1. Building a Universal Framework for Human Rights Education
17 UNESCO, the UN agency with a particular mandate for education in its constitution, was the first to organize a World Conference on Human Rights Education, which took place in Vienna in 1978 and adopted a number of principles for human rights teaching. A second major move by UNESCO was the International Congress on Education for Human Rights and Democracy in Montreal in 1993, which elaborated a World Plan of Action on Education for Human Rights and Democracy. The second UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in the same year gave particular attention to HRE and reminded States in Part I para. 33 and Part II paras 78 to 82 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action that they are duty-bound to assure HRE and that HRE should be integrated into the educational policies at national and international levels.
18 As the result of the initiative of some non-governmental organizations (‘NGOs’), such as the People’s Decade on Human Rights Education (‘PDHRE’), and some States, such as Costa Rica, in 1994 the UN General Assembly proclaimed the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (‘Decade’) for the period 1995 to 2004, for which purpose a plan of action was adopted. Among the activities foreseen was the adoption of national HRE plans, which, however, were not effectively realized by most countries, with few exceptions such as Croatia, France, and Scandinavian countries.
19 The responsibility for administering the Decade was entrusted to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (Human Rights, United Nations High Commissioner for [UNHCHR]), albeit without the necessary additional funding. Although complementary activities were undertaken by UNESCO, in particular on the regional level, inter-agency cooperation remained unsatisfactory.
20 Consequently, both the global mid-term evaluation and the final evaluation of the Decade undertaken jointly by UNHCHR and UNESCO at the request of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights/United Nations Human Rights Council showed that the Decade, although successful in some respects, overall had been unable to meet its objectives. Therefore, the World Programme for Human Rights Education was adopted as a new approach. It foresees the elaboration of successive plans of action for periods that were originally to be of three years but were subsequently extended to five years. The First Plan of Action for the period 2005–2007, which was extended to 2009, focused on HRE in the primary and secondary school systems. It supported a rights-based approach to education consisting of human rights through education, meaning that the whole learning process has to be conducive to learning human rights, and human rights must also be practised within the education system. The second phase from 2010 to 2014 had a focus on higher education and training of teachers and educators, civil servants, law enforcement officials, and military personnel, and the third from 2015 to 2019 on media professionals and journalists, while the fourth phase, which is to begin in 2020, will have a focus on youth.
21 For each phase an implementation strategy by way of an action plan has been outlined for the national level, which is to be coordinated by the ministries of education. The action plans distinguish four stages: the first stage is an analysis of the situation of HRE in the respective field by way of a national study; the second stage is devoted to developing priorities and a national implementation strategy; the third stage consists of measures of implementation and monitoring; and the fourth stage is devoted to an evaluation to take place at the mid-term and after the end of the phase based on a guidance note by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is designed as a self-evaluation and there is no specific body to discuss the reports, which vary widely. On the international level, an Inter-Agency Co-ordinating Committee has the task of mobilizing resources and support actions at the country level by providing system-wide UN support. The UN treaty bodies and special procedures are called upon to monitor progress within the framework of their mandate. For example, the performance of a State may play a role in recommendations under the Universal Periodic Review (‘UPR’).
22 In practice, implementation of the detailed obligations in the action programmes has never been satisfactory. States have ignored or only partly implemented their obligations as can be seen from the reports received. While only a minority of States has reported at all on their practice, their number is in fact declining. The global backlash in the field of human rights can also be found in the efforts of States to meet their obligations in the framework of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.
23 The Declaration on HRE of 2011 is the result of a separate process that produced a new legal basis for human rights education, although it is of a soft law nature. It has five main objectives: (1) raising awareness for human rights, (2) development of a universal culture for human rights, (3) effective realization of human rights, (4) ensuring equal opportunities for all, and (5) a contribution to the prevention of violations of human rights (Art. 4). For this purpose, States should also accept international assistance and cooperation (Arts 7 and 12). The World Programme for Human Rights Education as well as national and local needs should be taken into account (Art. 8). A variety of actors including civil society institutions and human rights defenders are called upon to play a role (Art. 10). International and regional human rights mechanisms should take human rights education and training into account in their work (Art. 13).
2. Regional Approaches
24 In Europe, the Council of Europe (COE), the Office on Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (‘ODIHR’) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union (‘EU’) have each developed significant activities in the field of HRE. The COE has the oldest and largest role. It bases HRE activities on several recommendations such as the COE Committee of Ministers Resolution (78) 41 on the Teaching of Human Rights of 25 October 1978; the COE Committee of Ministers Recommendation (85) 7 on Teaching and Learning about Human Rights in Schools of 14 May 1985; the COE Committee of Ministers Recommendation 1346 (1997) on Human Rights Education of 1–2, 7 July 1999; and the COE Committee of Ministers Recommendation (2004) 4 on the European Convention on Human Rights in University Education and Professional Training of 12 May 2004, replaced by COE Committee of Ministers Recommendation (2019) 5 on the System of European Convention on Human Rights in University Education and Professional Training of 16 October 2019 (European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ). Since the end of the Cold War (1947–91), numerous education and training activities in human rights have been undertaken by European regional organizations, in particular in the new democracies. The COE has also incorporated HRE into its programmes on education for democratic citizenship. For this purpose the Committee of Ministers in 2010 adopted a Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education (COE Committee of Ministers Recommendation (2010) 7 of 11 May 2010), the implementation of which was strengthened by the Declaration, Key Actions and Expected Outcomes on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights of the Conference on the Future of Citizenship and Human Rights Education in Europe of 22 June 2017 (available at <https://rm.coe.int/declaration-key-actions-and-expected-outcomes-on-education-for-democra/1680734485> [14 May 2020]).
25 OSCE annually organizes so-called ‘human dimension implementation meetings’, which also have a focus on HRE. The EU, which on 10 December 1998 adopted a declaration on the 50th anniversary of the UDHR putting special emphasis on HRE, is the largest supporter of HRE activities through its European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (‘EIDHR’), which are often implemented by the COE or by competent NGOs. The EU also focuses on post-graduate education in human rights by supporting regional master’s programmes on human rights and democracy in Venice, Sarajevo, Yerevan, Beirut, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, and Pretoria, which together encompass more than 100 universities forming a ‘global campus’.
26 In Africa, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACommHPR) has undertaken numerous HRE activities mostly in cooperation with NGOs in pursuance of Art. 45 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981) (‘AChHPR’). Under Art. 25 AChHPR, which today covers all of Africa, States Parties have
The ACommHPR also promotes the translation of regional and international human rights conventions into local languages, which is a necessary precondition for making people aware of their rights. In a similar way, one of the main functions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACommHR) is ‘to develop an awareness of human rights among the peoples of the Americas’ (Art. 18 Statute of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [approved October 1979] in OAS Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter-American System [Washington DC 2007] 163).
27 In Asia, national human rights institutions play a particular role in promoting human rights education. But there is also the ASEAN University Network Human Rights Education (AUN–HRE), which promotes human rights and peace education, develops teaching materials, and organizes training activities.
28 In line with the UN activities, UNESCO organized several conferences to elaborate regional strategies and recommendations. Such conferences included: the European Implementation Strategy (Turku 1997); Strategies for the Promotion of Human Rights Education in Africa (Dakar 1998); the Pune Declaration on Education for Human Rights in Asia (1999); the Rabat Declaration for an Arab Strategy on Human Rights Education (1999); the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights Education and Dissemination (2000); and, the Mexico City Declaration on Human Rights Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (2001). However, financial reasons forced UNESCO to reduce its activities in this field. Nonetheless, it became the lead organization to promote ‘global citizenship education’, of which human rights education forms an essential part.