Today marks the third anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training. This landmark document recognises the right of every one of the planet’s seven billion people to have access to human rights education, a lifelong process involving all ages, all parts of society, and every kind of education, formal and informal. Many NGOs, academic institutions and other civil society organisations were involved in the drafting process of the Declaration. Although the document stops short of referring to a “human right to human rights education” –language that was lost in the negotiation process between states at the Human Rights Council– the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training does for the first time recognize specific commitments that governments have.
Over the past three years civil society organizations involved in human rights education have taken the Declaration and have used it as an advocacy tool to encourage governments to live up to their commitments to integrate human rights education into national policies, school curricula and training of government officials. Three of these initiatives are particularly worth mentioning.
Exactly one year ago, HRE 2020 was established: a civil society coalition consisting of HREA, Amnesty International, Soka Gakkai International, Equitas, Forum Asia and nine other organisations from five continents. HRE 2020 seeks to ensure a systematic monitoring of states’ 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.
A second initiative is the public interest litigation project recently launched in the Netherlands by the Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists (NJCM). The NJCM intends to look into strategically litigating those deprived of the right to human rights education in order to get the government to live up to international commitments and obligations.
The third example is from Pakistan, where a court a few months ago ordered the Ministry of Education in Sindh province to make HRE mandatory in the secondary school curriculum. The court observed “that it was an obligation of the state to ensure the enforcement of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution and to apprise the citizens, particularly the students, about such rights and the mythology of such enforcement.”
Those are all interesting and inspiring examples of how we, human rights defenders and educators, can expand our toolbox beyond policy and curriculum development, teacher training, capacity building for NGOs or community development to make sure that every girl, boy, woman and man knows about her or his human rights and can claim them.
Season’s greetings and best wishes for the new year!