||Human Rights Education and Compass, a Brief
Guide for Practioners > Understanding Human Rights Education
HRE and Other Education Fields
A human rights world
Human rights affect every aspect of our lives. Indeed, violations
of human rights lie at the root of almost every problem in the
world today: violence, poverty, globalisation, the environment,
economic inequality, and lawlessness. Not to mention the wars
and conflicts that are destroying parts of the globe.
Although human rights, in their original conception, were broadly
confined to the civil and political spheres, it is now acknowledged
that they must embrace social, cultural, and economic issues as
well. Today, people even speak of a third generation of rights
that takes into account collective rights and issues concerning
future generations of mankind. All of this has significant implications
for the work we do as educators: it means that education dealing
with such issues as globalisation, the environment, peace and
intercultural relations, among others, are all forms of human
rights education. They deal with human rights issues and they
attempt to build a culture that respects them.
What have been the main changes in your country over the last
20 years in the area of human rights?
In this manual we try to address the full spectrum of issues
connected with human rights. We shall look, in this chapter, at
the way in which many, if not most, of these issues are relevant
to other fields of education - such as development education,
peace education, environmental education, education for citizenship,
and so on. Anyone who is engaged in one or other of these forms
of education should find questions of relevance within these pages.
What is a "human rights
Almost any question concerning violations of rights may be termed
a human rights issue. The international community now recognises
three different "generations" of rights, which cover
different dimensions of human activity:
First generation rights (Liberty rights)
These include the civil and political rights - such as the right
to freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to
life, to a fair trial, to participation in the political life
of society, and so on. These issues (though not only these issues)
are traditionally addressed in the formal education sector through
citizenship education, civic education, political education /education
for democracy or law-related education.
"The rights of all men are diminished
when the rights of one man are threatened."
generation rights (Equality rights)
These include the social, economic and cultural rights - such
as the right to an adequate standard of living, to work, to join
a trade union, to health and to education. Within the formal education
sector, at least, these areas are often neglected. Economics
education, for example, rarely deals with such issues - although
arguably it should do. The issues are sometimes addressed by the
"hidden curriculum" - that is, by many of the less formal
activities carried out by schools or youth groups, or the work
done in tutor groups or personal, social and health education.
There is, however, increasing recognition that second generation
rights are just as relevant to citizenship as the traditionally
accepted first generation rights - and rightly so.
Third generation rights (Solidarity rights)
These rights are also known as "emerging" rights,
because they are still in the process of being acknowledged and
recognised. They refer to the collective rights of society or
peoples - such as the right to sustainable development, to peace,
or to a healthy environment. There are increasing educational
areas that look specifically at these rights - for example, environmental
education, peace education and development education.
(More information about the different generations of rights
can be found in Chapter 4)
Have any of the issues that you have explored with your group
been human rights issues?
Issues covered in the manual
This manual has been structured around 16 human rights-related
issues, each of which can be seen to be directly relevant to one
or more of the different generations of rights.
- General human rights
- Discrimination and Xenophobia
- Gender equality
- Human security
- Peace and Violence
- Social rights
None of these themes is any more important than the others.
Indeed, these themes are in fact interrelated to such an extent
that addressing any one of them provides a common link with any
other. This is a direct consequence of the fact that human rights
are indivisible, interdependent and interrelated:
they cannot be treated in isolation, because all are connected
one with another, in various different and intimate ways.
The diagram on the following page provides one illustration
of this interdependence. There are others that we could have shown:
the circle round the outside could have been reordered almost
randomly and connections still be identified. The issues in the
outer circle blend into one another, just as the educational spheres
in the central circle merge together. Even the distinctions between
first, second and third generation rights is not clear-cut. Education,
for example, is traditionally classed as a second generation right,
but education is just as necessary for effective political participation
(a first generation right) as it is for sustainable development
(a third generation right).
Accordingly, the following analyses should be seen as just one
description among many, but they help to illustrate the ways in
which the various themes are relevant to many of the current educational
fields, and how these educational fields overlap with one another.
Citizenship education encourages the development of young people
as active and responsible citizens. In 1997, The Council of Europe
established the Education for Democratic Citizenship project (EDC),
and the June 2000 report for this project emphasises the importance
of social justice and equality of rights for citizenship. T.H.Marshall,
in his book Citizenship and Social Class (Cambridge University
Press, 1950), suggests that citizenship can only be effective
when it ensures access to three main types of rights. In this
way, he identifies three components of citizenship:
- the civil component, which includes the rights addressing
- the political component - e.g. the right to participate
in the exercise of political power and to vote and participate
in parliamentary institutions;
- The social component of citizenship, which relates
to the right to the prevailing standard of living and equal
access to education, health care, housing and a minimum level
Personal and Social Education
has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the
community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement
and its benefits."
UDHR, Article 27
Many countries have some form of education
that considers the role of the individual in society and helps
to prepare young people for some of the personal challenges that
they will meet. This may overlap with citizenship issues but may
also include aspects of the individual's life related to leisure
- including sport, clubs and associations, music, art, or other
forms of culture. Such education may also be concerned with personal
relationships. Human rights enter into these questions in two
central ways: firstly, because personal development and personal
relations possess moral and social aspects that need to be guided
by human rights values; secondly, because the right to take part
in cultural life is recognised in the UDHR as well as in other
international treaties. Even if the young people with whom you
work are able to claim this right, there are young people around
the globe who are not.
Values Education / Moral Education
"The greatest evil today is indifference.
To know and not to act is a way of consenting to these injustices.
The planet has become a very small place. What happens in other
countries affects us."
Values education is also a common part of
the school curriculum in different countries, but it often gives
rise to two fundamental concerns in people's minds: which values
such education should aim to teach, and how we can be sure that
these values are not merely relevant to our own particular culture?
These are common problems faced by many who engage in this area
of education, and human rights provide a convenient means of addressing
it. Human rights are not only based on values that are common
to every major religion and culture, but they are also admitted
to be universal by almost every country in the world. No-one can
be criticised for teaching human rights values!
Globalisation is an issue at the front of many young people's
minds, and we have included it as one of the separate themes within
this manual. The general heading of global education normally
covers work that looks at different forms of existence and patterns
of behaviour around the globe. Such education is important because
it looks at the individual's place not just in his or her own
community or society, but in the world as a whole. It can be used
to raise a number of questions connected with human rights and
can help to open people's eyes to violations of rights being committed
in different reaches of the globe. Global education enables young
people to assess the impact of their own actions and to consider
their individual responsibilities.
The Institute of Global Education, a non-profit United Nations
Non-Governmental Organisation, was founded in 1984 as The World
Peace University. The Institute declares its goal as "to
help co-create a world where peace and food sufficiency are a
way of life, where environmental responsibility exists, where
social justice prevails and where an individual achieves the highest
degree of self-realisation within a community of co-operation."
There is a natural connection between global education and intercultural
education, which looks at the way we interact with other cultures,
societies and social groupings. All societies today are characterised
by increasing levels of multiculturalism and cultural diversity
and this makes acknowledgement of, and respect for, the rights
of minorities increasingly important. We are being forced to reassess
old conceptions of national societies as culturally homogeneous
entities: the dual processes of European integration, together
with increased economic and social interdependence between different
world regions have made such notions outdated. Even in those parts
of the globe which are not experiencing patterns of immigration,
existing conflicts can more often than not be traced back to a
lack of understanding between different peoples or ways of life
to be found in one common society. The conflicts in Northern Ireland,
in the former Yugoslavia and in parts of the Caucasus are sad
illustrations of the problems that can arise from an inability
to respect and live with other cultures.
Intercultural education is also an effective way of addressing
the modern phenomena of racism and racial discrimination and intolerance.
All different, but not indifferent!
The Directorate of Youth and Sport, especially through the European
Youth Centres and Foundation, has devoted much effort to the field
of intercultural education. The 'All Different All Equal' campaign
against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance was
set up to address the growth of racist hostility and intolerance
towards minority groups. The Campaign itself sought to "bring
people together and give extra momentum to the struggle against
all forms of intolerance."
education proposes processes to enable the discovery of mutual
relationships and the dismantling of barriers."
Different - All Equal' Education Pack
The education pack, 'All Different All Equal',
was produced in order to help youth workers and educators to contribute
to the campaign. It identified two major directions for intercultural
- helping young people to gain the capacity to recognise inequality,
injustice, racism, stereotypes and prejudices, and
- giving them the knowledge and the abilities which will help
them to challenge and to try to change these whenever they have
to face them in society.
The objectives and principles of intercultural education have
also been pursued in a variety of ways through intercultural learning
- a term that is more commonly used in non-formal education, particularly
in European youth work.
Anti-racist education takes as its starting point the assertion
that we live in a multi-cultural and democratic society, in which
all citizens have a right to equity and justice. Nevertheless,
it recognises the very real existence of racism and racist attitudes
in every modern society, and the impact that this can have for
young people, especially those associated with certain minorities,
both in terms of giving them a negative experience of the education
process and in terms of diminishing their chances in later life.
Anti-racist education attempts to address racist behaviour, language
and practices, both individual and institutional, and to increase
general awareness of the harmful effects of racism in modern society.
It aims to help in the creation of a multi-racial and interdependent
society in which all citizens' rights are respected and protected.
Another complementary approach can be found in "Section 3" of DOmino where the authors propose the integration of peer group education in the fight against racism.
Development education has strong links with global education,
but gives particular emphasis to third generation rights - such
as sustainable development, the right to a healthy environment,
and peace. It also gives high priority to issues concerning the
interaction of different societies and methods of development,
which is why we have created a link in the diagram with intercultural
education. Development education is thus holistic, in the sense
that it is based upon a view of the world as one interconnected
whole, and it is oriented towards the future.
"Education should further the appropriate
intellectual and emotional development of the individual. It should
develop a sense of social responsibility and of solidarity with
less privileged groups and should lead to observance of the principles
of equality in everyday conduct."
UNESCO Recommendation concerning
education for international understanding, co-operation and peace
and education relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms
The Development Education Association is
a British organisation that has been working for almost 10 years
in this field. They define development education as lifelong learning
- explores the links between people living in the "developed"
countries of the North with those of the "developing"
South, enabling people to understand the links between their
own lives and those of people throughout the world
- increases understanding of the economic, social, political
and environmental forces which shape our lives
- develops the skills, attitudes and values which enable people
to work together to take action to bring about change and take
control of their own lives.
The search for methods of sustainable development forms one
of the key aims of development education, and leads naturally
to concerns about the future state of the environment. From this
perspective, questions concerning further economic development
- particularly of
developing countries - need to be balanced against their cost to mankind and
the natural world as a whole. Environmental education aims to
bring these questions to public attention, and to encourage greater
care and respect for the natural resources of the world.
"There is no way to peace. Peace is
M. K. Gandhi
That also links in with human rights concerns.
Since the life of mankind is dependent on a healthy and sustainable
environment, consideration for the human rights of people throughout
the globe, and of future generations, brings environmental issues
to the forefront. Today, some people even speak of the need for
official recognition of a separate environmental human right.
The natural resources of this world have not been equally distributed.
They have been, and no doubt will continue to be, one source of
violent conflict between different individuals and societies.
There are, unfortunately, many others. Peace educators may be
interested in more equitable or more sensible ways of sharing
the earth's resources as a means of resolving some of the conflicts
in the world, but their focus is likely to be primarily on the
conflicts themselves and more particularly on their structural
causes. Peace education is based on a concept of peace that goes
beyond the mere absence of war: peace can only be addressed by
means of a search for justice and by understanding structural
forms of exploitation and injustice.
Few people will need to be convinced of the need for peace education
- for a better understanding of conflict, for respect among peoples
that makes violent conflict less likely, and for the skills to
transform potentially dangerous situations into peaceful ones.
The world needs that: a genuine right to life for everyone, and
a genuine respect for everyone - including, even, those among
us who have made mistakes. Education for tolerance, for intercultural
understanding, and fundamentally, education in the inherent and
universal nature of basic human rights must be an important route
towards that aim.
The period 2001-2010 has been declared the International Decade
for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the
World (UN Doc A/RES/53/25). The International Peace Research Association,
which was set up with support from UNESCO, has a Peace Education
Commission that brings together educators working to promote a
culture of peace.
This is perhaps the most "formal" of the different
education fields we have discussed so far, but law-related education
is not just learning about the laws that exist, it is also about
developing respect for the rule of law and for the fundamental
principles of justice that are laid out in the international human
The connection between law-related education and human rights
can be made at two separate levels: firstly, in the specific 'legal'
rights that protect the individual against unfair trials, but
secondly at the level of international law. The UN institutions,
the European Court of Human Rights and other regional structures
are legal institutions that exist to protect our human rights,
but we need to know about them and we need to use them, if they
are to be effective in this aim. They will not hunt us out.