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Report on the writing and teaching of history


Published:
9 August 2013
Author:
Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights
Presented:
To the General Assembly its 68th session
Link:

Background

This report is the first of two consecutive studies undertaken on historical and memorial narratives. It seeks to identify under which circumstances the historical narrative promoted by the State in schools becomes problematic from a human rights perspective.

A second report (A/HRC/25/49) focuses on memorials and museums.

Summary and Recommendations

History is always subject to differing interpretations. In too many places around the world, history teaching fails to acknowledge cultural diversity and the multiplicity of historical narratives among and within communities. History teaching and textbooks often serve to strengthen patriotism, fortifying national identity or shaping the young in line with either the official ideology or the guidelines of the dominant religion.

Instead, States should develop policies that are grounded in the principle that history teaching is based on the understanding of history as an academic discipline. It should embrace the complexity of history, and refrain from the manipulation of history for political ends.

History teaching should aim at fostering critical thought, analytic learning and debate. The Special Rapporteur calls on States to develop education policies that foster a multi-perspective approach. Her recommendations include:

  1. ensuring an appropriate ratio of local, national, regional and global history;
  2. ensuring that a wide array of history textbooks are accredited for selection by teachers, and enabling teachers to use supplementary teaching materials;
  3. raising awareness about manipulations in history textbooks, and refraining from encouraging such abuse; and
  4. ensuring the continuous education and professional training of history teachers, who are pivotal for promoting a human rights perspective.

Read all recommendations and conclusions of the report on the writing and teaching of history

Learn more about the work of the mandate relating to history and memory.

Methodology

To inform both her reports and elucidate ways and means to sensitize institutions and society on diverse cultural heritage and to enhance cooperation for its safeguard and promotion, the Special Rapporteur held an expert meeting and a public consultation in Geneva.

The Expert meeting on cultural rights in divided and post-conflict societies was organized by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) in association with the University of Ulster. It was held in Derry, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on 1-3 July 2013.

See the short video about the consultation and read the keynote speech by the Special Rapporteur.

Read the report of the Northern Ireland Commission on Human Rights to the Human Rights Council on the consultation (A/HRC/25/NI/5).

The open consultation was held on 5 July 2013 in Geneva. Member States, specialized agencies, intergovernmental organizations, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations were invited to take part.

See the note verbal and read the statements from the experts invited: