Implementation of the Global Program for Human Rights Education

Implementation of the Global Program for Human Rights Education

On 10 December 2004, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the World Program for Human Rights Education (2005-ongoing) to advance the implementation of these programs in all sectors. This program is structured in four consecutive phases, to further focus national human rights education efforts on determined sectors. Phases 1-3 focused on human rights education in the primary and secondary school systems, human rights education for higher education and on human rights training programs for teachers and educators, civil servants, law enforcement officials and military personnel, and strengthening the implementation of the first two phases and promoting human rights training for media professionals and journalists. The fourth phase (2020-2024) decides to make youth the focus group (UN, 2020).

As such, Human rights education (HRE) is a long-term and continuous work to realize justice in the national and international contexts, contributing to a politics of hope. Educators and activists seek to inspire hope by increasing knowledge and awareness of human rights (Osler & Stokke, 2020). Different nations across the globe have experienced ups and downs in the implementation of HRE programs. As Flowers (2015) has stated, for instance, Latin American nations such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru made HRE as an essential component of popular resistance during 1970s. A decade later, attempts were made to integrate HRE concepts and methods into nationwide curriculums. Later, HRE changed into a struggle for economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. The case of Middle East has long been challenging because of its specific context. However, most effective HRE programs in the Middle East have focused on women’s rights. Europe has been one of the most successful in the implementation of HRE programs. HRE is already integrated in elementary and secondary education. Europe has the most comprehensive HRE programs supported by governmental and intergovernmental institutions as well as NGOs.

Regarding the African context, most HRE initiated by UN agencies or NGOs and was generally in response to specific issues or crises such as civil wars or epidemics. More recently, the programs aim at capacity building to emphasize on women’s rights, particularly on issues such as inheritance, political participation, domestic violence, and education. According to Mubangizi (2015), South Africa has a very richly-developed grouping of non-state actors involved with HRE, and they have obviously played and continue to play a significant role in HRE in the country. At one level, there are the different projects of international human rights organizations including Amnesty International, while at the local level there are numerous NGOs with an interest and concentration on different dimensions of HRE, such as the Foundation for Human Rights, the Human Rights Institute of South Africa, the Black Sash and the Constitutional, and Bill of Rights Educational Project.

However, while the global adult literacy rate is constantly increasing, from 81% in 2000 to 86% in 2018 (World Bank, 2019), the challenge of access to adequate education remains especially severe in the African continent. Many African governments are making significant commitments to universal education. Many governments also committed fundamental portions of their annual budgets to the improvement of education. As an instance, in Côte d’Ivoire, eSwatini, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe, more than 25% of total government expenditures go to education (World Bank, 2020). Yet, the SDG4 target of “inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all” has still remained an ambition, especially in countries like Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea in which many adults have no formal education at all, and even more so because of the outspread of the COVID-19 pandemic (Krönke & Olan’g, 2020). Among the challenges which need to be addressed Mushi (2018) refers to the lack of knowledge about human rights, lack of lifelong dimensions for HRE, lack of transparent policies or guidelines, the narrow scope of HRE, offering isolated HRE by NGOs, being teacher-centered, and being confined to urban areas. Clearly, HRE requires a commitment to years of continuous attempts and collaboration to be successful. All those involved in the process have to be convinced that HRE is essential and contributes to the long-term results if taken seriously and implemented by the cooperation and participation of the global community.

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Mushi PA. The State of Human Rights Education in Tanzania Issues and Challenges. Papers in Education and Development. 2018 Mar 19(33-34).
Mubangizi, John. (2015). Human rights education in South Africa: Whose responsibility is it anyway?. African Human Rights Law Journal. 15. 496-514. 10.17159/1996-2096/2015/v15n2a13.
Osler A, Stokke C. Human rights education, Covid19 and the politics of hope. Human Rights Education Review. 2020 Jun 23;3(1):1-7.