Thursday, 28 March 2013

UN HR Council resolution on “Education as a tool to prevent racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance"

The UN Human Rights Council at its 22nd session in Geneva (25 February - 22 March) adopted a number of resolutions.

Amongst those resolutions and in my view, the resolution on “Education as a tool to prevent racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” is noteworthy and relevant to human rights education. It was adopted on 22 March by vote under Agenda Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance - follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

The resolution text had been prepared by Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Portugal, Romania, Mozambique, and prior to the day of adoption, a couple of informal and intergovernmental meetings were held for consultation on its text.

On 22 March, Brazil stated in its statement introducing the draft resolution that more than 100 Member States including all Member States of the African Group co-sponsored the draft resolution for its adoption. The amendment of some paragraphs of the text was also announced at the same time.

The United Sates expressed its general comment before the adoption and called for a vote, and it voted for abstention. As a result of the vote, the resolution was adopted by 46 in favour; 0 against; and 1 abstention.

In its general comment prior to the adoption, the United States expressed its commitment and efforts to fight racism and racial discrimination and explained its vote before the vote as follows (main points):

“The United States strongly supports the goal of this resolution introduced by Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique and other core-group members, promoting education as a way to eliminate racism and racial discrimination. The United States is committed to working with our global partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally in the fight against racism and racial discrimination, including through education. (…) the resolution focuses heavily on the DDPA (2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action), unnecessarily and excessively preserving and reiterating its language. Our objections to the Durban process and resulting outcome documents are well known. It is unnecessary and inappropriate for this resolution to commemorate or entrench statements made in the DDPA adapted more than ten years ago. Instead, it should focus states on the real world challenges with respect to combating racism and racial discrimination, including through education. For these reasons the United States must call a vote and abstain on this resolution.”

Therefore, it is critically important to recognise that achieving “the goal of the resolution” itself was unanimously agreed upon by all Member States of the Council including the United States.

The resolution refers to human rights education in the following context which is also based on the language of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

- The Council reaffirms in a preamble paragraph of the resolution that the human right of everyone to education is enshrined in a number of international instruments including the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training.

- The Council also acknowledges that in particular human rights education is key to changing attitudes and behaviour based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and to promoting tolerance and respect for diversity in societies, and affirms that such education is a determining factor in the promotion, dissemination and protection of the democratic values of justice and equity, which are essential to prevent and combat the spread of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

- In operative paragraph 4 of the resolution, the Council welcomes the catalytic role that non-governmental organizations play in promoting human rights education and raising awareness about racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

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In light of this resolution, and with reflection upon the benefit of human rights education and training, those who are engaging in human rights education and training in particular should be aware that the year 2015 will mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD, adopted by General Assembly resolution 2106 (XX) of 21 December 1965).

We often hear that human rights education is a sustainable approach to human rights issues as it deals with “root causes” of human rights violations and abuses and is for the prevention and elimination of all forms of discrimination. This resolution should be implemented.

I hope that this information is useful for your respective activities of human rights education and training.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Kazunari Fujii
Director, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) UN Liaison Office
Geneva, Switzerland
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Chair, NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning, Geneva 

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