||Human Rights Education and Compass, a Brief
Guide for Practioners > Using COMPASS across Europe
Using COMPASS across Europe
What and where is Europe?
Historians will remind us that at its origin, in Ancient Greece,
"Europe" probably referred to what is today the Balkans.
Today, Europe is far more extensive, but it is certainly no easier
Political Europe covers a land mass of over 10 million square
kilometres, and extends into the territory of geographical Asia.
The climate over the whole continent ranges from sub-tropical
in some southern regions to polar in northern ones. Europe is
the source of over 200 living languages and the home of speakers
of many more. It embraces some 50 states, which contain between
them a total population of nearly 800 million.
Every major religion is to be found within its borders. The
continent is associated with the birth of democracy and, at the
same time, with some of the worst examples of fascism and totalitarianism
that the world has ever seen. Europe's past is marked by the Holocaust,
by colonialism and by slavery, and today it provides the location
for enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all life on earth. Yet,
it hosts the annual ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize, and it
has established a permanent court of human rights, which is acclaimed
throughout the world.
The countries of Europe
Today, the states that make up Europe include some that are
less than 10 years old, and others whose borders have barely changed
over hundreds of years. Some continue to change even today, as
conflicts threaten unstable borders. Thus, there are people in
Europe leading lives that face violence and conflict on a daily
basis, while many others, in one and the same continent, reside
in conditions of peace, security, and often prosperity.
What makes a country 'European'?
There are millionaires in every European country; and millions
living below the poverty line in every country. There is diversity
within each country, and diversity between them. Become a teacher
in one part of Europe and you may receive more in a day than colleagues
in other parts receive in a month. Become a teacher in another
region and you may not receive a salary at all, for months on
Europe is indeed a mixed place.
One Europe? Two Europes?
Can we say there is an Eastern Europe and a Western Europe to
make things simpler? A Northern and Southern Europe? What about
Can we divide it into a Christian Europe and a Muslim Europe?
Or a rich Europe and a poor Europea peaceful and a war-torn
Europe a democratised Europe and one damaged by totalitarianisma
left-wing and a right-wing, an Americanised and a Sovietised Europe?
Which "part" of Europe do you belong to? Are you "typical"
of that part of Europe?
If any of these divisions seem correct, or at least helpful
in identifying particular needs on different sides of the division,
then consider how some of the following groups might 'fit' under
such general categories. Would their needs correspond to the 'stereotypical'
needs of the country or part of Europe in which they happen to
- Businessmen in the Balkans
- Bengali communities in East London
- People suffering terrorist violence in the Basque country
or Northern Ireland
- Hill farmers dependent on the climate in Spain, Italy, Romania
- Roma populations in Hungary, Slovakia, Greece or France
- Islamophobes or anti-Semites in Germany, Russia, Lithuania,
Sweden, Poland, and every other country of the continent
- Fishing communities in Scotland, Norway, Croatia or Estonia
- Immigrant workers in Belgium and Finland
- Refugees and asylum-seekers in Ukraine or Poland;
- Muslims, politicians, human rights activists, teachers, youth
leaders, short people, bald men, women with children and women
Such examples show us that not one of the proposed divisions
is clear cut or adequate to describe the multi-faceted nature
of every single country, community and, indeed, individual. There
are some common needs throughout the whole of Europe, but there
are equally different needs within each small community in every
individual state . Europe, and each single country that composes
it, is a small world of cultural and social diversity.
Have a look at the "Different Europes" section of the Education Pack for a wide-ranging discussion about how Europe has been changing over the past couple of decades .
A book for Europe?
"...they first came for the communists;
I did not speak because I was not a communist. Then they came
for the Jews;
I did not speak because I was not a Jew.
Then they came to fetch the workers, members of trade unions;
I was not a trade unionist.
Afterward, they came for the Catholics;
I did not say anything because I was a Protestant. Eventually
they came for me, and there was no-one left to speak."
Pastor Martin Niemoller
So why create one manual for the whole of
Europe? Can it be sufficient to meet the needs of all the peoples
in this rich and mixed continent?
This section sets out some answers to those questions and the
ways that we approached some of the difficulties that we faced.
It also tries to illustrate our reasons for believing that such
a task was not only realistic but even necessary. Europe, after
all, not only has a very diverse culture but also many points
of commonality. To find those points of commonality and thereby
understand our differences can be as important as the task of
preserving our very separate identities.
Have you had contact with other youth groups in different parts
of Europe? What did your groups have in common?
Human rights as a common factor
The idea of human rights lies at both the historical and the
ideological foundation of the Council of Europe and is just one
of those points of commonality running through the whole of Europe.
It is not, of course, exclusive to Europe, but it is certainly
one of the most important uniting and unifying factors, and with
the increased membership of the Council of Europe, it will become
ever more so.
Every country that has signed up for membership has also committed
itself to observe the fundamental rights and freedoms set out
in the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms. This means, for the ordinary citizen of
the different European states, that those rights and freedoms
are, to some extent at least, protected by the entire community
of European states.
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Martin Luther King
But even with the existence of the European
Court of Human Rights, protection of those human rights can only
be real and substantial for every citizen when each individual
helps to play an active role in their observance. Citizens need
to know about the existence of those rights, they need to be able
to defend them when they are violated, and they need to respect
them in their everyday lives. This is the task of education, and
it is a task for the whole of Europe.
Citizens of the world
Knowing how to stand up for and protect our own rights is important
but it cannot be the whole story. We have taken the view in this
manual that human rights are a global issue and that the youth
of Europe, as citizens of the world, need to appreciate this if
human rights are to be respected not just in our part of the world
but everywhere on our common earth.
Of course every country in Europe has its own work to do on
improving the protection of its citizens' rights. There is not
one country that has a clean record on human rights abuses, however
human rights education is crucially about not only our rights
but also the rights of other people. Thus, while one task of this
manual is to promote a greater awareness of rights issues in order
that young people (in Europe) be better able to improve their
own immediate rights environment, another task is to encourage
them to take an interest in those issues in the wider world, and
to consider the actual and possible impact of their own behaviour.
Young people across the world and particularly across Europe
have always given themselves generously to the cause of human
rights and human rights education. In times of fascism and totalitarianism,
it was often young people and students who were at the forefront
of protests and actions against repression and oppression; and
youth organisations and associations have always played a crucial
role in bringing young people from Europe closer together, and
in standing up for their rights. The work of international non-governmental
youth organisations has often involved forging links and building
solidarity among young people - both in Europe and outside it.
Such work rests on the ideals of solidarity, co-operation, peace
and human rights.
It is time to extend these experiences and this work to other
young people in Europe and to build an appreciation of human rights
issues both in this continent and beyond. There needs to be a
greater understanding of the way in which our actions can assist
the protection of human rights for fellow human beings. That,
too, is a task for the whole of Europe.
A European Dream
Of course no-one wants the different countries and cultures
of Europe to lose their separate identities. However in producing
this manual, we were motivated by the fact that not one of the
cultures of Europe - or indeed, of the world - is inherently opposed
to, or need be altered to its detriment by, a flourishing human
rights culture. In fact, these values exist in every country already,
and the cultures will only thrive if they are strengthened (so
that everyone can have the opportunity to contribute to them positively).
There was another hope. We hoped that common interests and a
common endeavour could contribute towards the bringing together
of young people on our common continent, to help them see each
other as equals, sharing a common reality and being jointly responsible
the future of the continent: perhaps Siberia could link up with Portugal in protecting
the rights of women; perhaps young people in Albania and Luxembourg
could build a common web-site to focus the world's attention on
child labour; or perhaps schools in Malta and Denmark could plan
a simultaneous street action to focus on bullying in schools in
"Perseverance is more prevailing than
violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are
together yield themselves up when taken little by little."
Young people care, and they can lead the
way. They can refute those who criticise their individualism and
their apathy - just as other generations have for centuries, and
they can prove those wrong who insist that there is no alternative,
and put new energy into the peaceful struggle for human rights
around the world. Young people are not just the target groups
for this manual: they are its main hope and its main resource.
Youth work and youth representation
Although the activities in this manual are intended to be appropriate
for use in formal educational settings, it was our intention to
produce a publication that could be used primarily by youth workers
outside the formal education system. Clearly the nature and extent
of such work may differ from one country to another. However,
by proposing different types of methods and exploring different
themes, we aimed to address the different needs of the diverse
youth groups and associations existing in every European country.
For after-school clubs, Scouts groups, church youth groups, university
clubs, human rights groups and exchange clubs, the range of activities
covered in the pack ought to provide something of relevance and
use, in addition to being applicable to people working in more
The main focus of youth work is the personal and social development
of young people, and for that reason the majority of activities
in the pack perhaps pay more attention to these aspects than to
the traditional educational end of increasing knowledge. It was
important in putting together the activities to concentrate on
attracting the interest of young people in these issues, and to
use experiential learning to engender feelings of respect for
human rights, particularly among those who do not necessarily
respond to attempts made in this direction within the formal education
Do you use experiential learning in your work?
In educational settings and institutions where teaching methods
are more knowledge-based than experiential or skills-based, such
an approach may be less familiar. For that reason, we have provided
useful starting points and essential background information on
the educational approaches of this manual (see the chapter "How
to use the Manual"). We see this as an important part of
ensuring that the manual is accessible not only to young people
everywhere in Europe, but also to teachers and group facilitators
or youth workers who may be less familiar with certain working
In a modest way, we hope that this manual may help to bridge
the methodological gaps between formal and non-formal education.
In both contexts, it is essential to involve the young people
whose attention is sought - all the more so, in an area such as
human rights where active involvement and participation are essential
factors. Because of their inclusive nature, each of the activities
included within the manual is intended to provide an interesting
and attractive way for young people to become more aware of general
human rights issues, in any type of environment.
How do you involve young people in your activities?
people are not only the future ... we are the present."
Statement of children and young people
at the Europe and Central Asia consultation for the Special Session
on the Rights of the Child, Budapest 2001.
One further focus has been the attempt to
enable young people to make their own positive contribution to
the issues that concern them, and for that reason we have also
included a section on Taking Action. In this respect, it
is worth noting that most of the suggestions in this section are
not by any means exclusive to human rights 'activism', in the
sense that they are mostly normal youth activities that many groups
will already be undertaking in fields other than that of human
rights. They are the type of activities that every young person
is interested in taking part in.
The Convention on the Rights
of the Child
All European countries have signed and ratified the UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child, and have thereby undertaken an obligation
to observe it, and to report regularly on progress being made
towards fulfilling the rights completely. The Convention is relevant
to this manual partly because of the age range of the target group
- although the manual is also intended to appeal to people above
the 18-year-old upper limit of the Convention.
However, the Convention also deserves a particular mention in
terms of the methodology of the manual. At the heart of the Convention,
and incorporated into several of its articles (in particular,
Articles 3 and 11), is the idea that young people have the right
to express their views and to have them taken into account, in
all matters that affect them. This idea has reached different
stages of realisation in different European countries: in some
there are genuine opportunities for young people to participate
in the decisions that directly affect them; in others, the process
is less developed.
Is there a copy of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in
your school or in your association?
Clearly, the opportunities that already exist will determine
to some extent the degree to which young people are able to influence
decisions, and also the advisability of undertaking certain actions
rather than others. The overall objective, however, of treating
young people as people, worthy of genuine respect and equal in
that sense to other members of the adult population remains valid
for every part of Europe.
The production process
The Production Team of COMPASS was composed of 8 people, and
had to produce the background materials and design the activities
for the manual. As is often the case, the team was put to test
during the production phase, which was naturally challenging -
not least, because the deadlines were very tight. In order to
ensure the maximum exchange of different experiences, each writer
produced texts that had to be checked and approved by two other
writers. Similarly, each theme or chapter was always shared between
at least two people.
The Production Team represented Europe, at least in its total
internal diversity. Members came from North, South, East and West
(and from the centre). Our histories, traditions, languages, dress
and taste in music clashed and overlapped alternately. We wanted
slightly different things, or to do them in a slightly different
way - because each of us knew better than the rest the needs of
his or her own country.
Yet none of us knew the needs of everyone - not even in their
own country, and this, after all, was why each of us was necessary,
and all of us were insufficient.
One member of the Reference Group, living in one of the ex-communist
states, remarked early on that countries in Western Europe
are concerned with the rights of minorities; whereas countries
in our part of Europe are concerned with the rights of the majority.
Some people disagreed with that as well: they felt 'their part'
of Europe did not fall into either stereotype. Others felt that
that was one generalisation which - like many generalisations
- possibly contained an element of truth. We tried to take it
into account. But the point may equally well have been made by
every one of us in a slightly different way: 'People in Southern
Europe / Muslim Europe / rural areas / capital cities / war-torn
Europe are concerned with'
The remark reminded us, however, that despite our common aims,
the differences between our cultures were no less significant
than the differences between us, their representatives. We left
the process with the same hopes and aspirations that the issues
which concerned all of us could - and should - concern others
as well, wherever they were living, because these were indeed
issues for the whole world. But we also left the process wondering
about the extent to which we had managed to cover the whole of
Europe adequately. But that,after all, would have been an impossible
Using the manual across cultures
There are two central problems concerned with designing a manual
for such a wide audience. The first is the problem of over-generality:
that activities may not be specific enough to address the particular
concerns of certain groups or populations. The second, conversely,
is the problem of their touching too specifically certain issues
that either do not appear to be relevant to all of the target
countries, or are too sensitive to raise in some of them.
The issues that we have included in the manual are certainly
relevant and of direct concern to all human beings, wherever their
geographical location. Nevertheless, it may still be the case
that the way that some issues are presented or some activities
are developed are less suitable for certain groups and facilitators.
The task of the facilitators or group leaders, in such cases,
is not simply to reproduce or follow blindly the instruction,
but to identify where there is need for improvement, adaptation
or updating to the specific context. The general guidelines given
bellow may be of assistance in this task.
This manual should be seen as a starting point, a living educational
tool that is open to ideas, adaptation and any suggestions for
Guidelines for adaptation:
- Where issues are controversial within your society, or where
they are likely to provoke resistance from people in authority,
consider whether it is possible to look at the issue in the
framework of a different society or in a historical setting,
without necessarily drawing explicit comparisons to current
practices. Conversely, if an issue is controversial or divisive,
you may even wish to work with that fact: encourage participants
to research different points of view, and perhaps ask someone
with a minority perspective for their opinion.
- If using the activities in a formal educational setting,
where there are pressures on the timetable and where content
is of prime importance, you will probably want to make more
use of the background information or other information that
you or your students may find. You may also want to break up
some activities (for example, over two days).
- If there are limited opportunities for including human rights
education within your educational setting, there are plenty
of ways of using some of the activities within other subjects
- such as Geography, History, Citizenship, Political Studies,
and so on. You may want to adapt some of the activities accordingly.
- If young people seem to think that certain issues are not
of prime importance, or cannot see the relevance to their immediate
situation, ask them to consider this question directly, and
to draw out the ways in which such an issue could affect their
own lives. All of the issues included within this manual are
in fact of direct relevance to all young people!
- There may be activities where you feel that there is particular
information that is relevant to your group, or your society,
or a particular approach that is more suitable. Be flexible
about the different activities: allow participants to make suggestions,
extend or limit the timing or the background information if
this is appropriate, and use the follow-up suggestions if the
group is particularly interested in an issue. Sometimes, you
may have to complete the information provided, or adapt it to
your own context.
- Use your own judgement to assess the possible drawbacks of
involving young people in any form of public action - for example,
in tense social or political circumstances.
- Involve the young people in any difficulties you are encountering,
wherever this is possible. They will appreciate the opportunity
to express their opinions, and will be more likely to understand
any restrictions or limitations to which you may be subject.