Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
4 August 2009
The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee this morning discussed a draft declaration on human rights education and training.
Emmanuel Decaux, Advisory Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the drafting group on the draft United Nations declaration on human rights education and training, said this was an ambitious mandate. The work built on earlier work, including the World Decade for Human Rights Education. Quantitatively speaking, there was a balance which was set out in a summary fashion in the document. There was a great deal of expectation from stakeholders in this regard. It was important for the Committee to work from something tangible - there was a real momentum that had got going, and it was now important to move the work up a notch. It was important to continue the collective work in substance, coherence and form.
Within the context of the discussion on the draft declaration on human rights education and training, speakers said the draft submitted was a good basis for the successful culmination of the work of the Committee. They stressed the importance of monitoring, not only at the national level, but also at the international level. The declaration should encompass as many people as possible. The role of national human rights institutions should be further emphasized. The drafting of the declaration had brought one of the most challenging assignments to the Committee. It was recalled that this was a document in process, and, instead of going into the language, it should look at the basic elements that should be considered in preparation for the January session. Speakers stressed that the Committee should not be too preoccupied with the language and wording, because during discussions it was important to first understand one another – a meeting of the minds. Speakers also raised concern over the quality of translation of the draft, and said that the translations had to be realigned with that of the original text. The crucial role that human rights education and training played in overturning perceptions and discriminatory attitudes was underscored. Human rights education was a fundamental part of a strategy for revealing human rights abuses. The role of civil society actors and non-governmental organizations should not be overlooked. Speakers also stressed that the definition of human rights education and training should be thoroughly explored to be clearly provided.
Advisory Committee Experts speaking in the discussion included Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Vladimir Kartashkin, Baba Kura Kaigama, Purificacion V. Quisumbing, Bernards Andrews Nyamwaya Mudho, Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Chinsung Chung, José Antonio Bengoa Cabello, Mona Zulficar and Ansar Ahmed Burney.
Representatives of the Philippines speaking on behalf of the Platform for Human Rights Education and Training, namely, the delegations of Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, the Philippines, Slovenia and Switzerland; Algeria, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russian Federation and the United States took the floor during the discussion. Also speaking in the discussion were representatives of the following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations: International Coordination Committee; Amnesty International; SOKA Gakkai International, International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education and Human Rights Education Associates, in a joint statement; Tupaj Amaru; Indian Council of South America; and the World Association for Schools as an Instrument of Peace.
The Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet again in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will continue its discussions on its draft rules of procedure and on draft guidelines to eliminate discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.
Draft United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training
Emmanuel Decaux, Advisory Committee Expert, introducing the draft United Nations declaration on human rights education and training (A/HRC/AC/3/CRP.4), said the mandate was given to the Advisory Committee under resolution 6/10 of the Human Rights Council in September 2007, and was one of the first tasks entrusted to the Committee. This was an ambitious mandate. The work built on earlier work, including the World Decade for Human Rights Education. The mandate was very clear - the Committee was asked to draft a declaration that was precise and to the point, and to do so the Committee had set up a Working Group and adopted a working programme and an interim report which broadly set out the conceptual and methodological framework for the work. It was regrettable that the text currently only existed in French. The subject was very much ripe.
Quantitatively speaking, there was a balance which was set out in a summary fashion in the document. There was a great deal of expectation from stakeholders in this regard. More than 70 national situations were concerned, and there was a growing momentum, which was encouraging for the work. There had been national meetings held on the topic. Very good foundations had been laid for the work of the Advisory Committee. Mr. Decaux hoped that he would continue to be inclusive in his work and alert to concerns. The document was currently five pages long, and if it were longer, then people may not read it. The deadline for the final text was 2010. It was important for the Committee to work from something tangible - there was a real momentum that had got going, and it was now important to move the work up a notch. A paragraph had been suggested containing a definition of human rights education. It was important to continue the collective work in substance, coherence and form. A substantive document should be submitted at the next session. The Advisory Committee should have contact with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Advisory Committee Expert, said this was a working document that would make the work of the Committee valued; it should not be too long, consisting of only five to six pages. It should not include everything considered by the Committee, because then it would be too long and therefore people would not read it. The Committee aimed to come up with a straight forward and simple definition of human rights education. In terms of the main elements contained in the declaration, he underscored that such elements included what would be the contents of human rights education and training; and the target demographics, which would be all encompassing in order to reach everyone, among other things. He stressed that acceptance by States of the declaration was not enough; monitoring was important, not only at the national level, through indicators and national human rights institutions, but also at the international level. For instance, he said at the international level States would need to ratify these obligations under the respective treaty bodies, and as such the treaty bodies would be able to monitor progress in this regard.
Vladimir Kartashkin, Advisory Committee Expert, said the draft submitted was a good basis for the successful culmination of the work of the Committee. The initial success would depend to a great extent on the Working Group and on Mr. Decaux, who had taken into account all the points of view, and had taken into account the vast amounts of material available in this area. In the preamble of the declaration, there should be a reference to the International Bill of Human Rights, an integral part of which was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declared the natural nature of human rights as mandatory for all countries of the world. It went without saying that the declaration should encompass as many people as possible. Starting from school age, students, indigenous peoples, the most vulnerable, all population groups should be covered. Curricula for teaching human rights should be geared to the different target groups, and should include the Universal Declaration, the human rights covenants, and the basic human rights documents referring to the right to education. The declaration should be a universal declaration, and should be implemented in all regions of the world.
BABA KURA KAIGAMA Advisory Committee Expert, said the drafting of the declaration had brought one of the most challenging assignments of the Committee, not only in connection with existing human rights instruments, but also the need to infuse these instruments in a number of different contexts. There was a need to realign the French original to the English translation. With regard to the original text being in French, he noted that the translation into English might have to be realigned with the original text as there was some cause for confusion. For instance in the text the use of the word “Qualify” when referring to education, he asked what did that mean exactly, did it mean quality of education? Furthermore, it was surprising to see that the role of religious institutions had not been mentioned in the text, as they were a vital player in achieving the objectives of human rights education and training, because of the important role they played in the social, political and legal architecture in this context.
Purificacion V. Quisumbing, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, said the Committee needed to continuously express its appreciation to the Rapporteur, Professor Decaux. A lot of thought had gone into the draft, taking into account all the comments made by the Working Group. The Advisory Committee should remember that this was a document in process, and, instead of going into the language, it should look at the basic elements that should be considered in preparation for the January session. This should include what kind of document was required. One of the things about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and why it had lived this long and was quoted everywhere was not only because of what it said, but how it was said. Conciseness was something the Advisory Committee needed to remain aware of, but it should also have clarity. The document to be presented in January should be very quotable. The parameters of the draft were clearly set out. The monitoring system should be clearly assigned to the State and national institutions as well as other responsible groups. There should be paragraphs on implementation. The draft was a work in progress, but a work that should be commended, and the Committee was not mistaken in accepting Professor Decaux's work.
BERNARDS ANDREWS NYAMWAYA MUDHO, Advisory Committee Expert, said with regard to the question of harmonization of the language of the declaration, he disagreed with what some Experts had said, and advised that they should not be too preoccupied with the language and wording, because during discussions it was important to first understand one another – a meeting of the minds. The Committee had to be sure when they talked about the quality of education that they all meant the same thing; be it universal and qualified. Regarding the universality of the declaration, he commended the Rapporteur, and hoped that in future the document could be made available in all the working languages, because the informal text was not exactly what the Rapporteur meant. He advised that in future they worked with official translations of the original text.
Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Advisory Committee Expert, said that monitoring was an issue several stakeholders had taken up. Professor Decaux had taken up the issue in his text, but in paragraph 19, then it should be more outspoken about the role of civil society. There should be more meat for civil society to seize on, and this would also give more information about their activities, which were so central. The Committee should advise as to which actors should be considered responsible or play an active role with regards to the international monitoring function.
CHINSUNG CHUNG, Advisory Committee Expert, said the draft was excellent. She proposed that the first part of the report could reiterate the crucial role human rights education and training played in overturning perceptions and discriminatory attitudes. This was important because a majority of human rights violations took place due to engrained stereotypes. In the second part of the document, she advised that perhaps it would be beneficial to place emphasis on human rights education in primary school curricula, because educating children at the early stage could play an important role in their perceptions of themselves. Moreover, she insisted that the role of national human rights institutions should be further emphasized.
JosE Antonio Bengoa CABELLO, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, said with regards to the annex to the document, there was already something by the way of a specific and tangible proposal. It gave a clear picture of the way the document was going. When evaluating the use of this declaration, what indicators should be used to establish whether it was used and how it was applied in countries, Mr. Bengoa asked, noting the usefulness of this procedure. He could think of three parameters to evaluate compliance, including the inclusion in national systems of education and training of the dissemination of human rights; that people in general were better informed of the existing human rights instruments; and establishing an environment of human rights culture both in the mass media and in private circles. This was a very complicated topic - when establishing legislation one sought to determine what was going to be legislated on and what would be established, and this should be an initial criteria to be examined. There was a term "the right to education as a human right fundamental to the dignity of the human being", but it should be determined what this boiled down to in practice, and whether it included the need to be informed of these rights. It was a complex term in the philosophy of human rights. There should be a more specific paragraph on the responsibility of the State to ensure human rights education and training. Police and security forces should be trained with regards to international human rights documents; this was crucial. The Rapporteur should have a specific paragraph on this. Human rights education was indivisible from civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.
MONA ZULFICAR, Advisory Committee Expert, congratulated the drafting group and Rapporteur for the serious and good work that had been done. The English translation did not do the original text justice. On the continuously raised issue of universality and specificity of cultures, cultures could sometimes pose obstacles in the realisation of human rights education and could be a source of human rights violations. Therefore, derogation from the principles of human rights should be avoided. It was important to say that language of human rights had to respect cultural diversity, without this one could not reach the people, and succeed in creating a culture that respected human rights, which was the aim of human rights education and training. Emphasis on primary education and television was important. Reference to the arts and theatre were welcomed. On monitoring and evaluation, she said the draft declaration put the emphasis where it should be on national strategies, the Governments and national human rights institutions, which was extremely important. The aim of human rights education was to educate, raise consciousness and empower people to realize their human rights.
Ansar Ahmed Burney, Advisory Committee Expert, said the draft was excellent. Human rights education was a part of overall education, and the focus on the basic right of education should not be lost, as millions around the world still lived without this right. How to give human rights education when they did not have standard education was difficult. The Advisory Committee should carefully look into the conceptual framework and attempt to bring clarity and harmony to the different definitions available in the different human rights texts. Human rights should be promoted at all levels through appropriate training and education.
AMINA LEMRINI, of the International Coordination Committee, said they were stakeholders in this process. The draft was welcome because it would promote the involvement of all stakeholders in the issue of human rights education and training. She recommended that with regard to principles contained in the draft, the text should also be holistic, a text which bound education and the right to education as an overall right; and should emphasize the universality and indivisibility of human rights. Further, the spirit of the declaration should come from the basic human rights texts. She agreed that there should be a clearer definition of human rights education in the text. Human rights education and training should be seen as part of an ongoing development of political awareness. In school education, they hoped that human rights education would be considered as an outstanding indicator of the quality of education. States had to include human rights education and training as a cross-cutting policy across all sectors, and allocate the maximum financial and human resources in this endeavour. This was not a binding instrument, but it was their hope that States would prepare reports in order to monitor and evaluate measures.
GRAINNE KILCULLEN, of Amnesty International, said human rights education was a fundamental part of a strategy for revealing human rights abuses, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a range of other international treaties obliged States to provide for and implement human rights education. The Advisory Committee's task of drafting a declaration on human rights education and training was a welcome and significant opportunity to reinforce these standards by providing additional guidelines for effective implementation. The declaration should provide a clear and comprehensive definition of human rights education, and be inclusive, yet remain non-exhaustive to allow for new conceptual developments in the area of human rights to be understood to be part of the definition. It should reflect that human rights education was grounded in a framework of core human rights principles. The declaration should recognise the importance of effective monitoring mechanisms to the implementation of human rights education at national levels. The role of civil society actors and non-governmental organizations should not be overlooked. The Human Rights Council and the Advisory Committee should allocate enough time to ensure an inclusive consultative process in the preparation of the declaration - it was vital that all stakeholders could avail of an equal opportunity to contribute to enrich the draft declaration before it was presented to the Human Rights Council.
KAZUNARI FUJI, speaking on behalf of SOKA Gakkai International, International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education and Human Rights Education Associates, in a joint statement, said they appreciated the basic elements of the first draft of the declaration. It was important to ensure the substantial materials of the United Nations be used as this draft should be available for as many stakeholders as possible in the language that they understood, allowing them enough time to study it. All stakeholders, particularly civil society actors, should be called on as soon as possible for submission of their comments on the basic elements of the first draft; and the summary of the submission should be attached or annexed to the report of the Committee on this matter. Furthermore, they believed that the definition of human rights education and training should be thoroughly explored to be clearly provided. There should be a reference that the full realisation of human rights for all, through a universal culture of human rights, was the ultimate goal of human rights education and training. Additionally, from the perspective of the full realisation of human rights for all, there should be a provision to emphasise that formal, non-formal and informal education were equally important and vitally relevant to each other and to human rights education and training.
LAZARO PARRY, of Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, said in the understanding of indigenous peoples, the vital rights were the right to food, clothing, to have a roof over their heads. These were fundamental basic rights. If the international community failed to resolve these problems then indigenous peoples would be speaking in a void. If the instruments were to be implemented, then there were several challenges ahead - there were many international resolutions and texts which had not been applied for decades. The right to education could not be dissociated from globalisation, and was dependent on the major economic interests of the Western powers. Poor people did not always have access to education, since it had been privatised in some regions. There was a constant degradation of education levels at the primary, secondary, and higher levels. The lack of access to education was increasing, and there was pro-wealthy discrimination. Education also had to do with who was going to teach, and what was going to be taught. The first thing was to teach the teachers, who needed to be trained first. Professor Bengoa said that education was one of the highest functions of the State, and this was true. In this case, States had failed - and so had UNESCO and other United Nations institutions and bodies. The bodies of oppression, such as the police and judges, who could act as a brake on education needed to be educated themselves.
RONALD BARNES, of the Indian Council of South America, said there had to be no confusion as to who indigenous peoples were and to the desire of particular indigenous people to exercise their right to self-determination without any limitation of their status. Indigenous peoples fully possessed God given rights given by the creator, including to the full expression of their sovereignty along with their right to their territory and resources. The right to be informed, to know and consent on the issues that affected them and their leadership to their territory and resources had to be broadly applied to reflect the universal application of the rights of indigenous peoples coinciding with the right to self-determination without any limitation of the status. Each indigenous populations, nations or peoples had the right to be treated as such. When one raised the issue of indigenous peoples, there had to be a complete distinction of their rights. He asked the Committee, what was the link between this body and the indigenous expert mechanism? Was it for the expert mechanism to inform indigenous peoples on the work of the Committee?
MONIQUE PRINDEZIS, of World Association for Schools as an Instrument of Peace, said Mr. Bengoa had talked about monitoring and evaluation criteria. The need for follow-up meant that relevant indicators should be selected, making it possible to monitor States' application of their human rights obligations. There should be quantitative and qualitative indicators, allowing assessment of skills acquired and the value of that education. Four indicators: accessibility, acceptability, adaptability and accountability should be applied. Governments, institutions and those responsible for education should respect these indicators. To ensure appropriate, independent and unbiased follow-up, a monitoring mechanism was required. Non-governmental organizations had for a long time effectively monitored the human rights situation in the world.
ERLINDA F. BASILIO (Philippines), speaking on behalf of the members of the cross-regional Platform for Human Rights Education and Training, namely, the delegations of Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, the Philippines, Slovenia and Switzerland, said of particular importance to them was the work of the Committee on the elaboration of a draft declaration on human rights education and training. The declaration would provide added-value to the cause of human rights and human rights education and training in a number of significant ways. On the political level, it would deliver a clear message from the international community that human rights education and training was a priority and had to be strengthened. While other notable international initiatives such as the UN Decade for Human Rights Education, and the World Programme for Human Rights Education had laid important groundwork, progress on human rights education and training was still lagging. The declaration would be a tool to harness the requisite political will to take further action by enhancing international dialogue and cooperation, raising awareness, and addressing gaps in the international framework on human rights education and training in a non-binding and consensual and inclusive manner. Furthermore, on the practical level – the declaration should provide a unifying vision and clear definition of human rights education and training, and its relationship with the right to education, not only for the formal education sector, but also the informal and non-formal sectors.
SIM MELLOUH (Algeria) said Algeria was well aware of the importance of placing human rights at the heart of school curricula and training, and raising awareness of these rights helped to bring an end to their violation. Human rights education was also a key element of the right to education, teaching entire generations of the need to respect others in a spirit of openness. Human rights education was vital in particular for the marginalised and excluded and those who had not had a chance to enjoy regular education. Human rights education could not be done purely by official education channels - the media should be included in order to spread this culture of human rights and tolerance. Multinationals were also in a position to increase and improve human rights education. International organizations and their role, as well as regional bodies, were able to mainstream human rights education. It was important to educate and train an entire generation that were familiar with their rights and duties. It was the duty of all Algerians to pass on the human rights heritage.
MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan) said during the seminar held in Marrakech on human rights education and training, a variety of ideas were expressed, and helped to bring clarity on a number of aspects, before embarking on an exercise that resulted in the drafting of a declaration on human rights education and training. There was no outcome of the seminar; there was just the summary of the panel discussions which were transmitted to the members of the Working Group. Human right education was a part of overall education and the focus on the basic right of education should not be lost as millions around the world still lived without this basic right. He asked was it fundamental to have the awareness of this right or to enjoy this right? Nothing new was being developed by the declaration. The declaration should aim to streamline regional, national and international efforts in the field of human rights education and training. Emphasis should be placed on the importance of understanding everyone’s common responsibilities to ensure the full realization of human rights education. The fundamental right to education should remain the fundamental priority. He recalled that Millennium Development Goal two demanded that children everywhere would be able to complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015, and this was seen as an improbability at this time. The aim of the draft declaration should be to create pluralistic, democratic and tolerant societies where respect for rights of fellow human beings were held important without distinction of race, colour, religion, sex, social and economic status.
OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria) said the understanding of all rights was vital, as all rights were indivisible and touched upon one another. Awareness and education did not stop when one grew up. Education and awareness must continue. The discussion in Marrakech enriched a number of ideas on education, training and awareness. The Advisory Committee should look at the recommendations that came out of that discussion, as it would inject a lot of ideas in, among other things, involvement of stakeholders, and when training and education were effective. When discussing training and education, the family should not be separated out, as what a child learnt at first was from the family. Education was not limited to something formal - it started at the earliest stages of life. When looking at ideas to form the declaration, it should not be limited to formality, and should take into account the basic social diversity that formed society.
ALEXEY GOLTYAEV (Russian Federation) said they believed that human rights education was extremely important and topical in the context of the promotion and protection of human rights. In their country human rights had been included in the secondary school curriculum as a separate discipline. They were launching a master’s programme in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasizing human rights. They were thankful for the new version on the draft declaration which took into account a number of points made in the Human Rights Council and the Marrakech seminar. At the same time, they would study very carefully the draft and give their comments. The declaration had to contain clear demarcations on the right to education and human rights education and training as a process. The declaration had to focus on promoting those positive policies of States taken in human rights education and disseminating best practices, rather than identifying sub-categories from the general category of human rights. Human rights education and training should be given a definition in terms of the values of the particular society in which those rights were being given. In conclusion, Russia continued to believe that education in human rights was an extremely important instrument in promoting dialogue among cultures and civilizations, and recommended to those drafting it to work towards a text which included the maximum amount of responsibility and objectivity.
ANNA L. CHAMBERS (United States) said the discussion today brought up a lot of the different factors that would be important for elaborating a declaration enjoying wide support. The United States looked forward to sharing specific comments at a later date, and was sure the Advisory Committee would exercise due care while elaborating the declaration and the definitions therein.
EMMANUEL DECAUX, Advisory Committee Expert, said he took note of the suggestions, though some were contradictory to one another. He agreed with Pakistan, that there was no official result of the Marrakech discussions; however the discussion was useful because suggestions were made and it was up to the Committee to interpret from those suggestions what was to be done. The Philippines made an important statement, regarding the parallel events to be held on the margins of the Human Rights Council. He was pleased to note that some convergence emerged within the Committee as well as the drafting group. He was aware of the translation issues. He said it was important to step back from the text to look at it from a new perspective. A definition at the outset was definitely necessary. The link to basic education was fundamental and part of the basis as a building block. He said he would look more closely at the text and tidy it up. He regretted that the Marrakech seminar was held in July rather than in May. He said he would continue to work transparently, being as inclusive as possible, taking into account the views of all stakeholders. Submissions should not be sent in too late, as he hoped to finalize the document in September, in order to ensure that it would be translated into all official languages.
On the translation from French, he meant “quality” education not “qualify” education, which meant a good standard of education. Human rights had to be seen, heard and understood so that everyone knew and understood the principles presented in a nutshell in the document. On the grassroots level, education should start at the earliest stages – preschool. All the potential target groups had to be taken into account, law enforcement officials, the criminal justice system and the military, to mention a few groups to be further elaborated on and to prepare guidelines for. The importance of the mass media, television and new technologies was mentioned and had to be brought into the text. Furthermore, Mr. Decaux stressed the need to focus more on monitoring and evaluation measures. He suggested that this might be addressed during the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review process.
For use of the information media; not an official record