Re: Follow-up to the Decade at the regional level

How to get HRE at a higher speed, at the national, regional and
international levels?

The initiative, in 2000, to start up our organisation for HRE (VORMEN) has
been taken by members of civil society in the Flemish community in Belgium,
as there did not yet exist any body or NGO with HRE as its main mission
until then. The initiative was morally supported by a broad range of
individuals and of academic and NGO actors in the human rights and
educational areas. Obviously, in the process of establishing the NGO the
framework of the Decade was frequently used.

We believe that one of the main tasks of the authorities of Western
European countries with respect to HRE is the integration of HRE in the
curricula of the education system as well as in the training of civil
servants and other persons who, in the context of their duties, have a
special responsibility for human rights (police, prison guards,...). And,
as the media are key players in the opinion-making of people, provisions
must also been made for the media which guarantee that they also contribute
to this aim.

Another major task for the state is to enable the civil society to set up
expertise and capacity in the HRE area, which also can function as a watchdog.

A third task, which is rarely mentioned, could be to provide for funding of
international cooperation and partnerships in the area of HRE and for
funding of initiatives/NGOs for HRE in poorer countries.

In the Flemish (Dutch speaking) community of our country human rights are
integrated now in the core curriculum of compulsory education: in this area
we have made a good step forward.

With the issue of funding for HRE, VORMEN has mixed experiences. Though we
are glad with the project-based support that we, until now, have received
from different authorities (at federal level, and at the level of the
Flemish Community), it remains difficult to get the resources needed for a
long-term, stable functioning of the organisation.

Several factors are hindering this:

1) The complexity of our state structure (federal level, community level,...).
2) The lack of a minister with explicit overall authority over human rights
education. In practice, human rights education falls under the authority of
a series of ministers: Minister of Education, Minister of Justice, Minister
of Youth and Culture, State Secretary of Development Cooperation,...
3) The nature of the existing funding frameworks. Most of these frameworks
are target-group oriented: youth organisations can be funded, organisations
for adult education can be funded, ... No structural funding opportunity
for a HRE NGO exists in the Belgian Flemish education system. Funding for
thematic education exists for development education purposes, but it is not
really clear that this framework will allow for the funding of the range of
activities that a NGO for HRE would want to deploy. The access to
structural funding for development education is only allowed for NGOs which
can prove a rather high level of activities during the last three years.
Moreover, some additional conditions of rather administrative nature are
hampering access to funding for new organisations.
4) The lack of political will. This means: nobody is against, but nobody
tries to overcome the difficulties mentioned above.

We would like to make two remarks that apply to the regional European level.

A) As far as we know, the Council of Europe, which has both human rights
and education in its brief, did not take major initiatives to stimulate or
coordinate the implementation of the Decade in its countries. Recently, its
Committee of Ministers announced a European Year of Citizenship through
Education (see
What%27s%5Fnew/recommendation.asp), to be prepared by the member states (it is
said that this year possibly will take place in 2005). Though human rights
are mentioned in its texts, we recommend to make it a major sub-theme of
this European year, and to explicitly include the decades objectives in it.

B) If the European institutions (EU and Council of Europe) are serious
about human rights education, they need to offer substantial funding
opportunities that are explicitly open for this area of activities. Special
funding possibilities for that purpose could contribute to European
networking, to more expertise in the HRE NGOs, to commonly developed
educational materials, etcetera.

On the international level now...

A second decade could be helpful, on condition that the international
community recognizes that the majority of countries have still to take the
necessary initiatives. It should aim at giving HRE permanently the place it

A regular UN reporting system, where states have to report extensively on
HRE, and get UN comments on their report, can be a good long-term strategy.
One could think of a system that is similar to the children s rights
convention system, which already partly also covers HRE. Reports and
comments should be made public as well, which could facilitate public
discussion of the issue.

And why the HRE NGOs could not take the initiative to, in a coordinated
effort, publish regularly regional or international reports on HRE, as a
tool of pressure on their governments and on the existing regional and
international structures? This is a naming and shaming strategy, that
proves to be successful in other human rights areas!


Wim Taelman, co-ordinator
VORMEN vzw (Vlaamse Organisatie voor Mensenrechteneducatie)
(= Flemish Organisation for Human Rights Education)
Address: Lange Gasthuisstraat 29, B-2000 Antwerp (Belgium)
URL: (or
Tel.: + 32 3 293 82 15

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