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Definition of Human Rights Education


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In common with the goals of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, we aim to facilitate the development and understanding of our common responsibility to make human rights a reality in society. The development of a culture of human rights helps to prevent human rights abuses and violent conflicts, promotes equality and sustainable development, and enhances participation in democratic processes. For the purposes of this program we are employing an internationally agreed upon definition of human rights education: “education, training and information aiming at building a universal culture of human rights through the sharing of knowledge, imparting of skills and moulding of attitudes directed to:

  1. The strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  2. The full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity;
  3. The promotion of understanding, tolerance, gender equality and friendship among all nations, indigenous peoples and racial, national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups;
  4. The enabling of all persons to participate effectively in a free and democratic society governed by the rule of law;
  5. The building and maintenance of peace;
  6. The promotion of people-centered sustainable development and social justice.” (59th session, Agenda item 105 (b), Annex I.A.3.) [P.12 in Plan of Action Doc.] 

“The United Nations Plan of Action for the World Program for Human Rights Education recommends a “rights-based approach”. Such an approach is holistic and “includes both ‘human rights through education’, ensuring that all the components and processes of education – …curricula, materials, methods and training – are conducive to human rights, and ‘human rights in education’, ensuring that the human rights of all members of the school community are respected.” (UN Plan of Action, P.3) 

In the classroom, human rights education needs to be developed with attention to the developmental stage of the students and their social and cultural contexts in order to make human rights principles meaningful to them.   

Each school’s context has a strong influence on its possibilities and strategies for promoting the inclusion and practice of human rights education. While recognizing this diversity, common trends and approaches can be identified for developing human rights education. Worldwide successful experiences, studies and research, and consultations carried out for the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) have identified the components of good practice in learning environments, teaching and learning, and professional development. These components are a guideline and not a prescription. They suggest options and recommend possible courses of action. They are a reference tool, and as such, will need to be adapted to each context. 

[Adapted from appendix to Plan for Action Doc., P.37]