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HREA Director testifies before U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus

For immediate release
19 February 2007

The Executive Director of Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) testified before the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus on Friday, February 16th on a special briefing on "Human Rights Education in Theory and Practice." This bi-partisan caucus plays a leading role in bringing congressional attention to human rights issues of special concern. Felisa Tibbitts was asked to present the work of HREA, a non-profit which specializes in the professional development of human rights defenders and educators.

Ms. Tibbitts highlighted her organization's work in training, materials development and in the networking of human rights educators and activists worldwide. These highlights include having trained over 1,000 human rights defenders from more than 75 countries, including members of Human Rights Commissions, prosecutors for special International Courts, human rights observers, and international and grassroots non-governmental organizations. She said that over 1.6 million training documents were downloaded from the HREA website in 2006, showing a high demand for human rights education.

In her testimony HREA's Executive Director emphasized the need for more resources to support human rights education and training, both for human rights defenders abroad as well as for the general public in the U.S. "Americans tend to think that human rights abuses happen only in other countries, but it's important to understand that every country - even democratic ones - need to be vigilant in protecting the human rights of its own citizens", according to Ms. Tibbitts. She testified that the only U.S. national poll known to have inquired about knowledge of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights showed that only 8% of the American population was even aware of the existence of this foundational document, let alone its contents.

HREA's recommendation to Congress, which was also endorsed by other panelists, called for the continuing education of legislators and civil servants about human rights, federal leadership in promoting human rights education in schools, and the creation of additional resources for these purposes. "Americans may associate human rights education with a particular agenda, but in fact knowledge of the human rights framework is a-political. Human rights education, which is a central underpinning of the human rights legal framework, complements education about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. U.S. constitutional education and education about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are both necessary for democratic and rule-abiding citizenship in the modern world."

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HREA is one of the leading organisations worldwide dedicated to education and training in and for human rights. Each year HREA trains hundreds of educators, human rights defenders and legal professionals around the world.

For further information, please contact:
Frank Elbers, Director of Programmes. Tel: +1 617 301-4303.



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