Dear Members, In January and February, list members discussed what the essence of human rights education should be, how it relates to different conceptions of human rights, and how this consequently affects our work as human rights educators. Many members have asked whether it would be possible to present highlights of this discussion. This message is an attempt to summarise our interesting and enriching discussion. We hope that this summary accurately represents the key points made by the contributors -- listserv members from 15 countries. We would also like to recognise that there were members whose contributions were not posted on the list, either because their ideas had already been presented by someone else or because of a lack of space. In the spirit of the discussion, we are treating this summary as a "living document" and we encourage your responses. One listserv member observed: "[t]his conversation among listserv members would in itself be an excellent tool for transformative, systemic HRE". ------------ SUMMARY OF THE DISCUSSION ON A WORKING DEFINITION OF HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION (HRE) The discussion started on 24 December 2001 with a message from SHULA KOENIG (People's Movement for Human Rights Education, PDHRE), who -- as part of an inspiring new year's message -- shared a working definition of human rights education and a human rights educator. She wrote: "A human rights educator is a person - a woman or a man - who is capable of evoking critical thinking and systemic analysis, with a gender perspective, with the learners...-- learning to analyze situations within a holistic framework of human rights about political, civil, economic, social and cultural concern relevant to the learners lives..-- to result in a sense of ownership of human rights...-- leading to equal participation in the decision that determine our lives and taking actions to claim them." And she continued: "One could also say the same about HRE: Human rights education for social and economic transformation is a process of learning that evokes critical thinking and systemic analysis, with a gender perspective, with the learners...-- women and men learning to analyze their situations within a holistic framework of human rights about political, civil, economic, social and cultural concern relevant to the learners lives..-- to result in a sense of ownership of human rights...-- leading to equal participation in the decision that determine our lives and taking actions to claim them." HANNEMAN SAMUEL of the University of Indonesia was the first list member to engage in the discussion by presenting four levels of human rights awareness, based on a study by the Philippine Normal University Research Centre (1987). He wrote: "Level I (Submission and self denial): unconditional and uncritical submission to violations of human rights. Level II (Passivity/Lack of Interest): reflecting awareness of human rights, but there is a refusal or lack of interest to assert these rights out of fear, risk to oneself, inability to relate to oneself's human rights violations on others, or lack of understanding of the social, economic, and political conditions giving rise to the violations of these rights. Variants of level II: Defeatism - reflecting submission to and tolerance of difficulties as if the objective conditions generating human rights are unchangeable and therefore beyond the individual to alter. Dependence/opportunism - reflecting dependence on others for the promotion and defense of human rights due to lack of perceived direct personal benefit. Level III (Limited Initiative): reflecting the exercise of human rights, the prevention or seeking redress of their violations through commonly accepted ways like filing complaints to the proper authorities. Level IV (Militance, Independence, Initiative): reflecting conscious, active, and independent defense of human rights through organised collective efforts, or through perceived individual need." SLADJANA KOCEVSKA of the Serbian NGO "Children's Happiness" reminded us of the mission of educators. "I think that learning about human rights is a long term process that has to begin at an early stage of human development. Beginning with early childhood, children need to learn that they have rights, to learn what rights they have and how to respect them." She continues: "We have to start helping children learn about human rights in order to develop responsible, tolerant and reasonable adults who can analyse many different situations in political, economic, social and other fields of human existence, and who can make a proper decision that respects human rights." JENNY LUCK, HRE Coordinator at Amnesty International's International Secretariat, warned that amidst the call for more training courses for human rights educators, it is important to realise that planning and conducting such courses is not easy an easy task: "There is often a huge gap between people's […] understanding of the theory of human rights and the reality of putting it into practice in our daily lives and the broader community. Maybe a definition of HR Educators should also mention the need to empower people to bridge this gap. In all our societies around the world human rights violations are not just a problem on a national or international level but also on a local level and in day-to-day activities and attitudes, both in the formal and informal sectors." In order to be able to empower, educators need to acquire special skills. Jenny: "A human rights educator also needs the skills, attitude and ability to put the theory into practice in the learning environment. I think Camus said that the most important thing an educator can share is their ability to learn. This I believe goes deeper than being capable of evoking critical thinking etc. because it involves establishing trust and respect between the educator and the learner and between the learners. It is also about providing the space for people to decide to disagree and to make their own minds up about what they want to do, even if it is different to the way you think about it." And she concludes: "To design and conduct HRE programs that incorporate this type of methodology requires a specific skills, as well as knowledge. If the educator has all these then it is not difficult to adapt and develop programs to meet specific needs, cultures and situations." ADAM ADAM of the Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE, Kenya) concluded this first round of discussion by emphasising that human rights education is a life-long process. "People infringe other people's rights because they do not know others rights and their own rights. Therefore, it is my contribution that human rights education should remain a tool to provoke critical thinking and analysis of social, economic and political life and to include the mental perception of the stakeholders. It is my submission that human rights education be from our cradle to our grave--for human rights education is the education for life. It's purposes should be to mitigate and not to react," according to Adam. The discussion subsequently focused more on how to define human rights and what are the core human rights concepts, as this obviously affects the way we perceive the mission of human rights education and the task of human rights educators. STEVEN HANDWERKER from the USA, in separate contributions, pointed out that the UN Culture of Peace Initiative has defined the basic principles that define a human rights-oriented society as respect all life; reject violence; share with others; listen to understand; preserve the planet; and rediscover solidarity. (UN Manifesto 2000 for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence, http://www3.unesco.org/manifesto2000/) According to Steven, this "enlivens the HRE arena with meaning for each of us. The UN Manifesto, from my perception, is about a perspective, a foundational base of generic humane values and […] certainly can be the basis of any objective (not 'critical') thinking and systemic analysis. Indeed HRE is 'education for life' even more than to 'mitigate' but to encompass and be proactive (not reactive). Yes, we need to go forward with a holistic political ideology based in values that are applicable to global community, one person at a time beginning with each of us!! This is the building of a Culture of Human Rights." BERNIE WEINRAUB of Facing History and Ourselves (USA) proposed to describe a human rights educator "in terms of a process of intellectual growth, as well as in static terms." He continues: "I don't mean this as a personal story for itself alone; the point is that, in the absence of human rights curricula in the schools, I studied and taught it. I came to this 'definition' as the result of a process, not in one step." JANA ONDRACKOVA of the Czech Helsinki Committee, acknowledged that the discussion on the list was very interesting yet in her opinion contributions were "too sophisticated and abstract". Instead she suggested a definition for everyday use: "when introducing children and teachers to human rights, there are several important rules that should be underlined and emphasized: 1. Rights have to go with responsibility, i.e., there are no rights without responsibility. Rights are not a free for all. 2. All people are equal but everyone is different, i.e. everyone is an individual entity with equal rights, but people are not the same, nations and religions are not the same, so they will have different views of human rights. 3. However, and this is extremely important: one person's rights must never infringe on somebody else's. [...] 4. The fundamental human rights of all people (such as life, health, security, education, nutrition) must be respected. [...] 5. The human dignity of every individual must be respected. [...]" According to Jana these rules address HRE "in all its complexity" as well as related subject matters and approaches such as peace education, intercultural and multicultural education, education for democracy and citizenship, and global education. Jana's contribution sparked a lot of discussion about the nature of human rights. In particular, the assertion that human rights are conditional was challenged by other members. GEORGE KENT (Department of Political Science, University of Hawai'i) put it succinctly: "I must disagree with this. If we talk about formal, legal human rights of the sort described in the major international human rights agreements (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the two covenants, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, etc.), these documents, for the most part, describe rights that are enjoyed by all human beings unconditionally. One does not have to do anything to earn or to qualify for these rights. International human rights are 'free for all'." However, some list members from the postcommunist states of Central and Eastern Europe agreed with Jana's position. MICHAEL SADOVKSY ("Uvenal" Krasnayorsk Regional Center for the Defense of Children's Rights, Russian Federation): "This is the point of view occupying the community of HR educators in Russia widely! Actually, the meaning of this statement is that the rights of a person result in the appearance of the responsibilities of somebody else to help realize them. My responsibilities appear as a result of the rights of another person, not my own rights. A failure to understand this issue results in a drastic legal nihilism among the young men and girls, at least in Russia." A position that was shared by BAKTGOUL KOUBANYTCHBEKOVA, a student in human rights from Kyrgyzstan: "Usually the trainers in our country […] while teaching the human rights subject, always make sure that the students get to understand one of the key points of human rights, which is: 'Your rights end, where the rights of the other person start'." CED SIMPSON of Amnesty International-New Zealand reminded list members that "Human rights are 'free for all', but they are not 'a free-for-all'." Ced offered a number of quotes from the Universal Declaration to illustrate his point: 'every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.' 'All human beings....should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.' 'Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.' HANNEMAN SAMUEL, sociologist at the University of Indonesia, made a useful distinction between a legal and sociological approach to the problem. He wrote: "…from a legal point of view I could not agree more with him [Professor George Kent]: human rights are unconditional. On the other hand, it would be fruitful to take into account a sociological point of view. I understand Jana Ondrŕcková's view as: 'while fighting for my rights, I should respect other individuals' rights' (in other words, 'I should exercise self control and self discipline in pursuing my rights'.)" GEORGE KENT clarified his position by introducing the term unconditional. "The critical point, I think, is that rights are held unconditionally. One does not "earn" them by giving good behavior in exchange. Yes, the UDHR says we all have some responsibilities. However, it does not say that our enjoyment of the rights is conditional on our fulfilling those responsibilities." He concluded: "Rights are free in the sense that we own them unconditionally. They are not based on a social contract type of arrangement in which we get rights in exchange for something else." For SOMEN CHAKRABORTY, Coordinator of the Human Rights Unit of the Indian Social Institute (New Delhi), what transpired from the discussion is that there exist many perceptions of human rights, which in turn affect the definition of HRE. Said Somen: "What I argue is that the meaning and implication of human rights are plural and heterogeneous. It is as diverse as human civilisations are. Education on human rights thus varies with the change of time, persons, situational contexts and the understanding of one's life." Consequently he believes that certain infringements of rights are justified, in order to promote a culture of human rights, and he provided several examples: "In feudal social order, the land was concentrated into the hands of a few privileged persons. In the welfare state's principle the land should be distributed rationally to achieve equity. In order to do this, the concept of right to property, which might be a basic human right in one particular historical time, has to be challenged by the new concept of equality and right. The issue of gender justice can be another example to substantiate that infringement of others rights and privileges may become a precondition in certain situation to establish human rights." And he continued: "If we subscribe to this view, then let us agree that rights as a philosophical tool may be universal, but justification of a right has to be done taking the micro or local contexts into account." After having defined human rights Somen subsequently shared his vision of the role of human rights education. "What I feel is important is liberating HRE from the classroom discussion. The entire HRE has to be integrated with the real life experiences of the people who need the education most to know what their rights are. HRE has to be a passage to take people towards this integration." TAHIRIH DANESH quoted at length from a statement presented during the 53rd session of the UN Commission on Human Rights: "... the foundation of universal understanding and, therefore, for human rights education is the oneness of humanity, a spiritual principle amply confirmed by all the sciences. […] In that respect, human rights education could be considered basic education for life in the modern world. According to the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century, "learning to live with others,' which necessitates respecting their rights, is 'one of the major issues in education today." The Commission also points out that children and youth are coping with special tensions that come from living in a contracting and interdependent world. Among them are the tension 'between the global and the local: people need gradually to become world citizens without losing their roots'; the tension 'between the universal and the individual: culture is steadily being globalized, but as yet only partially'; and the tension 'between the spiritual and the material.' Human rights education grounded in the principle of the oneness of humanity, can provide children and youth the tools and the philosophical framework to enable them to resolve these tensions for themselves." PAOLA GIRALDO, anthropologist (Colombia), asserted that dignity is the basis for real understanding of human rights. "This is why I think that the concept of HR Education must include the construction of dignity inside the minds and the lives of the people. Of course, that idea of dignity needs to be in accordance with the structure of the world of every people." Both JANA ONDRACKOVA and GEORGE KENT clarified their positions in the debate on rights and responsibilities and possible infringements of rights to protect rights held by others. Said Jana: "In my initial comment I did not say that human rights were conditional on good behaviour. Yes, everyone has the right to rights. What I meant was that nobody has the right to enforce his rights by infringing on somebody else's." She concluded her contribution by stating that "Human rights are certainly not given for 'good behaviour', but I wonder should they possibly not be given to those who respect the dignity and rights of other people?" George tried to emphasise the shared positions in this debate: "We should try to get away from language that suggests that rights are 'given' in any form. People simply have them, intrinsically, by virtue of being human. I interpret Jana's last comment to refer to the idea that convicted criminals may, through appropriate legal process, be deprived of certain rights. This is widely accepted. Do we all now agree that, apart from the exceptional cases in which people are deprived of their rights through due process of law, all people have all human rights all the time? Of course this is not to say that all those rights are realized." SHULA KOENIG offered a new perspective on this discussion: "...human rights are about Rights and Responsibility -social responsibility- and one doesn't have to make the vocal distinction between rights and responsibilities if one really knows human rights, which is not more and not less then a way of life -- and life entails freedoms and duties to support its sanctity." She used a example that she has used in trainings. Shula: "When I work with young people I like to speak of human rights as traffic regulation. Talking of life as a movement where we are free to move without hurting others and without being hurt. Thus: be responsible! Obey the green and red lights. Women and men alike, etc. etc. -- and this is how together we develop the theory and practical interpretation of human rights. Young people without much prodding speak of food, education, health, housing and work as human rights to enable them, their families and others "to walk safely across the street" in their communities to move in the world in dignity." Shula also pleaded for a holistic approach to human rights in which political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights are all part of the same human rights framework. "As a woman I can tell you that you cannot be half pregnant. If you agree with this simple truth it is impossible to look at human rights in a compartmentalized way...as one of you so very well mentioned article 30 of the UDHR, which I like to explain as: No one human right can violate the other... and all conflicts must be solved the human rights way," according to Shula. In the context of the example of Al Queda members killing people in the name of religious freedom, BENSON SCOTCH of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) expressed his concern that persons accused of wrongdoing need to retain the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration presumption of innocence, a fair trial, and an appropriate sentence or penalty. Said Benson: "Human rights ultimately depend on principles of equal protection. The preemptive labeling of certain actors as not worthy of human rights-based legal processes is inimical to the very concept of human rights." MEHARI TADDELE (Ethiopia) pointed out that it necessary to have a commonly agreed definition of human rights before we can address what human rights education should be. Mehari claimed that nowadays there are no huge differences on the nature and notion of human rights. "Rather there is big difference on the degree of authoritative restrictions that can be imposed on rights. For example, the difference between USA and Europe to that matter the rest of the world on the possible legal restriction on Freedom of Speech. This difference infers the big concern about duties." He defined HRE as "…teaching people what their rights are, how they can make others respect their rights i.e. teaching duties of others and indirectly teaching their own duties, how they respect others rights i.e. direct teaching of their duties, this is done by teaching that they have to be responsible for all their actions." ADAM STONE (USA) would like to expand HRE to 'transformative, systematic HRE.' "'Transformative' because empowerment to affect positive change and transform lives must always be one of the primary goals of HRE. 'Systematic' because HRE should begin at the earliest levels of education and should continue throughout one's formal schooling." Adam believed that any working definition of transformative, systematic HRE must be as simple and straightforward as possible. As human rights issues are so broad (for example, child labor, women's rights, conflict diamonds, environmental justice), and hard to capture, Adam proposed a more fluid definition: "To me, transformative, systematic HRE is any thoughtful, searching discussion among teachers and students […] of what it means to be human and to interact responsibly with our fellow human beings and our planet. At any given moment the discussion might focus on one particular human rights issue, and the tools that inform the discussion might be internationally developed documents such as the UDHR, but such discussions will always be informed as well by the beliefs, values, and experiences of those students and teachers taking part." Transformative, systematic HRE should stimulate critical thinking about human rights issues rather than try to provide pre-packaged 'answers' to some of the most complicated and challenging issues we, as humans, will ever encounter. Said Adam: "I would add that I believe this conversation among listserv members would itself be an excellent tool for transformative, systematic HRE. If I were a teacher I would consolidate these materials (within the confines of the listserv's policy on reproduction, of course), have students read them, and then pose questions such as Who is correct? Who is incorrect? Why? Or perhaps: Is everybody correct? Is everybody incorrect? Why?" ======== Global Human Rights Education listserv ======== Send mail intended for the list to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Archives of the list can be found at: http://www.hrea.org/lists/hr-education/ If you have problems (un)subscribing, contact <email@example.com>. **You are welcome to reprint, copy, archive, quote or re-post this item, but please retain the original and listserv source.
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