Thursday, 30 June 2011
PAPER: Human Rights Education: Theory and Practices
The World Conference on Human Rights considers Human Rights Education, training and public information essential for the promotion and achievement of stable and harmonious relations among communities and for fostering mutual understanding, tolerance and peace. (VIENNA DECLARATION AND
PROGRAMME OF ACTION, part II. D, par 78)
A notion brought about in the early nineties, and which found firmer grounds through a potent promotion by the United Nations Human Rights Council at the start of the twenty first century, Human Rights Education represents the ultimate goal – and at once – the first step of a society toward social justice.
Human rights provide a ‘transformational response to local struggles against oppression’; “it is now about 60 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly. With the destructive forces of the two world wars behind us, complemented by the demise (legally speaking) of the evils of slavery about 120 years earlier, and the new winds of decolonization sweeping many parts of the globe, all societies should presumably have been more informed about the need for a stable and just world”. Shultz addresses the urgency to act while millions of people are still being persecuted, tortured and killed, and whose fundamental citizens rights have been taken away. “These sites of struggle … lead us to understand the need for a universal approach to human rights. Where some people argue that human rights are particular, necessarily differing according to group and context, we take as a key position that, at many sites, efforts to universalize rights have been the outcome of oppression and the struggle for liberation. … The potential for human rights as a common vision of human dignity to be the catalyst for change is significant”. To achieve significant change in expanding social inclusion, fighting discrimination, and acting upon injustice, human rights values have to be instilled in the minds and cultures of people. Education plays a crucial role in this, and it should not be underestimated: it represents a milestone toward a common vision of human dignity. While education is in itself a human right, Human Rights Education is about “the provision and development of awareness about fundamental rights, freedoms and responsibilities”.
Defining Human Rights Education and Democratic Citizenship
UNESCO, which has a longstanding commitment to promoting Human Rights Education, broadly defines it as “the learning and practice of human rights”. The United Nation Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) defines it as follows: “Human rights education is a long-term and lifelong process by which all people at all levels of development and in all strata of society learn respect for the dignity of others and the means and methods of ensuring that respect in all societies …it significantly contributes to promoting equality and sustainable development, preventing conflict and human rights violations and enhancing participation and democratic processes, with a view to developing societies in which all human rights are valued and respected”. The UNCHR clearly identifies the crucial relation between Human Rights Education (HRE) and equality, sustainable development, and prevention of conflict. The key role played by education in the development of societies is here coupled with core human rights values and global citizenship ethic. This call to citizenship is more plainly spelled out by Amnesty International’s definition of HRE, whereby, rather than being only “the development of respect’ for human rights”, it aims to “empower students to defend and claim their rights, which has more of an activist element to it”. The following extract from Amnesty International brings to the fore even more evidently the element of active citizenship and its connection to HRE: "Human rights education is a deliberate, participatory practice aimed at empowering individuals, groups and communities […] Its goal is to build a culture of respect for and action in the defense and promotion of human rights for all. … Human rights education can also play a vital role in building social structures that support participatory democracies and the resolution of conflict, and can provide a common understanding of how to address political and social differences equitably and celebrate cultural diversity."
While the significance of Human Rights Education is widely acknowledged, democratic active citizenship is theorized as a vehicle for teaching and learning HRE. This view proposes an alternative vision of citizenship, global and cosmopolitan, where its content and practice are underpinned by human rights principles. Since the early nineties, both nation states and international organizations (among which UNESCO, the Council of Europe, etc) have demonstrated a considerable interest in education for democratic citizenship and its link with HRE; however, there has never been a clear distinction between the two. There seems to be a general assumption that they cover similar grounds in providing children and learners in general with a human rights background, but this is a limited and superficial view. Further, “programmes of EDC [Education for Democratic Citizenship] and HRE may differ considerably in the ways in which they characterise the relationship between the individual and the nation-state”. The difference between these terms is defined as follows: “One key difference between HRE programmes and citizenship education is that effective human rights education necessarily requires learners to be made aware of the need to hold government to account. Governments are responsible for securing our human rights”. It is important to strike a balance of responsibilities: in fact, while stressing emphasis on the responsibilities that individuals owe to each other, it is vital to acknowledge the obligations that governments have towards their citizens.
Hence, whilst Human Rights Education (HRE) provides a larger framework which brings attention to the responsibilities of nation states towards those under their jurisdiction, Education of Democratic Citizenship (EDC) focuses on horizontal ties (responsibilities among individuals) and calls upon an ethical understanding of civic society. EDC - also defined as global, cosmopolitan, and active - is directly concerned with social justice, it is based on rights, responsibility and action. An active and global citizen is someone who is aware of the wider world, who respects the values of diversity, is outrage by social injustice, is willing the make the world a more equitable and sustainable place, and who participates to the community at global and local level. Both HRE and EDC are necessary and complement each other in: fostering a culture of human rights and developing a language of human rights among societies. As human life experiences perpetual global social inequalities and injustice and diminished citizenship, EDC and HRE are vital tenets to be upheld.
The Encyclopaedia of Peace Education (2008) also offers a clear explanation of the concept of HRE as “an international movement to promote awareness about the rights accorded by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and related human rights conventions, and the procedures that exist for the redress of violations of these rights”. This definition calls upon both horizontal ties as well as governmental and supranational responsibilities. Indeed, as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights declares, HRE entails “training, dissemination and information efforts aimed at the building of a universal culture of human rights through the imparting of knowledge and skills and the molding of attitudes directed to: the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”. HRE, according to UNHRC, is a “lifelong learning’ process for individuals” and for all sectors of society. Again, it becomes apparent from this definition, that HRE, whilst aimed at fostering a universal culture of human rights, it is also aimed at “the enabling of all persons to participate effectively in a free society”, thus emphasising the principle of active citizenship.
UNESCO states that HRE has been defined by the United Nations General Assembly as training and information aimed 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-centred sustainable development and social justice.
Further, HRE encompasses:
- Knowledge and skills: learning about human rights and mechanisms for their protection, as well as acquiring skills to apply them in daily life;
- Values, attitudes and behaviour: developing values and reinforcing attitudes and behaviour which uphold human rights;
- Action: taking action to defend and promote human rights.
A History of Human Rights Education
“The modern shift toward more global conceptions of human society and away from nationally-centred ones has led to an important shift in conceptions of the individual and of individual rights”. There is in fact a growing emphasis on the individual as a member of a global society rather than as a national citizen; thus the current weight of Human Rights Education seems to be a resulting consequence of this shift: “Human rights education, […] reflects both this developing emphasis on world citizenship and the strong assumption of personal commitment required for global citizenship”. The concept of Human Rights Education is increasingly being promoted by world organizations and professional associations, and is being advanced on a global scale; its rise and expansion are a result of several factors: (1) globalization and the actualities and perceptions of global, cultural, political and economic interdependence; (2) the expansion of organisation and discourse devoted to human rights, over and above standards of citizenship; and (3) the worldwide expansion of education at all levels”. Human Rights Education, its promotion, expansion, implementation and actualization, signify a world organized around individual development. As UNESCO states it, HRE “allows people to participate in their communities and society in a constructive and respectful way for themselves and others, It aims to deliver outcomes such as personal and social growth, the respectful conduct of citizens toward each other and the provision of opportunities for learners to develop critical thinking and life skills”.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, promotes Human Rights Education for the first time: “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial and social groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of piece”. Whilst making a more implicit reference to HRE, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents a seed corn in the rather lush field of International conventions, obligations, resolutions, treaties, commitments and reports promulgated by the UNHRC, Human Rights Council, the UNESCO, the Council of Europe, among others. This is to say that Human Rights Education has a longstanding history and a legitimate place in the sphere of international instruments. The Vienna Declaration and Programme Action, paragraph 32 of its summary declaration, affirmed the importance of “incorporating the subject of human rights education programmes and calls upon States to do so”, paragraph 81 recommends that “Member States develop specific programmes and strategies for ensuring the widest human rights education”. The sixth EFA goal of the Dakar Framework for Action (2000) aims at “improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence so that recognised and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills”. To date, the latest international instrument for HRE derives from the Human Rights Council with a resolution calling for the ‘Promotion of Human rights Education and Learning’. In this most recent resolution, the Council: "Recalling General Assembly resolutions 43/128 of 8 December 1988, by which the Assembly launched the World Public Information Campaign on Human Rights, 59/113 A of 10 December 2004, 59/113 B of 14 July 2005 and 60/251 of 15 March 2006, in which the Assembly decided, inter alia, that the Council should promote human rights education and learning, and Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/61 of 20 April 2005 and Subcommission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights resolution 2006/19 of 24 August 2006, on the World Programme for Human Rights Education, structured in consecutive phases, "reaffirms that States are duty-bound, […] to ensure that education is aimed at strengthening the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms."
Human Rights Education and Human Rights Learning
The General Assembly 62/171 (20 March 2008):
Welcoming the adoption by the Human Rights Council on 28 September 2007 of resolution 6/9 entitled “Development of public information activities in the field of human rights, including the World Public Information Campaign on Human Rights”, resolution 6/10 entitled “United Nations declaration on human rights education and training”, and resolution 6/24 entitled “World Programme for Human Rights Education [...]
Convinced also that human rights learning should contribute to the fulfilment of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a way of life for people everywhere,
1. Decides that the year commencing on 10 December 2008 shall be proclaimed the International Year of Human Rights Learning, to be devoted to activities undertaken to broaden and deepen human rights learning … bearing in mind the duty of the State, regardless of the political, economic and cultural system, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms …;
2. Calls upon Member States to intensify their efforts, throughout the Year and beyond, to promote human rights learning and education at the local, national and international levels, and encourages cooperation at all levels and with all relevant stakeholders to this end.
This resolution marks an important phase in the development of HRE as it sanctifies Human Rights Learning as a crucial instrument to take forward the Assembly’s previous resolutions. Since then, the terms Human Rights Education and Human Rights Learning go hand in hand and are often used interchangeably. This seems reasonable if not unproblematic; however, both concepts have been extensively addressed by Betty A. Readon in a public speech (15 April 2009). Delivered for the UNESCO Chair for Peace Education Master Conference, Readon’s lecture focuses on a distinct definition of the two terms. She argues that “Human rights learning, at its core, is the cultivation of ethical reflection and assessment for the exercise of social responsibility”. Further, "while education is too often the ingestion of lifeless subject matter through narrowly prescribed procedures, true learning is an organic, vibrant process through which we develop our human identities and social capacities. It cannot be bestowed. It must be generated. Human rights learning is a generative process. Education may plant seeds, but it is learning that cultivates the fruit of human and social potential. Learning is as essential to becoming fully human as breathing is to being alive. It is as essential as clean water and adequate food to a healthy society."
This view bestows HRE with a holistic dimension: it identifies the ways in which HRE can cultivate transformative thinking. Thus, Human Rights Learning, goes beyond HRE: whilst the latter features in the curricula, the former is a new way of conceiving teaching and learning. Human Rights Learning is the process whereby HRE can be achieved: it is a progressive awakening of individuals to the multiple forms of violence which plague human existence and civil society. The goal of Human Rights Learning is "the conscientization of the privileged to their implication in and responsibility for this systemic and structural violence, advocated above as the pedagogy of the privileged. The complement to that goal is the awakening of the vulnerable, not only to awareness of the structural foundations of their oppression but, also and especially, to consciousness of themselves as the subjects of rights they may claim on the basis of universal human dignity, the core principle and foundation of all realms of human rights."
The extract above represents a prime example of how education – and the actual process of learning in this case – can be a means toward a just world. Indeed, “conscientization of the privileged” implies a process of sensitization of those who are advantaged. By flagging up the crucial relation between the privileges of some and the oppression of others, human rights learning cultivates ethical reflection and fosters the exercise of social responsibility. Political action and awareness of civic responsibility are required to overcome structural vulnerability and violence. Thus, the transformative politics and thinking inherent in HRE are to be achieved through - what has been defined as - Human Rights Learning and Democratic Active Citizenship.
Human rights Education can instil a vision of a just world, of ethical relations among individuals and communities, essential to overcome violence and balance the power structures. It builds a culture of respect for diversity and equality, it is vital in the transmission of core values of social justice and human dignity.
Implementing Human Rights Education
The plethora of international resolutions and recommendations promulgated by the UNHRC and Council of Europe, provide clear instructions about the way in which the international community should implement HRE at national level. The Encyclopaedia of Peace Education (2008) claims that, “in 2005, with the conclusion of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights launched an ongoing and more focused Plan of Action World Program for Human Rights Education which promises to elicit improved cooperation from governments, as well as cross-cutting support from UN bodies”. Indeed, the UNESCO official website states that “the World Programme recognises the need to ensure that human rights education remains a priority in the international community and provides a framework for promoting and implementing HRE beyond the decade. The World Programme began on 1 January 2005 and is structured in consecutive phases”.
A Collaborative project between the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education and UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education realized a Manual on Rights-Based Education: Global Human Rights Requirements Made Simple; the author, Katarina Tomasevski, offers an accessible toolkit for governments. Governmental legal obligations under the various international treaties “can be summarized according to the following four-fold schema: to make education available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable. […] These show how rights-based education can be put into operation”. The four As are further explicated as follows:
“Availability: That primary education is to be free and compulsory […] The core principle underpinning this assertion is that there is a close correlation between low levels of education and poverty, both individual and societal.”
“Accessibility: In terms of access to education, the Dakar Framework for Action emphasizes the elimination of all forms of discrimination, and prioritizes the excluded, vulnerable, marginalized and/or disadvantaged children.”
“Acceptability: […] The obligation for developing indicators of quality and enforcing standards falls on the governments, with assistance available from regional and international bodies and NGOs. Acceptable standards of education are essential for achieving equality of access and elimination of discrimination in schools.”
“Adaptability: Another result of infusing education with a human rights perspective is that school systems must necessarily adapt to the various needs of individual students, […] International human rights treaties very carefully lay out the means by which states can develop strategies to work towards these ends”.
HRE not only can be integrated to existing school curricula (as part of civic education), but it can also be found in arts programmes, non-formal clubs and special events occurring in school settings. However, more can be said about the incorporation of HRE in both formal and non-formal educational frameworks of a nation. Indeed HRE can be integrated within a wide range of educational settings, such as training programmes for professionals (NHS, police, prisons, etc.), as part of community developments programmes; further, it can be integrated among training practices of public bodies, policy departments and service providers; among the civic society and in campaigns aimed at raising public awareness. Thus, it can be inferred that HRE does not only imply adding a subject on school curricula, but it entails a larger and more significant change in formal and non-formal education practices and approaches.
“The United Nations systems as well as other multilateral organisations are urged to increase considerably the resources allocated to programmes aiming at the establishment and strengthening of national legislation, national institutions and related infrastructures which uphold the rule of law and democracy, electoral assistance, human rights awareness through training, teaching and education, popular participation and civil society”. States are called upon to increase attention to HRE for the constructive role it plays in the promotion and protection of human rights. As the Economic and Social Council affirms in the 25 May 2005 General Assembly: "Through human rights learning communities can better equip themselves to evolve strategies for development which are sensitive to human rights. It is the deficit in human rights learning that creates a gap between what is professed and what is practiced."
States’ duties to implement HRE (and learning) and the striving toward a more inclusive society can be summarized as follows: “When human rights-based work is framed as efforts to universalize respect for human dignity, it provides an alternative way to link local, national, and global efforts but also takes human rights into areas formerly involving only state actors. […] A human rights framework provides a tool to make this shift inclusive of those who are marginalised and excluded from the social, political, and economic rewards of participating in society. Human rights, then, becomes a means to extend individual and social agency”.
There are structures available to support Member states in the implementation of HRE and in its cultivation; indeed, the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights and The UNESCO have devised a World Programme for Human Rights Education (First Phase) by putting together a Plan of Action (2006); this consists of a 57 pages booklet which includes an explanatory introduction on the significance of HRE, its definition and its values, along with a thorough list of stages for its implementation. Whilst not being the sole instrument available to Nations for the implementation of HRE, the Plan of Action can be defined as an approachable and easy to use source. It envisages Human Rights Education as promoting a holistic, rights-based approach; it also identifies five key components for success:
1. Educational policies. Understood as statements of commitment on the part of a Government, educational policies … should explicitly promote a rights-based approach to education.
2. Policy implementation. To be effective, policies need a consistent implementation strategy, […] Such a strategy should take into account the multiplicity of stakeholders at both the national level (e.g., ministry of education, teacher training institutions, research bodies, non-governmental organizations) and the local level. …
3. The learning environment. Human rights education strives towards an environment where human rights are practiced and lived in the daily life […]
4. Teaching and learning. Introducing or improving human rights education
requires a holistic approach to teaching and learning that reflects human
rights values. […]
5. Education and professional development of school personnel. Education and professional development must foster educators’ knowledge about, commitment to and motivation for human rights. […]
The Plan of Action encourages Member States to undertake as minimum action during the first phase (2005-2007) of the World Programme the following:
(a) An analysis of the current situation of human rights education in the school system (stage 1);
(b) Setting of priorities and the development of the national implementation strategy (stage 2);
(c) The initial implementation of planned activities.
In addition, The United Nations ensure a significant support to Member States in the national implementation strategies which goes beyond formal educational settings, to reach the broader civic life. There exists a support mechanism provided by international cooperation form the United Nations system and other international and regional intergovernmental organizations, organizations of ministers of education, non-governmental organizations and financial institutions. The support provided ranges from assistance in the elaboration, implementation and monitoring of the implementation strategy; the facilitation of information-sharing at all levels and the dissemination of good practice; to encouraging the development of human rights education networks and, finally, by supporting training and research, two key stages to the nurturing and the successful adoption of HRE. The close collaboration of these parties is crucial to maximize resources and maintain coherence.
Human Rights Education: the Role of NGOs
The UNESCO and UNHRC’s directions for implementation are quite clear about ‘Who should be involved?’ in the process of implementing HRE. The main actors identified besides educational policy units, are “teachers training institutions, national human rights institutions, teachers’ associations, non-governmental organizations, parents’ and students’ associations, and so on”. Similarly, the UNHRC identifies, in addition to the statutory governmental bodies responsible for education, “national human rights institutions, teachers’ associations, non-governmental organizations, parents’ and students’ associations”. This is an important aspect of the recommendation as it legitimizes the involvement of other actors and fosters a more participatory role of the community and the broader civic society in implementing and adopting HRE. Whilst encouraging a bottom-up approach (as it were), it also allows for other bodies to somehow monitor the policy development initiated by ministries of education.
NGOs and HRE
The role of non-governmental organization is crucial for the development of HRE; in fact more forcefully than the direction prescribed by the Plan of Action, the UN General Assembly 62/171 (20 March 2008) acknowledges that "non-governmental organizations play an important role at the national, regional and international levels in the promotion and protection of human rights through education and learning."
Along the same lines, the UN General Assembly A/RES/63/173 (20 March 2009) acknowledges that "civil society, academia, the private sector, where appropriate, and parliamentarians can play an important role at the national, regional and international levels in the promotion and protection of human rights, including in the development of ways and means to promote and implement learning about human rights as a way of life at the community level."
The above can be considered as recommendations for governments and civic society to approach, foster and develop a rights-based culture. These international resolutions are not isolated, but figure among a plethora of similar instruments. That is to say that the development of HRE is not simply a series of policies to be implemented, but a significant change in the way (formal and non formal) education, teaching and learning are to be approached.
Amnesty International – the biggest and most trusted voluntary organisation in the world – has launched a series of initiatives to foster the development of HRE at supranational level and to provide guidance and support in its most immediate implementation. Among its activities, we can single out the following: The Rights Education Action Programme (REAP), a 10 year-long international human rights education initiative led by Amnesty International Norway; Human Rights Education Network, a global human rights education network comprised of over 120 members carrying out human rights education in over 70 countries; Human Rights Friendly Schools Project, a project to promote a culture of human rights in schools through supporting school communities to integrate human rights values and principles into key areas of school life, and to demonstrate the global impact of a human rights friendly schools approach.
The case of Scotland
Scottish Government, Education Department
A most recent enquiry carried out in several Member States by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights offers specific and useful insights into the Scottish situation. The OHCHR sent out a questionnaire to be completed by Governments; the survey was aimed at assessing the progress of implementation of HRE in several countries. The Scottish Government responded to this questionnaire on date 14 April 2010. Whilst an official reply by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is not yet available, it becomes apparent from the Scottish Government’s completed response that the HRE agenda has still a way to go here in Scotland.
The Scottish Government states in the questionnaire that “Human Rights Education is part of citizen education which is identified as an important cross- curricular theme within Curriculum for Excellence, the new curriculum in Scotland”. This seems a promising position, however, given the abundance of guidelines and timelines provided internationally to implement HRE, this status quo appears far behind the scheduled plan. Further, question 33 of the questionnaire, which more explicitly aims at investigating actual progress and compliance of governments to the World Programme, asks to “indicate any actions undertaken by your country to ensure that the World Programme is known amongst (1) education official, (2) teachers, (3) young people.” In answering this question, the Scottish Government plainly states that: “in implementing the new curriculum and highlighting the importance of responsible citizenship there has not been an explicit focus on the World Programme”. On a similar note are questions 14 and 15 of the questionnaire which refer to provisions in the Plan of Action (2006): “state whether guidelines exist for writing or revising textbooks that reflect human rights principles?; Have textbooks been prepared according to these guidelines?”. Both these questions have been answered with ‘N/A’. Though it might highlight a mere lack of information in this respect, it might also be a symptom of a broader deficiency in addressing HRE as per international regulations.
The policy measures proposed by the 2006 Plan of Action are clear about the fact that national curriculum should be designed “specifically for human rights education, setting out concepts and goals, teaching and learning objectives and approaches’; and that ‘the status of human rights education [should be defined] within the curriculum, according to the school level, and possibly as obligatory or optional, subject-based and/or cross-curricular (whereby human rights are included in all curriculum subjects)”. There is more work to be done before HRE can fully acquire a status on national curricula, despite the fact that a number of recommendations and policies seem to be aiming at the development of HRE in formal educational settings within the Scottish context. Further, the holistic approach – so much invoked by international recommendations and scholarly literature – entails far more than the provisions initiated to date.
Human Rights Education in Scotland is vigorously heralded and supported by Amnesty International. Amnesty produces a range of human rights education resources, linked to the Curriculum for Excellence, to help teachers in Scotland bring human rights into the classroom. For instance, Amnesty’s new Human Rights and Curriculum For Excellence leaflet provides details of all Primary and Secondary classroom resources that have been tailored to the new Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. These resources are suitable for teaching under Health & Wellbeing, Expressive Arts, Religious & Moral Education and Social Sciences, and focus on a range of issues, including China, child soldiers, modern slavery and poverty. Many are also suitable for teaching across subjects. Amnesty has also provided a free cross-curricular training day on teaching human rights; and, in collaboration with the Scottish Human Rights Commission and others, is planning to host new human rights training events for Scottish teachers, to better equip them to teach human rights issues in the classroom, a key requirement of the Curriculum for Excellence.
Still in the sphere of formal education, Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) also promotes a rights-based approach and provides significant support to educational units for teaching human rights and active citizenship. Drawing from the valuable resource and tool-kit centre of the UN, LTS offers a wide range of downloadable material to teach human rights topic in schools.
Oxfam is committed to Global Citizenship. The ‘Oxfam in Scotland Manifesto’ (2007) states that Education for Global Citizenship to “give children and young people the opportunity to develop critical thinking about complex global issues in schools. The aim is to … help children make informed choices as to how they exercise their own rights and their responsibilities to others”. Further, Oxfam Scotland and ‘Roars not Whispers’ are organising an Active Global Citizenship conference for young people to learn more about global poverty and the human impacts of climate change.
The UN Association of the UK (UNA-UK) is the UK's leading source of independent information and analysis on the United Nations, and a UK-wide grassroots movement. UNA-UK has played a leading role in strengthening the citizenship curriculum; in 2008, the year the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turned 60, UNA-UK sent every secondary school in the UK its 'UDHR60' human rights teaching handbook. This year, UNA-UK works in collaboration with the UK National Commission for UNESCO to develop a teaching pack on the UN.
Concerning non-formal educational settings, The International Development Education Association of Scotland (IDEAS) is to be included in the picture. IDEAS is a network of organisations and individuals involved in Development Education and Education for Global Citizenship across Scotland, at both school and community levels. “By raising awareness of global concerns and illustrating the potential for change, the IDEAS network aims to influence those in all sectors of formal and informal education and life long learning including teachers, policy makers, youth and adult education workers and a range of voluntary and statutory organisations”. IDEAS work in local community settings delivering and supporting education for global citizenship. It offers a range of services, such as: projects and workshops with community groups, community led courses and initiatives, workshops for youth groups, training for community educators, youth workers, students and voluntary sector staff.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission promotes and protects the human rights of everyone in Scotland; it promotes awareness and understanding of human rights among public, private and voluntary groups. The SHRC is currently working to increase awareness, recognition and respect for human rights, and make them more relevant and easier to apply in everyday life. Indeed, the Commission is developing training tools to support public, private and voluntary bodies who want to integrate human rights into their work.
Addressing the Gaps
Whilst the above aimed at presenting the case of Scotland in relation to Human Rights Education and Learning, it offered a brief overview of activities and actors present in Scotland. However, it cannot be considered as an exhaustive outline of statutory and non-statutory agencies involved with HRE, rather a starting point to take HRE further.
It is apparent that there exists a reasonable range of actors involved with HRE and EDC in formal learning. The Scottish Government Education Department, while addressing HRE and EDC at policy level, seems to fall short in relation to the international arena. In addition, LTS and Oxfam Scotland, though providing an excellent support to schools and other educational establishments, focus mainly on formal education and address more significantly the aspect of citizenship education, rather than the broader and more inclusive HRE. Amnesty’s important work at level of formal education has achieved tremendous targets, yet again, its main focus is formal education. Amnesty international has accomplished significant results in terms of HRE in non-formal educational settings at international level, and developed valuable materials for good practice; however, such programmes have not occurred or involved Scotland. While UNESCO and UNA-UK provide a valid support for schools to both teachers and pupils, once more, they mainly address education in formal contexts. IDEAS’ commitment to providing training to the communities is to be acknowledged as a main actor which engages with non formal educational settings; however, it must be noted, that its focus is principally global citizenship. SHRC’s plans to develop training seem to address Human Rights more broadly. Indeed the human rights based approach which the Commission invokes should emphasise the importance of the empowerment and participation of people affected by decisions to claim their rights, and the accountability of those responsible for human rights.
As result, it can be observed that HRE in non formal settings is significantly overlooked: there is no statutory or non-statutory agency, or NGO which is committed to fostering and promoting HRE in non-formal educational settings. There exist no provisions which at present offer training programmes for professionals, community developments programmes, training practices for public bodies, policy departments and service providers. Further, there is a significant lack in nurturing HRE and EDC among the wider civic society.
BEMIS: Finding Ways Forward
The brief mapping of the Scottish context provides clear indications that more work can be done in relation to Human Rights Education. Scotland finds itself in an excellent position to foster Human Rights Education forward. A small country characterized by cultural and ethnic diversity, with a thriving third sector, and extremely positive achievements in terms of equality is well equipped for this innovative approach. The Equality Act 2010 marks a new era for equality and diversity, now more than ever, a holistic approach to human rights is needed. The equality act has laid the foundations for a cultural shift in conceiving equality and diversity. Thus, this is an opportunity to be seized. Further, the recent Scottish elections represent yet another turning point for Scotland. The new parliament could embrace the concept of Human Rights Education and embed it in its approach to governance. A Human Rights based approach constitutes the essence of social inclusion, participation and equality.
BEMIS has recognized the crucial importance of Human Rights Education and has embedded it in its approach to equality, in its activities at both community and strategic levels. BEMIS is part of the European network DARE, (Democracy and
Human Rights Education in Europe) – among others – and is key within DARE as
member of its Board. Thanks to its involvement at European level, BEMIS is aware
of the ways in which HRE is being approached and fostered internationally. BEMIS is
dedicated to promoting HRE at multiple levels. It has initiated dialogues with
UNESCO (at Scottish level as well as at Headquarters) in order to take further – on
Scottish grounds – UNESCO’s commitment to support and advance Human Rights
Education internationally. Further, BEMIS seeks to engage with educational units,
policy departments, statutory governmental bodies and other NGOs to foster HRE in
In addition, to date has already initiated, realized and promoted a number of
activities concerning HRE across Scotland. BEMIS’s close links with Glasgow
University’s interdisciplinary network GRAMnet (Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and
Migration Network), have allowed a number of collaborative research activities and
projects. Among these, is an initiative vis-à-vis Human Rights Education: BEMIS and
GRAMNet have joined forces to launch a series of films within 2010-11 pertaining to
social justice and equality. Each film marks an important international observance and
is introduced to the audience by an expert scholar in the field. From local to global
productions, the film series brings to the heart of Glasgow a space where the
community can engage with significant issues pertaining to human rights. This
initiative seeks to develop a language of equality in Scotland by adopting the visual
arts as a means to engage with the community and nurturing core values of dignity
and respect for diversity. This film series has had incredible success throughout the season and attracted a diverse audience. The series 2011-2012 is already under way with an even more exiting programme and a closer focus on localism.
In recognizing the importance of collaboration and multi-agency approach, BEMIS has taken a lead in organizing a national conference on Human Rights Education in partnership with a number of national and international stakeholders (UNESCO, UNICEF, AMNESTY-Scotland, Scottish Refugee Council, Global Learning Project, Learning and Teaching Scotland). This conference, which will be held on 27th of October 2011 in Glasgow City Chambers, represents an opportunity to officially inaugurate Human Rights Education in Scotland. Open to members of the third and public sector, civic societies, educators, this event seeks to offer a broad presentation of Human Rights Education and its multifarious applicability in diverse contexts: formal and informal education, public services, etc. The joining of forces that BEMIS has initiated is a clear sign of the necessity and urgency to properly address Human Rights Education. The EU strategy 2020 clearly sets out the aim of deploying a Human Rights based approach, an this is a good time for Scotland to keep up with Europe’s developments.
BEMIS is thoroughly committed to developing, promoting and progressing a culture of diversity, and to fostering an inclusive society in a multicultural Scotland. BEMIS acknowledges the tremendous significance that HRE plays in building a more equal society and in instilling core values of diversity and human dignity. The Scottish scene features a number of actors involved in promoting and fostering HRE and EDC, however, there exists a lack of cohesion and coherence in the approach; further, there are gaps in the ways HRE and EDC are being addressed; aspects of HRE are not being fostered in the civil society in an effective and inclusive manner.
BEMIS wishes to outline the following recommendations:
The Scottish Government focuses mainly on formal Education in relation to HRE. BEMIS, as well as other NGOs, can support and pair the government’s efforts toward a more holistic approach to HRE and EDC, such as promoting non-formal education.
- A more coordinated approach to HRE and EDC in Scotland
- Rationalize and allocate areas of intervention within the Scottish context, to optimize the promotion of HRE at all levels and in all settings.
- Engage more significantly with European actors in relation to HRE to ensure that Scotland plays a key role in the promotion of a Human Rights Culture.
All the above require a commitment to HRE and a striving toward a more inclusive, more equal, multicultural Scotland. “The economic crisis is a human rights crisis involving large-scale structural violence against the vulnerable, a consequence of the ethical failures of the powerful and the privileged who support them”45. As the ethical failures of societies impact the current crisis – whereby the economic downfall is simply a symptom of a greater collapse of our human rights ethos – Human Rights Education can pave the way toward global justice. Scotland can accomplish a more Inclusive Growth, as the EU Strategy 2020 invokes, by reinvigorating a human rights ethos. Human Rights Education – if vigorously fostered – brings about a cultural shift in approaching equality and social justice, and restores a much needed culture of ethics.
BEMIS has the capacity to support Scotland in its progress toward an
inclusive society by pairing the government’s efforts with training and raising
awareness activities on the significance, values and potentials of HRE. Member States
are indeed demanded to “Recognize, accredit and support NGOs and other sectors of
civil society carrying out training activities in human rights education”. BEMIS
believes that only a significant and robust cooperation between Scottish NGOs, civil
society and other statutory governmental agencies can allow for a successful
implementation and promotion of HRE in Scotland.
This is a call for civic society, for Scottish government, public and third sector to reconsider understandings of Human Rights Education and to embrace its values. We invite the broader civic society and stakeholders to consider HRE and its links to social justice, equality, and inclusiveness. Thus, we elicit comments, responses, criticisms and views on this concept and its applications. HRE is a process and we wish to engage with it in a long-term perspective.
If you want to know more about this, if you wish to be involved more actively with HRE in Scotland, if you want to share your thoughts, please write to us and/or check out our Facebook page under ‘Human Rights Education An Active Citizenship in Scotland’. We look forward to hearing from you!
Amnesty International, Human Rights Education
http://www-secure.amnesty.org/en/human-rights-education (accessed August 2010).
Bajaj, Monisha (ed). Encyclopaedia of Peace Education. Charlotte, North Carolina: InformationAge Publishing, Inc., 2008.
Gearon, Liam. The Human Rights Handbook a global perspective for education. Trentham Books: Stoke on Trent, 2003.
Gerber, Paula. From Convention to Classroom: The Long Road to Human Rights Education, Measuring States’ Compliance with International Law Obligations Mandating Human Rights Education. VDM Verlag Muller, 2008.
UNESCO, Promotion of Human Rights Education Human Rights Education
http://www.unescobkk.org/education/appeal/programme-themes/education-and-human-rights/human-rights-education/ (accessed August 2010).
UNESCO, General Principles for Implementing Human Rights Education
http://www.unescobkk.org/education/appeal/programme-themes/education-and-human-rights/human-rights-education/general-prinsiples-for-implementation/ (accessed August 2010).
Osler, Audrey and Starkey, Hugh. Teachers and Human Rights Education. Trentham Books: Stoke on Trent, 2010.
Plan of Action. World Programme for Human Rights Education. New York/Geneva: UNESCO, 2006.
Ramirez, Francisco O. David Suarez and John W. Meyer; ‘The Worldwide Rise of Human Rights Education’; School Knowledge in Comparative and Historical Perspective CERC Studies in Comparative Education; 2007; Volume 18:2.
Readon, Betty. ‘Human Rights Learning: Pedagogies and Politics of Peace’. Paper based on a lecture delivered for the UNESCO Chair for Peace Education Master Conference at the University of Puerto Rico, April 15, 2009. (accessed online August 2010).
Shultz, Lynette. Educating for Human Rights and Global Citizenship; Edited by Ali A. Abdi and Lynette Shultz. State University of New York Press: New York, 2008.
Tomasevski, Katarina. Manual on Rights-Based Education: Global Human Rights Requirements Made Simple. Bangkok: UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, 2004).
International Instruments: Resolutions and Reports: General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Commission on Human Rights and Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
Economic and Social Council E/2005/NGO/21; 25 May 2005.
UN General Assembly 62/171; 20 March 2008 (International Year of Human Rights Learning).
UN General Assembly A/59/525; 25 October 2004.
UN General Assembly A/HRC/RES/12/4*; 4 December 2009 (World Programme for Human Rights Education).
UN General Assembly A/RES/63/173; 20 March 2009.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/61; 20 April 2005.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, General Assembly resolution 59/113B; 14 July 2005.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, General Assembly resolution 59/113; 10 December 2004.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, Human Rights Council resolution 12/4; 1 October 2009.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, Human Rights Council resolution 10/3; 25 March 2009.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, Human Rights Council report A/HRC/9/4; 24 July 2008.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, Human Rights Council resolution 6/24; 28 September 2007.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, Human Rights Council report A/HRC/4/85; 30 January 2007.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, report to the Commission on Human Rights E/CN.4/2006/90; 27 February 2006.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights resolution 2006/19; 24 August 2006.
World Programme for Human Rights Education, Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights resolution 2005/26; 11 August 2005.
Tanveer Parnez, BEMIS (Scotland)