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Opening statement by the Deputy High Commissioner at the Open-ended Working Group on the Draft United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training

10 January 2011

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to open the session of the open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the Draft United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, and welcome the opportunity to address you on this important matter.

I wish to commend the work of the Platform for Human Rights Education and Training, a very active cross-regional governmental grouping at the Human Rights Council, that spearheaded the initiative of developing the Declaration.

Human rights education and training is a clear obligation under international human rights law, and a prerequisite to achieve the realization of all human rights. Without knowing and understanding one’s rights and those of others, neither claiming nor enforcing them is possible. Human rights education contributes to the long-term prevention of human rights abuses and violent conflicts, the promotion of equality and sustainable development and the enhancement of participatory decision-making processes within a democratic system.

The initiative of developing a Declaration on human rights education and training must build on and consolidate the many provisions on human rights education and training contained in international instruments. These start with the Universal Declaration and encompass all human rights treaties - including those dealing with discrimination against women, torture, racial discrimination, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, children or economic, social and cultural rights, to mention a few - as well as jurisprudence of treaty bodies, soft law and policy documents such as the outcome documents of the 1993 Vienna Conference and the 2005 World Summit.

The Human Rights Council, through its resolution 13/15, requested the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group to negotiate and finalize the text of the Declaration.

The current text, revised through broad consultations following the work of the Advisory Committee, defines human rights education and training as a lifelong process encompassing not only the acquisition of knowledge and skills but also the development of attitudes and behaviours which uphold human rights. It recognizes the fundamental role that effective human rights education and training play in preventing violations, combating discrimination as well as fostering equality and equal opportunities for all. It stresses the responsibility of governments to promote and ensure human rights education and training through relevant strategies, policies and programmes, and to create an enabling environment for the relevant work of civil society actors which are often very active in this area.

As you embark in final discussions about the draft Declaration, I would like to emphasize two points.

Firstly: we welcome the explicit reference in the current text to the right to human rights education and training – already explicitly recognized, for example, by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as by the Advisory Committee. This reference would give due recognition to the fundamental importance of human rights education and training both for its own sake, and for the realization of other rights.

Secondly: implementation of the Declaration could usefully be strengthened through the use of existing international and regional monitoring mechanisms - in particular, human rights treaty bodies, special procedures and the universal periodic review. More explicit references in the text to the inclusion by States of information on human rights education and training measures and activities in fulfilling their reporting obligations and to a more systematic monitoring function by international mechanisms could strengthen this new instrument.

In conclusion, I would like to remind us that, in addition to this standard-setting process, the Human Rights Council is also promoting a programme focussing on concrete national implementation of human rights education and training, that is the World Programme for Human Rights Education. For the period 2010-2014, the World Programme is focussing on human rights education in higher education and human rights training for civil servants, law enforcement and military personnel, among others. OHCHR continues to stand ready to assist national implementation and international coordination in these and other human rights education and training areas.

I wish you a very productive week and look forward to the results of your deliberations.

Thank you.