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HREA Director keynote speaker at regional forum in Vilnius

Vilnius, 29 April 2009 -- Government and civil society experts from Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia and Ukraine today concluded a three-day meeting in Vilnius (Lithuania) that discussed improvement of human rights education for young people. The Regional Forum "Human Rights Education: Achievements, Lessons Learned and Perspectives" examined achievements in the area of human rights education (HRE) to identify good practices that can be replicated in other countries. It was organised by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) with Lithuania's Ministry of Education and Science. "This meeting is an opportunity to share experiences and practice from civil societies and governments, and to foster partnerships across sectors within countries and across national borders", said Kirsten Mlacak, head of ODIHR's human rights department.

HREA's Director Felisa Tibbitts facilitated several workshop sessions at the Vilnius meeting and delivered introductory remarks. She identified the following accomplishments in HRE in the region:

1. In Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine national education laws and regulations incorporate references to human rights, even if these references are quite minimal in some cases.
2. Within elementary and secondary school curricula, there is increasing incorporation of topics, principles and values related to human rights and democracy.
3. There are a large number of supports for carrying out human rights education, including teaching and learning aids, methodological materials and reference books, many now available in local languages.
4. There now exists a pool of people from diverse institutional bases familiar with and committed to human rights education and able to deliver programming.
5. There is recognition that for youth, both formal and non-formal approaches are important for offering human rights education programming.
6. Research and evaluation is becoming increasingly available.

In her remarks Ms. Tibbitts also considered the following challenges for HRE in the region:

1. In many countries there remains a difference between policies that “allow” for human rights education activities versus those that actively promote and support their implementation.
2. Study programmes often address human rights and democracy in nominal rather than substantial ways.
3. Human rights education in schools continues to remain limited to the level of classroom contents and activities.
4. Teacher training, in particular initial teacher training, remains inadequate for motivating and preparing educators to incorporated human rights into their activities.
5. There remains a lack of evaluation tools and data in relation to learner outcomes as well as other indicators of effectiveness for human rights education programming.

Participants at the Regional Forum -- the first such event in the region bringing together representatives from both EU and non-EU states -- reviewed accomplishments and challenges of HRE in the region, looked in-depth at issues such as the role of civil society, textbooks/curriculum, legal frameworks for HRE, and teacher training. It is expected that the meeting will result in new programmes and partnerships in the field of formal and non-formal human rights education for children and youth.

Read full text of Felisa Tibbitts' keynote presentation PDF file


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