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(A/59/525/Rev.1, 2 March 2005)
“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, para. 78).
A. Context and definition of human rights education
1. The international community has increasingly expressed consensus on the fundamental contribution of human rights education to the realization of human rights. Human rights education aims at developing an understanding of our common responsibility to make human rights a reality in every community and in society at large. In this sense, it contributes to the long-term prevention of human rights abuses and violent conflicts, the promotion of equality and sustainable development and the enhancement of people’s participation in decision-making processes within a democratic system, as stated in Commission on Human Rights resolution 2004/71.
2. Provisions on human rights education have been incorporated in many international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 26), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 13), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 29), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (article 10), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (article 7), the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (Part I, paras. 33-34 and Part II, paras. 78-82) and the Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 (Declaration, paras. 95-97 and Programme of Action, paras. 129-139).
3. In accordance with these instruments, which provide elements of a definition of human rights education as agreed upon by the international community, human rights education can be defined as education, training and information aiming at building a universal culture of human rights through the sharing of knowledge, imparting of skills and moulding of attitudes directed to:
(a) The strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
(b) The full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity;
(c) The promotion of understanding, tolerance, gender equality and friendship among all nations, indigenous peoples and racial, national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups;
(d) The enabling of all persons to participate effectively in a free and democratic society governed by the rule of law;
(e) The building and maintenance of peace;
(f) The promotion of people-centred sustainable development and social justice.
4. Human rights education encompasses:
(a) Knowledge and skills — learning about human rights and mechanisms for their protection, as well as acquiring skills to apply them in daily life;
(b) Values, attitudes and behaviour — developing values and reinforcing attitudes and behaviour which uphold human rights;
(c) Action — taking action to defend and promote human rights.
5. With a view to encouraging human rights education initiatives, Member States have adopted various specific international frameworks for action, such as the World Public Information Campaign on Human Rights, focusing on the development and dissemination of human rights information materials, the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004 and its Plan of Action, encouraging the elaboration and implementation of comprehensive, effective and sustainable strategies for human rights education at the national level, and the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).
6. In 2004, the Economic and Social Council, welcoming Commission on Human Rights resolution 2004/71, requested the General Assembly to proclaim, at its fifty-ninth session, a world programme for human rights education, to begin on 1 January 2005 and to be structured in consecutive phases, in order to further focus national human rights education efforts on specific sectors/issues periodically identified by the Commission on Human Rights.
B. Objectives of the World Programme for Human Rights Education
7. The objectives of the World Programme for Human Rights Education are:
(a) To promote the development of a culture of human rights;
(b) To promote a common understanding, based on international instruments, of basic principles and methodologies for human rights education;
(c) To ensure a focus on human rights education at the national, regional and international levels;
(d) To provide a common collective framework for action by all relevant actors;
(e) To enhance partnership and cooperation at all levels;
(f) To take stock of and support existing human rights education programmes, to highlight successful practices, and to provide an incentive to continue and/or expand them and to develop new ones.
C. Principles for human rights education activities 
8. Educational activities within the world programme shall:
(a) Promote the interdependence, indivisibility and universality of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development;
(b) Foster respect for and appreciation of differences, and opposition to discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, physical or mental condition, and on other bases;
(c) Encourage analysis of chronic and emerging human rights problems (including poverty, violent conflicts and discrimination), which would lead to solutions consistent with human rights standards;
(d) Empower communities and individuals to identify their human rights needs and to ensure that they are met;
(e) Build on the human rights principles embedded within the different cultural contexts and take into account historical and social developments in each country;
(f) Foster knowledge of and skills to use local, national, regional and international human rights instruments and mechanisms for the protection of human rights;
(g) Make use of participatory pedagogies that include knowledge, critical analysis and skills for action furthering human rights;
(h) Foster teaching and learning environments free from want and fear that encourage participation, enjoyment of human rights and the full development of the human personality;
(i) Be relevant to the daily life of the learners, engaging them in a dialogue about ways and means of transforming human rights from the expression of abstract norms to the reality of their social, economic, cultural and political conditions.
“The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that States are duty-bound … to ensure that education is aimed at strengthening the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms [and that] this should be integrated in the educational policies at the national as well as international levels” (Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, Part I, para. 33).
9. In accordance with resolution 2004/71 of the Commission on Human Rights, the first phase (2005-2007) of the World Programme for Human Rights Education will focus on the primary and secondary school systems.
10. The plan of action draws on the principles and frameworks set by international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and related guidelines adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (in particular, general comment No. 1 (2001) on the aims of education), the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the Declaration and Integrated Framework of Action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy. It also draws on international declarations and programmes on education.
11. The Dakar Framework for Action on Education For All: Meeting Our Collective Commitments, adopted at the World Education Forum in 2000,  the major international platform and collective commitment to the achievement of the goals and targets of Education For All (EFA), reaffirmed a vision of education supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and geared towards learning to live together. In the Dakar Framework, education is considered key “to sustainable development and peace and stability” (para. 6), by fostering social cohesion and empowering people to become active participants in social transformation. Goal 6 of the Dakar Framework is to improve all aspects of the quality of education, ensuring their excellence so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.  It provides the basis for a concept of quality education that goes beyond reading, writing and arithmetic, and which, while necessarily dynamic, is strongly rights-based and entails democratic citizenship, values and solidarity as important outcomes.
12. A rights-based quality education encompasses the concept of education for sustainable development as contained in the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Education is seen as a process for addressing important questions such as rural development, health care, community involvement, HIV/AIDS, the environment, traditional and indigenous knowledge, and wider ethical issues such as human values and human rights. It is further stated that the success in the struggle for sustainable development requires an approach to education that strengthens “our engagement in support of other values — especially justice and fairness — and the awareness that we share a common destiny with others”.  The World Programme for Human Rights Education would create synergies with the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), coupling efforts to address issues of common concern.
13. One of the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the international community on the occasion of the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 is the promotion of universal access to primary education, which is still a major challenge. Although enrolment rates have been increasing in several regions, the quality of education remains low for many. For example, gender biases, threats to the physical and emotional security of girls and gender-insensitive curricula can all conspire against the realization of the right to education (A/56/326, para. 94). This plan of action aims at contributing to the achievement of this Millennium Development Goal by promoting rights-based quality education.
14. The plan of action is also placed within the context of action of Member States and others to promote the universal right to literacy, in particular within the framework of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012), literacy being a key learning tool towards the fulfilment of the right to education.
B. Human rights education in the school system
15. Human rights education is widely considered to be an integral part of the right to education. As stated by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its general comment No. 1, “the education to which each child has a right is one designed to provide the child with life skills, to strengthen the child’s capacity to enjoy the full range of human rights and to promote a culture which is infused by appropriate human rights values” (para. 2). Such education “is for every child an indispensable tool for her or his efforts to achieve in the course of her or his life a balanced, human rights-friendly response to the challenges that accompany a period of fundamental change driven by globalization, new technologies and related phenomena” (para. 3).
16. The Convention on the Rights of the Child attaches particular importance to the process by which education is to be promoted, as underlined in the general comment: “Efforts to promote the enjoyment of other rights must not be undermined, and should be reinforced, by the values imparted in the educational process. This includes not only the content of the curriculum but also the educational processes, the pedagogical methods and the environment within which education takes place”.  Accordingly, human rights should be learned through both content transmission and experience, and should be practised at all levels of the school system.
17. In this sense, human rights education promotes a rights-based approach to education and should be understood as a process that includes:
(a) “Human rights through education”: ensuring that all the components and processes of learning, including curricula, materials, methods and training are conducive to the learning of human rights;
(b) “Human rights in education”: ensuring the respect of the human rights of all actors, and the practice of rights, within the education system.
18. Therefore, human rights education in the primary and secondary school systems includes:
(a) Policies — developing in a participatory way and adopting coherent educational policies, legislation and strategies that are human rights-based, including curriculum improvement and training policies for teachers and other educational personnel;
(b) Policy implementation — planning the implementation of the above-mentioned educational policies by taking appropriate organizational measures and by facilitating the involvement of all stakeholders;
(c) Learning environment — the school environment itself respects and promotes human rights and fundamental freedoms. It provides the opportunity for all school actors (students, teachers, staff and administrators and parents) to practise human rights through real-life activities. It enables children to express their views freely and to participate in school life; 
(d) Teaching and learning — all teaching and learning processes and tools are rights-based (for instance, the content and objectives of the curriculum, participatory and democratic practices and methodologies, appropriate materials including the review and revision of existing textbooks, etc.);
(e) Education and professional development of teachers and other personnel — providing the teaching profession and school leadership, through pre- and in-service training, with the necessary knowledge, understanding, skills and competencies to facilitate the learning and practice of human rights in schools, as well as with appropriate working conditions and status.
A detailed description of the five components and related courses of action, to serve as a reference tool, is provided in the appendix.
19. By promoting a rights-based approach to education, human rights education enables the education system to fulfil its fundamental mission to secure quality education for all. Accordingly, it contributes to improving the effectiveness of the national education system as a whole, which in turn has a fundamental role in each country’s economic, social and political development. It provides, among others, the following benefits:
(a) Improved quality of learning achievements by promoting child-centred and participatory teaching and learning practices and processes, as well as a new role for the teaching profession;
(b) Increased access to and participation in schooling by creating a rights-based learning environment that is inclusive and welcoming and fosters universal values, equal opportunities, diversity and non-discrimination;
(c) A contribution to social cohesion and conflict prevention by supporting the social and emotional development of the child and by introducing democratic citizenship and values.
20. All efforts taking place in the school system towards peace education, citizenship and values education, multicultural education, global education or education for sustainable development do include human rights principles in their content and methodologies. It is important that all of them, using this plan of action as a reference, promote a rights-based approach to education, which goes beyond teaching and learning and aims at providing a platform for systemic improvement of the school sector in the context of national education reforms.
C. Specific objectives of the plan of action
21. Considering the overall objectives of the World Programme for Human Rights Education (see sect. I above), this plan aims to achieve the following specific objectives:
(a) To promote the inclusion and practice of human rights in the primary and secondary school systems;
(b) To support the development, adoption and implementation of comprehensive, effective and sustainable national human rights education strategies in school systems, and/or the review and improvement of existing initiatives;
(c) To provide guidelines on key components of human rights education in the school system;
(d) To facilitate the provision of support to Member States by international, regional, national and local organizations;
(e) To support networking and cooperation among local, national, regional and international institutions.
22. This plan provides:
(a) A definition of human rights education in the school system based on internationally agreed principles;
(b) A user-friendly guide to developing and/or improving human rights education in the school system, by proposing concrete actions for implementation at the national level;
(c) A flexible guide which can be adapted to different contexts and situations and to different types of education systems.
23. This plan is an incentive and a means to develop and strengthen human rights education in primary and secondary school systems at the national level. Its underlying assumption is that a process of change and improvement should happen by taking several simultaneous actions in different areas (see appendix). To be effective, such a process should be organized along the lines of widely accepted stages of a development cycle. Realistic goals and means for action need to be established in accordance with a country’s context, priorities and capacity, and based on previous national efforts (such as those undertaken within the framework of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004).
24. This plan and its implementation strategy recognize that the situation of human rights education in school systems differs from country to country. For instance, human rights education may be largely missing in some countries; other countries may have national policies and programmes, but little implementation; in other cases there may be grass-roots initiatives and projects in schools, often supported by international organizations, but not necessarily part of a national policy; other countries may be very supportive of human rights education with well-developed national policies and actions. Whatever the situation and the type of education system, the development or improvement of human rights education is to be on each country’s education agenda.
25. The implementation strategy addresses primarily the ministries of education, which have the main responsibility for primary and secondary education at national level. Ministries of education are therefore the main leaders and actors. The implementation strategy also addresses other relevant institutions (see paras. 28-30 below), which should be involved in all stages of planning and implementation.
B. Stages of the implementation strategy
26. This section proposes four stages to facilitate the process of planning, implementation and evaluation of human rights education in the school system. They provide guidelines to assist Member States in implementing this plan of action.
Stage 1: Analysis of the current situation of human rights education in the school system
Stage 2: Setting priorities and developing a national implementation strategyActions
A national implementation strategy for human rights education in the primary and secondary school system that identifies objectives and priorities and foresees at least some implementation activities for the period 2005-2007.
Stage 3: Implementing and monitoring
Depending on the priorities of the national implementation strategy, outputs can be, for instance, legislation, mechanisms for coordination of the national implementation strategy, new or revised textbooks and learning materials, training courses, participatory teaching and/or learning methodologies or non-discriminatory policies protecting all members of the school community.
Stage 4: EvaluatingActions
C. Minimum action
27. Member States are encouraged 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.
28. Main responsibility for the implementation of this plan of action rests with the ministries of education through their relevant agencies dealing with such concerns as:
(a) Educational policy;
(b) Programme planning;
(c) Curriculum development;
(d) Teaching and learning material development;
(e) Pre- and in-service training of teachers and other educational personnel;
(f) Teaching and learning methodologies;
(g) Inclusive education;
(h) Regional/provincial/local administration;
(j) Dissemination of information.
29. The implementation of this plan of action needs the close collaboration of other institutions, namely:
(a) Teachers’ colleges and faculties of education of universities;
(b) Teachers’ unions, professional organizations and accrediting institutions;
(c) National, federal, local and state legislative bodies, including education, development and human rights parliamentary committees;
(d) National human rights institutions such as ombudsmen and human rights commissions;
(e) National commissions for UNESCO;
(f) National/local groups/organizations, including, for example, national committees for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other community-based organizations;
(g) National branches of international non-governmental organizations;
(h) Parents’ associations;
(i) Students’ associations;
(j) Education research institutes;
(k) National and local human rights resource and training centres.
30. It also needs the support of other stakeholders such as:
(a) Other relevant ministries (welfare, labour, justice, women, youth);
(b) Youth organizations;
(c) Media representatives;
(d) Religious institutions;
(e) Cultural, social and community leaders;
(f) Indigenous peoples and minority groups;
(g) The business community.
31. As mentioned in section II above, human rights education in the national education system can also assist in improving the system’s effectiveness. It provides a set of guiding principles to support educational reform and helps to respond to current challenges of education systems worldwide, such as access to and equal opportunities in education, the contribution of education to social inclusion and cohesion, the role and status of teachers, the relevance of education for students and the society, the improvement of students’ achievements and educational governance.
32. Having this in mind, funding for human rights education can be made available also within the context of resources allocated to the national education system in general, and in particular by:
(a) Optimizing already committed national funds to quality education in order to implement this plan;
(b) Coordinating external funds and allocation practices based on the actions set out in this plan;
(c) Creating partnerships between the public and private sectors.
A. National level
33. Main responsibility for the implementation of the plan of action shall rest with the ministry of education in each country. The ministry should assign or strengthen a relevant department or unit responsible for coordinating the elaboration, implementation and monitoring of the national implementation strategy.
34. The coordinating department or unit would engage relevant departments within the ministry of education, other ministries and concerned national actors (see sect. III, paras. 28-30, above) in the elaboration, implementation and monitoring of the national implementation strategy. In this regard, it could facilitate the establishment of a human rights education coalition of those actors.
35. The coordinating department or unit would be called upon to provide updated and detailed information on national progress made in this area to the United Nations inter-agency coordinating committee (see para. 38 below).
36. Moreover, the coordinating department or unit would work in close cooperation with relevant national agencies responsible for the elaboration of country reports to the United Nations treaty bodies, in order to ensure that progress in human rights education is included in those reports.
37. Member States are also encouraged to identify and support a resource centre for collecting and disseminating initiatives and information (good practices from diverse contexts and countries, educational materials, events) on human rights education at national level.
B. International level
38. A United Nations inter-agency coordinating committee, composed of OHCHR, UNESCO, UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other relevant international agencies, including the World Bank, will be set up and be responsible for the international coordination of activities under this plan of action. The secretariat of this committee will be provided by OHCHR.
39. The committee will meet regularly to follow up on the implementation of this plan of action, mobilize resources and support actions at country level. In this regard, it may invite to its meetings, on an ad hoc basis, other relevant international and regional institutions, experts and actors, such as members of the United Nations treaty bodies, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the right to education and others.
40. The committee will be responsible for liaising with the United Nations country teams or international agencies’ country presences to ensure the follow-up of the plan of action and United Nations system-wide support to the national implementation strategy, in line with the Secretary-General’s reform programme, which provides for coordinated United Nations action at the country level to support national human rights protection systems (A/57/387 and Corr.1, action 2).
41. The United Nations treaty bodies, when examining reports of States parties, will be called upon to place emphasis on the obligation of States parties to implement human rights education in the school systems and to reflect that emphasis in their concluding observations.
42. Furthermore, all relevant thematic and country mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights (including the Special Rapporteurs and representatives, in particular the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, as well as working groups) will be called upon to include systematically in their reports progress in human rights education in the school system, as relevant to their mandate.
43. The committee may consider seeking assistance of regional and subregional institutions and organizations with a view to monitor more effectively the implementation of this plan of action.
44. International cooperation and support towards the implementation of this plan of action will be provided by:
(a) The United Nations system;
(b) Other international intergovernmental organizations;
(c) Regional intergovernmental organizations;
(d) Regional organizations of ministers of education;
(e) International and regional forums of ministers of education;
(f) International and regional non-governmental organizations;
(g) Regional human rights resource and documentation centres;
(h) International and regional financial institutions (World Bank, regional development banks, etc.), as well as bilateral funding agencies.
45. It is indispensable that those actors collaborate closely in order to maximize resources, avoid duplication and ensure coherence for the implementation of this plan of action.
46. The objective of international cooperation and support will be the strengthening of national and local capacities for human rights education in the primary and secondary school systems within the framework of the national implementation strategy dealt with in section III of this plan of action.
47. The above-mentioned organizations and institutions may consider undertaking, inter alia, the following actions:
(a) Support ministries of education in the elaboration, implementation and monitoring of the national implementation strategy, including the development of related specialized tools;
(b) Provide support to other national actors involved, in particular national and local non-governmental organizations, professional associations and other civil society organizations;
(c) Facilitate information-sharing among concerned actors at the national, regional and international levels by identifying, collecting and disseminating information on good practices, as well as on available materials, institutions and programmes, through traditional and electronic means;
(d) Support existing networks among actors in human rights education and promote the creation of new ones at the national, regional and international levels;
(e) Support effective human rights training (including training on participatory teaching and learning methodologies) for teachers, teacher trainers, education officials and employees of non-governmental organizations;
(f) Support research on the implementation of national human rights education in schools, including studies on practical measures for its improvement.
48. In order to mobilize resources to support the implementation of this plan of action, international and regional financial institutions, as well as bilateral funding agencies will be called upon to explore ways of linking their funding programmes on education to this plan of action and to human rights education in general.
49. At the conclusion of the first phase (2005-2007) of the World Programme, each country will undertake an evaluation of actions implemented under this plan of action. The evaluation will take into consideration progress made in a number of areas, such as legal frameworks and policies, curricula, teaching and learning processes and tools, revision of textbooks, teacher training, improvement of the school environment, etc. The Member States will be called upon to provide their final national evaluation report to the United Nations inter-agency coordinating committee.
50. To this end, international and regional organizations will provide assistance to build or strengthen national capacities for evaluation.
51. The inter-agency coordinating committee will prepare a final evaluation report based on national evaluation reports, in cooperation with relevant international, regional and non-governmental organizations. The report will be submitted to the General Assembly at its sixty-third session (2008).
 The section on the principles for human rights education activities is based on the guidelines for national plans of action for human rights education developed within the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004 (A/52/469/Add.1 and Corr.1).
 See United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Final Report of the World Education Forum, Dakar, Senegal, 26-28 April 2000, Paris, 2000.
 According to general comment No. 1 (2001) of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the aims of education, life skills include “the ability to make well-balanced decisions; to resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner; and to develop a healthy lifestyle, good social relationships and responsibility, critical thinking, creative talents, and other abilities which give children the tools needed to pursue their options in life” (Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-seventh Session, Supplement No. 41 (A/57/41), annex VIII, appendix, para. 9).
 UNESCO, “Education for Sustainability: from Rio to Johannesburg: lessons learned from a decade of commitment” (Paris, 2002).
 In general comment No. 1, the Committee on the Rights of the Child also stated that “it should be emphasized that the type of teaching that is focused primarily on accumulation of knowledge, prompting competition and leading to an excessive burden of work on children, may seriously hamper the harmonious development of the child to the fullest potential of his or her abilities and talents” (Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-seventh Session, Supplement No. 41 (A/57/41), annex VIII, appendix, para. 12).
 General comment No. 1 also states that “The participation of children in school life, the creation of school communities and student councils, peer education and peer counselling, and the involvement of children in school disciplinary proceedings should be promoted as part of the process of learning and experiencing the realization of rights” (Ibid., para. 8).