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Human Rights Council considers drafting declaration on human rights education and training

Cambridge, 26 August 2008 -- The Human Rights Council, the highest human rights body of the United Nations (UN), is currently considering in the process of drafting a declaration on human rights education and training. At the initiative of the governments of Morocco and Switzerland, the Council adopted a resolution in September 2007 to develop such a declaration in order to further the promotion and protection of human rights. A Drafting Group of the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council (CAC), which is comprised by 18 individual experts, met earlier this month and has been tasked to present a first draft in March 2009.

HREA welcomes the development of such a declaration. A UN Declaration on human rights education and training would:

1. Enhance commitment to human rights education and training

The value added of a Declaration on human rights education and training would be to establish a higher level of commitment among Member States. It would send a message that human rights education is a crucial tool to prevent human rights violations and to realise a global culture of human rights.

2. Codify human rights education as a human right

Currently, the right to human rights education does not exist. A Declaration would contribute to the codification of human rights education as itself being part of human rights in order to ensure respect, protection and implementation of human rights worldwide.

3. Definitions and practice

The Declaration should incorporate a clear definition of human rights education and related terms (e.g. culture of human rights), and its relationship to the right to education, which should be drawn from good practices. It could also provide specific actions to be taken to replace the often general formulations in existing mechanisms while at the same time recognising the variations in context and practice in different country, target groups and methodologies. The Declaration could cover all contexts in which human rights education, learning and training are relevant: formal, non-formal and informal education, and lifelong learning. It would be an opportunity to update the existing definitions and incorporate the latest theory and practice, drawn particularly from the advances in the implementation of human rights education since the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education Relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1974), the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993), the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) and World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005-ongoing).

4. Education and training of both duty-bearers and rights-holders

To date much emphasis has been placed on human rights education in formal education, especially primary and secondary education, both in practice and theory (partly flowing out of States' obligations to provide for the right to education). Fewer efforts have been undertaken in the training of professional groups (for example, members of the judiciary), continuing education (health professionals), non-formal education or informal education (e.g. communities, general public). At the same time human rights education has historically particularly addressed rights-holders with the aim of educating them about their rights in order to empower them. Duty-bearers, those individuals or institutions who have to guarantee or protect human rights -- for example law enforcement officials and public officials --, have often not been part of human rights education programmes. The Declaration should also include references to various and international obligations that States have to train government personnel adequately in human rights, including the most recent human rights treaties and the protection of the most vulnerable groups. A human rights-based framework should be part of all human rights education, schooling, learning and training.

5. Monitoring

In order to be an effective instrument the Declaration will need to include monitoring mechanisms. The purpose is to provide an incentive and encouragement to States to implement the obligations they have
undertaken, giving them support and expert help where needed, for example through National Plans of Action for Human Rights Education. It would also allow NGOs, associations of professional groups, and other civil society organisations to be involved in the monitoring process (e.g. through consultations, shadow reports, etc.). The Declaration could include an article that stipulates that States Parties need to report on the status of human rights education when reporting to the monitoring bodies of the main human rights treaties. It is also worth considering to include human rights education in the Special Procedures by either expanding the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education or by establishing a Special Rapporteur on (the Right to) Human Rights Education.

6. Standard-setting

A Declaration would provide an opportunity to set and develop standards and practices in human rights education around the world by including benchmarks and indicators. This could go hand-in-hand with making more resources available for research and evaluation in order to measure progress.

7. Recognition and support for civil society organisations and other stakeholders

An instrument such as the Declaration that recognises the importance of human rights education and training would be a clear boost in morale of educational agencies, NGOs, professional associations and others working in this field. A Declaration could serve as a powerful tool for lobbying and advocacy, and a means of attracting financial resources from private sources as well as by governments. In Member States that have not ratified or signed the main human rights treaties, a soft-law instrument like a Declaration could provide legitimacy to civil society organisations involved in human rights education and training.

The Drafting Group is expected to meet again in January 2009 during the next session of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.



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