South African university centre wins UN prize for human rights education

11 December 2006 –

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced today that a South African university centre established during the apartheid era has been awarded its biennial prize for human rights education.

The Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria has received the $10,000 prize in recognition of its “outstanding contribution to the cause of human rights in South Africa and to the advancement of a human rights culture by means of education and training of professionals in South Africa, other countries on the continent and beyond,” UNESCO said in a press statement.

UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura designated the Centre, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, as the laureate following the recommendation of a six-member panel that considered 49 candidates from 37 countries.

The Centre contributed to the adoption of a national bill of rights and to the constitution-building process in the early 1990s following the demise of South Africa’s apartheid system, before broadening its activities in human rights education and training.

Its two flagship programmes are the Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa, established in 2000, and the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, which was launched in 1992.

The jury awarded honourable mentions to two other entries: the European Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratization of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratization, set up in Venice in 1997; and the One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival of the Czech Republic, which has been held annually since 1999.

The UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education has been awarded every two years since it was created in 1978 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It can be awarded that an institution, organization or individual that has made a particularly significant contribution to the field.

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