the purposes and principles of the UN Charter pertaining to “the promotion and encouragement of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”,
The global coalition, known as the ‘Human Rights Education 2020’ (HRE 2020), comprises Amnesty International, Human Rights Education Associates (HREA), Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and nine other civil society organisations.
The importance of the year 2020 will be a key year to mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training in the following year with positive outcomes and to assess the achievement of governments, international institutions and civil society to provide access to quality human rights education to citizens.
Launched on the second anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training by the United Nations General Assembly, HRE seeks to ensure a systematic monitoring of governments’ implementation of human rights education provisions in international human rights instruments, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training and the World Programme for Human Rights Education.
“With the UN Declaration and the World Programme for Human Rights Education there exist clear standards and commitments for human rights education. HRE 2020 aims to systematically monitor these standards and commitments in order to ensure effective implementation,” says Adele Poskitt, Program Associate at HREA and coordinator of HRE 2020. “We call for greater accountability by governments because a comprehensive education in, through and for human rights provides knowledge, imparts skills and empowers individuals to promote, defend and apply human rights in daily life.”
“One of the aims of HRE 2020 is to support and strengthen the capacity of civil society to use international human rights mechanisms, instruments, standards and policies to hold governments accountable,” adds Sneh Aurora, International Human Rights Education Manager at Amnesty International.
Welcoming the launch of the new initiative, HRE 2020, Kazunari Fujii, Director of SGI’s UN Liaison Office in Geneva said: “It will positively influence international policies on human rights education with the UN and civil society partnership,” adding: “Civil society is a vital agent to eliminate the gap between the policies made by governments and the reality of their implementation.”
Explaining the development of the global coalition, Fujii told IDN: “Amnesty International, HREA and SGI realised that a coordinated civil society platform was necessary for collective engagement of civil society actors in interacting more effectively with international human rights mechanisms in pursuit of making human rights education a reality for all people We look forward to working with other civil society actors through HRE 2020 to globally ensure the implementation of human rights education.”
In fact SGI President Daisaku Ikeda proposed in his annual Peace Proposal 2011 “the formation of an international coalition of NGOs for human rights education” to promote human rights education on an international scale, pointing out that “the term ‘a culture of human rights’ refers to an ethos inculcated throughout society that encourages people to take the initiative to respect and protect the full spectrum of human rights and the dignity of life.”
The global coalition works with organisations worldwide and the current coalition members include: Arab Institute of Human Rights, Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe (DARE Network), Forum Asia, Human Rights Educators USA (HRE USA), Hurights Osaka, Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), People’s Watch, Peruvian Institute for Human Rights and Peace (IPEDEHP), and Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.
According to global coalition sources, HRE 2020 is developing a new, simple, user-friendly framework which will include indicators that stakeholders can use to monitor the implementation of human rights education commitments.
This framework will include a range of indicators and associated explanations for the presence of human rights education in the schooling sector and in the training of teachers, law enforcement officials and military personnel; civil servants and other professional groups, such as health workers and social workers. Indicators for non-formal human rights education efforts with youth and adults will also be included.
Consistent with the World Programme for Human Rights Education, the monitoring framework includes the following areas: HRE in legislation and policy documents; HRE in curricula and learning materials; HRE in education and training processes; Evaluation; and Preparation of trainers.
HRE 2020 anticipates use of this resource by civil society organisations in consultative processes associated with treaty body reporting and the universal periodic review as well as the preparation of shadow reports. This resource will also assist governments and treaty bodies in identifying in concrete terms the ways in which human rights education and training may be implemented.
The global coalition is, among others, inspired by the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993. It called on all States and institutions to include human rights, humanitarian law, democracy and rule of law in the curricula of all learning institutions. The Conference also said that human rights education should include peace, democracy, development and social justice, as set forth in international and regional human rights instruments, in order to achieve common understanding and awareness with a view to strengthening universal commitment to human rights.
Also the 2005 World Summit Outcome, in which Heads of State and Government supported the promotion of human rights education and learning at all levels, including through the implementation of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, and encouraged all States to develop initiatives in that regard, provided the basis for the global coalition.
Fujii said, SGI and HREA had been closely working over many years since around 2003 in order to reflect the views and proposals of civil society in the UN international policy-making process on human rights education, particularly in the context of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004); World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005-ongoing); and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training.
Amnesty International became active in this approach about human rights education at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva particularly since the drafting process of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training started in 2007 and catalysed in the UNGA adoption in 2011.
In the drafting process, SGI’s UN Liaison Office in Geneva and Amnesty International’s International Secretariat closely consulted with each other in order to effectively approach the UN Human Rights Council from civil society.
One of the key civil society networks in the entire processes, at the UN in Geneva in the context of human rights education, SGI’s Fujii said, has been the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning (NGO WG on HREL) in Geneva, which is structured within the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO). Since the creation of the NGO WG on HREL in 2006, SGI has been its Chair. [IDN-InDepthNews – December 27, 2013]
Image credit: HRE 2020