HRE Highlights from the UN Human Rights Council 13th session

Received by e-mail: From: Kazunari Fujii, Date: 13/04/2010

Dear all, Highlights of human rights education from the 13th session (1-26 March) of the UN Human Rights Council follow below.
These are included in the Report of the Panel Discussion on the Draft UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training: Bridging the gap between standards and practice.
The Panel Discussion was held on 17 March in parallel with the 13th session of the Council, facilitated by the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning (NGO WG on HREL), Geneva, and cosponsored by the Platform in the Council comprised of 7 UN Member States (Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, Philippines, Slovenia, Senegal and Switzerland).

The 15 pdf pages Report of the panel is available at:
http://www.ngocongo.org/congo/files/report__panel_on_dundhret_mar_2010.pdf

The NGO WG on HREL wishes that the report provides all relevant actors with useful information and insights for better strategy-building. 

HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL 13TH SESSION (1-26 March, 2010):
Analytical comments are included. For more about the 13 session, please visit the website of the UN Human Rights Council.
(http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/13session/)

1. High Level Discussion

During the High Level Segment of the Human Rights Council 13th session, a High Level Discussion on the draft United Nations declaration on human rights education and training took place on 2 March at the plenary. It was aimed to provide an opportunity for high-level dignitaries, as well as delegations of States and observers, to launch the intergovernmental process of consultation on the draft declaration, and not as an exercise to comment on specific provisions of the draft declaration. The Member States of the Platform for Human Rights Education and Training in the Council had taken the initiative in September 2009 for the decision of the Council to hold this High Level Discussion.

The panel was comprised by high level delegates, Ms. Micheline Clamy-Rey (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland), Mr. Mohammed Naciri (Minister of Justice, Morocco), Prof. Madické Niang (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senegal), Dr. Alberto G. Romulo (Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Philippines) and Ms. Dragoljuba Bencina (State Secretary/ Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Slovenia).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem Pillay, made an opening statement. In addition to the increased international recognition of the important role of human rights education for protecting and promoting human rights and by reference to the current draft declaration, she pointed out that the right to human rights education mentioned in the current draft declaration was connected to the enjoyment of all rights as had been recognised as such by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Discussion of 5 December 1994, for example. She also mentioned the World Programme for Human Rights Education as a central framework for activities on human rights education.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland expressed the commitment of the Platform, an intergovernmental group in the Council, created by the initiative of Switzerland and Morocco in 2007 and joined by other Member States based on geographical equality, which led to the present composition of 7 Member States. Stressing the need for combating all forms of discrimination, she mentioned human rights education and training as a “virtuous cycle” for both right-holders and duty-bearers. She referred to the mandate of the Council to promote human rights education provided in General Assembly resolution A/RES/60/251, para.5 (a), and mentioned the significance of the declaration to be an international instrument focusing on human rights education that should be clear and understandable by everyone everywhere rather than a technical document.

The Minister of Justice of Morocco emphasised building a culture of human rights through human rights education in order to establish a society where human rights would be respected by each other. He mentioned that the declaration would provide a framework for an educational approach to implement human rights, bridge theory and practice and nurture responsible behaviour of all persons. He also indicated the national plan of action for democracy and human rights and other initiatives of Morocco carried on since the UN Decade for Human Rights Education including Morocco’s involvement in the Arab group of governmental experts to formulate a plan of human rights education in Arab countries, which had been discussed at the seminar held in September 2009 in Rabat.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal highlighted the importance of human rights education for young people and training for law-makers and law enforcement officers, referring to the national efforts of Senegal including allocation of 40% of the national budget to education and training. He also stated that teaching on human rights was integrated in curricula of education and training institutions in Senegal including those for police and security forces. The role of information and communication technology was also highlighted. He stressed the importance of a harmonious advancement of development and the enjoyment of human rights together for peace in society, for which end Member States should achieve consensus to adopt the declaration.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines stressed that human rights education and training enhanced “human rights literacy” of citizens, deterred human rights violations and fostered a culture of human rights in all societies. He mentioned national initiatives and efforts since the UN Decade for Human Rights Education including; the work of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, which had been awarded the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education; incorporation of human rights education in school curricula and programs involving various stakeholders; and human rights training for law enforcement officers. Noting that the current draft declaration recognised the necessity of international cooperation, including creation of a trust fund and international centres for human rights education, and the value of sector-based approaches, he hoped that the declaration would help generate financing and capacity-building mechanisms. Referring to the newly established ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights, in south-east Asia, mandated to advise States on the fulfilment of international human rights obligations, he expected the declaration to reinforce and complement such regional mechanisms. He also reminded Member States of taking into account specific local and national realities and needs in the implementation of human rights education.

State Secretary/ Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia stated that the essential purpose of human rights education and training was to raise awareness among all men, women and children of human rights of their own and of others and that the process would contribute to promote development of a free pluralistic and tolerant society. She also referred to national efforts and programmes since the UN Decade for Human Rights Education including human rights training for police and judges, especially on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The efforts had also been directed to eliminate prejudice against different ethnic groups such as Roma. She considered human rights education and training as an effective means to prevent occurrence and reoccurrence of conflicts and to consolidate and rehabilitate a post-conflict society in its transition. She referred to General Assembly resolution A/RES/60/251, para.5 (a), pointing out that the promotion of human rights education was central of the mandate of the Council, and wished for swift adoption of the draft declaration.

Following the statements of the panel, 15 Member States took the floor – Italy, Costa Rica, Thailand, Burkina Faso, Uzbekistan,Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Colombia (on behalf of the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries or GRULAC), Viet Nam (on behalf of the ASEAN), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference or OIC), Indonesia, Lithuania (on behalf of the Convening Group of the Community of Democracies or CGCD), United States of America, Russian Federation, Republic of Congo, China. Due to the lack of time, several other Member States and NGOs listed to take the floor could not deliver their statements.

It was evident from the statements of Member States that the declaration was now considered to provide the guiding principles at national, regional and international levels to promote and implement human rights education and training while it was also mentioned that the declaration itself would not be legally binding. The views expressed by Member States included that human rights education would contribute to democracy, the rule of law, prevention of conflicts, empowerment of people, and multicultural understanding and that human rights education was the obligation of States particularly through training law enforcement officers including police, military and security forces.

Through the High Level Discussion, efforts and contributions made by the Advisory Committee of the Council, the Platform for Human Rights Education and Training in the Council (Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, Philippines, Slovenia, Senegal and Switzerland), NGOs and other civil society actors including national human rights institutions (NHRIs) were also referred to.

Regarding the right to human rights education, the United States, Pakistan on behalf of OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) and Russia expressed their views. The OIC mentioned in its statement that the declaration should not create a new right, but rather emphasise human rights education as a core component of the right to education. The view of Russia was that the right to human rights education should not be singled out artificially as a separate category of right, while the view of the United States was that the declaration should not focus on establishing a new right, but should focus on the complementary role of human rights education to fully realise the full panoply of human rights including the right to education increasing education opportunities for all.

In the perspectives of regions or specific groups of Member States, the following views would be noteworthy.

Spain on behalf of the European Union mentioned the importance of a cross-regional approach and expressed its appreciation to civil society actors for their contributions to human rights education and the drafting process of the declaration. It stressed that the declaration, though not legally binding, would fill the gap between the existing international human rights instruments and the reality of actual practice, providing a clear message of the international community of commitment to human rights education as a long term process for all and raising awareness among all people. It also stated that the European Union would actively take part in the drafting process.

Colombia on behalf of GRULAC reiterated its commitment to human rights education, recognising the importance to prevent conflicts and promote a culture of peace. It expressed its expectation that the declaration would reflect needs and views on all forms of human rights education and become a useful tool for mutual respect of human rights.

Vietnam on behalf of ASEAN expected the declaration to help foster peace and harmony among all people, indicating the diversity, especially of religions, in ASEAN countries that the declaration would contribute to consolidate the unity in community of the countries. It also stated that the newly established Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights of ASEAN would help implement the declaration.

Pakistan on behalf of OIC, in addition to its aforementioned view on the right to education, stated that the declaration would be vital for better understanding human rights and developing pluralistic and democratic societies, and wished that the declaration would be finalised without delay.

Lithuania on behalf of CGCD stated that human rights education was a primary responsibility of governments and that education should be based on principles of equality, adaptability to all situations and integration.

2. Substantive Session

During the substantive session of the Council, the matters related to the draft declaration on human rights education and training were included in the general debate under Agenda Items 5 on subsidiary bodies of the Human Rights Council. Among a number of statements on various issues under Agenda Item 5, the following would be highlights concerning human rights education, particularly the draft declaration.

Ms. Halima Warzazi, the Chairperson of the Advisory Committee of the Council, made an introductory statement on all matters related to the work of the Advisory Committee under Agenda Item 5. In her report, she mentioned the preparatory process of the draft declaration that had proceeded up to date. She underlined two events in the process. The first was a meeting of experts organised by UNESCO held in Paris by the initiative of the Rapporteur of the drafting group on human rights education and training of the Advisory Committee, Mr. Decaux, and the other was the Marrakech Seminar organised by the Platform in July 2009 in Morocco according to Human Rights Council decision A/HRC/10/28 (March 2009) with participation of Member States and other actors including NGOs, at which a number of crucial elements for the draft declaration had been contributed by the invited experts. She pointed to the unanimous view, confirmed during the process, on the necessity of a declaration, simple, clear and condensed, which should be drawn up reflecting diversity and a universal nature so that it could be implemented in an effective manner in education systems at all levels starting with primary and informal education. She also stressed that the views of all stakeholders were reflected in the draft declaration, thanking particularly NGOs and NHRIs as well as all other actors who had been contributing to the drafting process.

Spain on behalf of the European Union, thanking the Advisory Committee, reminded that proposals from the Advisory Committee would be considered by the Council, but would not automatically become a decision of the Council.

Pakistan on behalf of the OIC stated that it would support the intergovernmental setting and process towards the adoption of the draft declaration.

Nigeria on behalf of the African Group expressed its commitment to support all initiatives for the negotiation process of the draft declaration. It also accentuated the right to education as inherent in the dignity of all human beings and as enunciated in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of 1993. The African Group hoped that when the declaration was adopted, States would incorporate in education systems and curricula human rights, humanitarian law, democracy and the rule of law, as well as the concept of peace including democracy and development, in order to achieve common understanding with a strong universal commitment.

Sudan on behalf of the Arab Group stated that it recognised human rights education and training as necessary to spread a culture of human rights. It referred to the decision adopted by the Arab League to draw up the Arab Action Plan for Human Rights Education, for concrete actions on education, training and awareness-raising on human rights in schools and all social and vocational institutions. Emphasising the importance of a culture of human rights and the need for it in Arab countries, especially for young people and law enforcement officials, the Arab Group expressed its commitment to support the process of finalising the draft declaration.

Morocco on behalf of the Platform referred to the purpose of the declaration to provide the definition and principles of human rights education and training and general guidelines applicable at all levels, national, regional and international. It stressed that both States and individual experts had been involved in the open and inclusive consultation in the drafting process, and underlined particularly the involvement of civil society. The Platform supported the proposal from the Advisory Committee to revise the title of the declaration to “Human Rights Education” with a descriptive specification of “training” as included in “education” in the definition within the text of the declaration. As for the right to human rights education, the Platform considered it not a new right, but rather arising from the existing right to education and already partly indicated in the existing various international human rights instruments. At the same time, it made clear that further discussion on this question was necessary. The Platform had prepared a draft resolution of the Council to decide upon holding a working group meeting of the Council that it hoped to receive support of a large number of Member States (see below, 3. Resolution).

The United States stated that human rights education and training were connected to the enjoyment of human rights and that people could only effectively exercise human rights that they understood. It also expressed that it would look forward to engaging with the Platform and other Member States to produce a declaration that aimed specifically at promoting best practices and furthering human rights education and training.

Canada also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand expressed their commitment to taking part in the process of finalising the draft declaration in the Council and further articulated its view on human rights education and training as a means to foster a universal culture of human rights. It stressed the importance to empower particularly vulnerable groups of people with their understanding of their rights and to train key state officials in authority for ensuring the protection of human rights.

As for other Member States, Brazil mentioned the importance of human rights education and training to prevent human rights violations; Russia underlined the need for further elaboration of the draft declaration; Burkina Faso called upon Member States to achieve consensus when adopting the draft declaration.

The International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs (ICC) expressed its view that the declaration should be elaborated with references to universality, indivisibility and inalienability of human rights, and in a comprehensive manner to include all forms and levels, not just for acquiring knowledge but also acquiring all attitudes and behaviours for a culture based on respect for rights of oneself and of others. ICC expressed its full endorsement of the draft declaration and its commitment to contribute to the further elaboration of the draft declaration. It also indicated the need for a strong commitment of States to their responsibility to translate the declaration into national action plans involving civil society and NHRIs.

Advisory Council on Human Rights, a national human rights institution, of Morocco mentioned its constant national efforts for human rights over years based on the three categorical approaches of education, professional training and awareness-raising.

NGOs also took the floor. Among the statements delivered under Agenda Item 5, six statements of NGOs entirely focused or partially referred to the draft declaration. They include the joint oral statement prepared through the network of the NGO WG on HREL and delivered with 23 signatory organisations.[*1] Regarding the right to human rights education the NGO WG on HREL since the beginning has upheld the view that it was not a new right but an already existing right as described, for example, in the publication of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) entitled “the Right to Human Rights Education” published in 1999, and that it was the right to both receive and provide human rights education. Two other NGO oral statements of those six included the same view.

[*1] In addition, the NGO WG on HREL prepared a joint oral statement on the transition from the first to the second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education which was delivered on 12 March with 21 signatory organisations under Agenda Item 3.

The following views expressed in those NGO statements, of which some were in common, were particularly noted.

The declaration will provide the guiding principles that will fill the gap between international human rights standards and actual practice; the definition and principles should be consistent at regional and international levels; the drafting process should continue with civil society participation swiftly but without haste; human rights education is a component of the right to education; human rights education serves for both the prevention of human rights violations and the protection of human rights; the protection of human rights defenders as a contributor to human rights education and training should be indicated in the declaration; human rights education is a fundamental approach to address the root causes of human rights violations; non-formal settings of education are important to empower the people in need of the protection of rights and to ensure awareness of human rights; a regular review of curricula on human rights in education systems should be ensured; the right to human rights education should not be subordinate to the right to education; not only human rights teaching in education but the respect for human rights should also be ensured in education environments and modalities; and adequate financial resources for human rights education should be ensured, particularly for developing countries.

3. Resolution on United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training [*2]

[*2] Draft resolution number: A/HRC/13/L.22. The resolution will be officially numbered by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and be available on the website of the Human Rights Council 13th session later.
(http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/13session/)

The Platform had prepared the draft resolution and 108 Member States including the 7 Member States of the Platform cosponsored it at the time of the adoption on 25 March. Introducing the draft resolution, Morocco on behalf of the Platform addressed to the Council the main points, recalling the steps taken in the drafting process up to date in which, it indicated, some 200 responses had been submitted from stakeholders to the questionnaire circulated on the draft declaration. Regarding an intergovernmental working group meeting and informal consultations, both proposed in the draft resolution, the Platform emphasised the importance that in their process, the positions of Member States and other interested actors in particular NHRIs and NGOs as to the content of the declaration would be heard in order to make it acceptable to all.

An intergovernmental working group on the draft United Nations declaration

The resolution was adopted by consensus of the Council on 25 March, by which the Council decided “to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate of negotiating, finalizing and submitting to the Council the draft United Nations declaration on human rights education and training on the basis of the draft submitted by the Advisory Committee” (operative para.1) which would “meet for a maximum of five working days before its sixteenth session” (operative para.2). The Rapporteur (Mr. Emanuel Decaux) of the Advisory Committee drafting group on the draft declaration will be invited by the President of the Council to participate in the meetings of the working group (operative para.5).

According to the resolution, “the Platform on Human Rights Education and Training” will “hold open-ended informal consultations prior to the convening of the working group” (operative para.3).

Prior to the adoption of this resolution, an intergovernmental meeting for consultation on the draft resolution, open to NGOs to attend, was held twice on 11 and 17 March in parallel to the plenary meeting during the 13th session of the Council. The participating Member States raised questions on matters including; budgetary implications for organising the working group meeting; duration of the working group meeting; the necessity of informal consultations in relation to the working group; and the availability of the draft declaration in all official United Nations languages (as of now only in French and English available).

The budgetary question concerned whether or not a specific paragraph should be included in the draft resolution ensuring financial resources for organising the meeting of the working group, which would require a certain large amount of budget. The resolution adopted does not clearly indicate regarding the programme and budgetary implications (PBI) except for operative para.4 stating that the Council “(r)equests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the working group with the necessary assistance for it to fulfil its mandate, including by circulating to all Member States and in all official languages of the United Nations the draft declaration contained in the study of the Advisory Committee”.

When the draft resolution was tabled for adoption at the plenary of the Council, the United Kingdom made general comments in this regard that any resources requirement arising for the working group process should be met within existing resources as it had stressed in the advance negotiations on the draft resolution. The United Kingdom also expressed its support of the draft declaration and appreciated the constructive approach to the negotiations and transparent and inclusive process, stressing the importance of human rights education.

Regarding the content of this resolution, certain aspects of framework setting are expected to be clarified by the Council and OHCHR for relevant stakeholders at a later stage but in due time. They include; the composition of the working group; the precise timing of the working group to hold an open formal meeting (prior to the sixteenth session in March 2011 of the Council); modalities of participation for NGOs and other civil society stakeholders in the proceedings of the working group meeting and informal consultations.

The intention of the Platform is clearly to ensure the participation of relevant civil society actors. According to the Platform Member States, the intended timing of the working group meeting is sometime after September 2010 and they wish for the adoption of the declaration by the United Nations General Assembly by the end of 2011 following the adoption of the draft declaration by the Council.

In light of the all views expressed on the current draft declaration, it is apparent that it will be amended, but the question is to what extent. Since the finalising process of the draft declaration is proceeding at the intergovernmental level of the Council and is no longer in the hands of the Advisory Committee, any amendments are a critical concern for all stakeholders particularly of civil society. The right to human rights education may be one of the focused subjects along with the definition of human rights education and related principles as well as the title of the declaration. Specific indications of particular groups and sectors of people such as “vulnerable groups” may become a focused question as has been the case for other major international conferences on human rights to adopt a final document.

Given the anticipated timeframe towards the adoption of the declaration, the next steps to proceed with the working group of the Council in the current year and the following process in 2011 would be critical for all stakeholders of human rights education in order to have for all a truly meaningful UN declaration on human rights education and training.

*****

Kazunari Fujii, Chair, NGO WG on HREL, of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN (CoNGO), Geneva, Switzerland.
—–
Director, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), United Nations Liaison Office, 150 Route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland.

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