GENERAL ASSEMBLY PROCLAIMS WORLD PROGRAMME FOR HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION, STRESSING ITS IMPORTANCE TO REALIZATION OF ALL FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS

10 December 2004
GA/10317

GENERAL ASSEMBLY PROCLAIMS WORLD PROGRAMME FOR HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION, STRESSING ITS IMPORTANCE TO REALIZATION OF ALL FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS

10/12/2004
Press ReleaseGA/10317

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

Plenary

70th Meeting (AM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY PROCLAIMS WORLD PROGRAMME FOR HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION,

STRESSING ITS IMPORTANCE TO REALIZATION OF ALL FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS

Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) Says Effective Human Rights

Education Remains Best Prerequisite for Achievement of Peaceful World

As part of the global commemoration of International Human Rights Day, the General Assembly this morning marked the conclusion of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) by unanimously proclaiming a World Programme for Human Rights Education, the first three years of which would focus on primary and secondary education by integrating human rights issues into curricula.

Adopting a resolution, which stressed the belief that human rights education was essential to the realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and contributed significantly to promoting equality and preventing conflict and encouraging democracy, the Assembly set 1 January as the start date for the first phase of the World Programme, which would run through 2007.

Opening the meeting, Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) said that more than half a century after the endorsement of the United Nations Human Rights Declaration, the Assembly would today mark the end of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education.  When it had launched this programme, ten years ago, it had urged “governmental and non-governmental educational agencies to intensify their efforts to establish and implement programmes of human rights education, in particular by preparing and implementing national plans for human rights education”.

He noted that a mid-term evaluation of the initiative had indicated that the Decade has been a catalyst in eliciting a response from governments, though much more needed to be done.  But the evaluation also pointed out that improved collaboration between governmental and non-governmental actors, working in a spirit of mutual respect, was needed.  This year had shown an increase of governmental activities in the area of human rights education.  However, some governments mentioned that human rights education would still remain a priority in their countries, since specific issues had not been dealt with, he said.

Mr. Ping stressed that it was still obvious that initiatives such as the closing Decade and the World Programme could be effective only if national and local actors used them as mobilization tools.  He appealed to all States to join efforts to make human rights education a reality at home and a focus of discussions in the future.  Effective human rights education -- which enhanced respect, equality, cooperation and understanding, therefore preventing human rights abuses and conflicts -- remained one of the best prerequisites towards the achievement of a peaceful world, he said.

Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today was an occasion to remember persisting human rights abuses around the world, and to point to the enormous efforts still needed to make human rights a reality for all.  “It is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the essential strategy of human rights education”, she said.

She paid tribute to human rights educators and defenders around the world who contributed daily to building a universal culture of human rights.  Those men and women did so in formal and informal settings, in small or large communities, and very often in the face of difficulties and danger.  They did so both through the development of educational initiatives and by setting an example with their own human rights conduct.  “They should serve as an inspiration to all of us.  Human rights are our common heritage, and their realization depends on the contribution that each one of us is willing to make”, she said.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, joined others who stressed that human rights education was essential for the achievement of stable and harmonious relations among communities.  It could foster mutual understanding, tolerance and peace.  In a world where everybody knew his or her rights, in which governments were held accountable for their actions, the chances for human rights to prevail would significantly improve.  Human rights education was an indispensable element in any strategy to prevent racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance.

“So let us teach, let us train, let us educate and let us learn”, he said in conclusion.  “Let us create a culture of human rights, where the threshold to knowing about our human rights is law and the rule of law prospers.  But let us also never forget our duty to speak out for the victims.  And let us never fail to remember our obligation to promote and protect human rights.”

Kenya’s representative emphasized the clear correlation between poverty, education and development.  She said that poverty continued to ravage the people of sub-Saharan Africa -- a situation exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  As an empowerment right, education was a primary vehicle by which those who were economically and socially marginalized could emancipate themselves and participate fully in their communities.  Her delegation strongly believed that individuals could exercise none of their civil, political, economic or social rights until they received a certain minimum education.

In addition, the human right to education was inextricably linked to other fundamental human rights –- rights that were universal, indivisible, interconnected and interdependent, including the right to equality between men and women and to equal partnership in the family and society.  She added that the role of human rights education in conflict prevention and management was undisputed.  Calling for international cooperation and support in strengthening national and regional capacities for human rights education, she said:  “It is through human rights education, that we recognize the legitimacy and full potential of every human being and group”.

Building on that, Cuba’s representative said the Assembly’s gathering today would be a noble task if it really aimed to spread, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms as guaranteed in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, with dialogue and encouragement under the guiding principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.  It would be a noble gesture if the world’s nations did not close their eyes to the current global realities:  How could the objectives be ensured, when United Nations reports revealed that billions of boys and girls worldwide lived in poverty?  How could States ensure that their future generations knew about their rights, when more than 140 children had never attended school?

Poverty, poor health care and lack of access to clean water and sanitation were wrecking educational opportunities for millions of children in both the developing and developed worlds, he said.  Those scourges often led children to fall prey to other deplorable phenomena such as commercial sexual exploitation and violence.  Indeed, violence continued to be promoted or glorified in the media.  All that made it clear that the outcomes of any action plan on human rights education –- such as the one before the Assembly, as compiled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) -- would have limited scope unless the unjust and inequitable international order were rectified, he said.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Chile (on behalf of the Community of Democracies), Kazakhstan, China, Liechtenstein, Mali, India, Cuba, Kenya, Japan, United Arab Emirates, United States, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, and Costa Rica.

The representative of Australia introduced the draft resolution on the World programme for Human Rights Education (document A/59/L.43).

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. today to take up he reports of its Special Political and Decolonization (Fourth) Committee.

Background

The General Assembly met this morning to consider Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004.

The Assembly had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/59/525) transmitting the Draft plan of action for the first phase of the proposed world programme for human rights education, prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other governmental and non-governmental actors.

According to the draft plan, the international community agreed that human rights education constitutes a fundamental contribution to the realization of human rights.  Human rights education can be defined as education, training and information aiming at building a universal culture of human rights through the sharing of knowledge, imparting of skills and moulding of attitudes to, among other things:  the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; the promotion of understanding, tolerance, gender equality and friendship among all nations, indigenous peoples and racial, national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups; and the enabling of all persons to participate effectively in a free and democratic society governed by the rule of law.

The objectives of the world programme for human rights education are:  to promote the development of a culture of human rights; to promote a common understanding of basic principles and methodologies for human rights education; to ensure a focus on human rights education at the national, regional and international levels; to provide a common collective framework for action by all relevant actors; to enhance partnership and cooperation at all levels; and to take stock of and support existing human rights education programmes, as well as to develop new ones.

The first phase of the world programme, running from 2005 to 2007, will focus on the primary and secondary school systems.  The plan aims to achieve specific objectives such as:  inclusion and practice of human rights in the primary and secondary school systems; to provide guidelines on key components of human rights education in the school system; and to facilitate the provision of support to Member States by international, regional, national and local organizations.  The plan provides:  a definition of human rights education in the school system based on internationally agreed principles; a user-friendly guide to developing or improving human rights education in the school system; and a flexible guide which can be adapted to different contexts and situations.

The draft plan of action then addresses in detail issues such as implementation strategy at the national level, including funding, coordination of the implementation of the plan of action and international cooperation and support.  At the conclusion of the first phase, according to the draft plan, each country will undertake an evaluation of actions implemented.  To that end, international and regional organizations will provide assistance to build or strengthen national capacities for evaluation.  An Annex to the draft plan provides components of human rights education in the primary and secondary school systems.

Before the Assembly was also a draft resolution on the World Programme for Human Rights Education (document A/59/L.43).

The text would have the Assembly take note of the views expressed in the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the achievements and shortcomings of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004, and on the Organization’s future activities in this area concerning the need to continue a global framework for human rights education beyond the Decade in order to ensure a priority focus on human rights education within the international agenda.

The text would also have the Assembly proclaim the World Programme for Human Rights Education to begin on 1 January 2005 in order to advance the implementation of human rights education programmes in all sectors.

Statement by General Assembly President

JEAN PING (Gabon), President of the General Assembly, said that today was a historic event for humankind -- the commemoration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose preamble consecrates legitimate and fundamental rights inherent to all human beings “as a common standard to be achieved for all peoples and all nations”.

The Assembly had decided that this year’s commemoration would be dedicated to human rights education, and to hold a plenary session to mark the end of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) and to discuss future initiatives to be taken in view of strengthening education.  Indeed, it was important to educate and sensitize people on issues relating to human rights, as well as to promote respect, equality, cooperation and understanding between individuals and among nations.  This was a long process which, like all education, continued throughout one’s entire life, he added.

Fifty-six years ago, when proclaiming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the General Assembly highlighted in particular the fundamental role of education in the achievement of human rights.  President Ping recalled the preamble:  “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”.  Consistent with that call, United Nations activities had been more and more devoted to promoting respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“On the one hand, by establishing legal instruments in relevant United Nations organs, we have committed to ensure in our respective countries  not only education in general, but also education about and for human rights”, he said.  On the other hand, the Organization had always highlighted the importance of human rights education in various United Nations forums, in the General Assembly and at the Commission on Human Rights, as well as during many international meetings.

He said that the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna considered “human rights education, training and public information essential for the promotion and achievement of stable and harmonious relations among communities and for fostering mutual understanding, tolerance and peace.”

Today, the Assembly would mark the end of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, he said.  When it had launched this programme, ten years ago, it had urged “governmental and non-governmental educational agencies to intensify their efforts to establish and implement programmes of human rights education, as recommended in the Plan of Action, in particular by preparing and implementing national plans for human rights education”.

He noted that a mid-term evaluation of the initiative had indicated that the Decade has been a catalyst in eliciting a response from governments, though much more needed to be done.  But the evaluation also pointed out that improved collaboration between governmental and non-governmental actors, working in a spirit of mutual respect, was needed.

This year had shown an increase of governmental activities in the area of human rights education.  However, some governments mentioned that human rights education would still remain a priority in their countries, since specific issues had not been dealt with, he said.  But the Decade was considered as a positive mechanism which had “put human rights education on the agenda as a priority issue”, helped to increase public awareness on the issue and provided a framework for relevant international cooperation.

Both the proposed World Programme for Human Rights Education and the draft Plan of Action for its first phase (2005-2007) were before the Assembly for consideration and adoption, he said.  Their endorsement by the Assembly was important -- it would reaffirm that human rights education remained a priority for the entire international community; provide a common framework for action to all relevant actors; allow support for existing programmes; provide an incentive for the development of new ones; and enhance cooperation at all levels.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ping stressed that it was still obvious that initiatives such as the closing Decade and the proposed World Programme could have an effective impact only if national and local actors used them as mobilization tools.  He appealed to all States to join efforts to make human rights education a reality in their societies and a focus of discussions in the future years.  Effective human rights education -- which enhanced respect, equality, cooperation and understanding, therefore preventing human rights abuses and conflicts -- remained one of the best prerequisites towards the achievement of a peaceful world.

Statement by Deputy Secretary-General

LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General, said today was an occasion to remember persisting human rights abuses around the world, and to point to the enormous efforts still needed to make human rights a reality for all.  “It is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the essential strategy of human rights education”, she said.

The draft plan of action for the World Programme for Human Rights Education, which would start on 1 January 2005 in primary and secondary schools, drew on principles and frameworks derived from several international human rights instruments.  It recognized that the integration of human rights education in school systems was a complex process that required action on several fronts -- all equally important and mutually reinforcing.

Today she joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in paying tribute to human rights educators and defenders around the world who contributed daily to building a universal culture of human rights.  Those men and women did so in formal and informal settings, in small or large communities, and very often in the face of difficulties and danger.  They did so both through the development of educational initiatives and by setting an example with their own human rights conduct.  “They should serve as an inspiration to all of us.  Human rights are our common heritage, and their realization depends on the contribution that each one of us is willing to make”, she said.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

JAMES CHOI (Australia), introduced a draft resolution on the World Programme for Human Rights Education (document A/59/L.43), recalling that the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights had stressed that such education was essential for the promotion of stable harmonious relations between and among communities, as well as towards fostering lasting peace and security.  This year marked the end of the Decade, which had seen myriad initiatives put in action at local and national levels.  And while many States and organizations had been encouraged to develop relevant programmes, more remained to be done.  The draft under consideration today would build on the achievements of the Decade and would encourage a more responsive management, coordination and review of efforts under way.  The first phase of the plan would start at the beginning of January and focus on action for human rights education in primary and secondary schools.  He hoped the resolution would receive the Assembly’s solid support.

Statements

DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that human rights education was essential for the achievement of stable and harmonious relations among communities.  It could foster mutual understanding, tolerance and peace.  In a world where everybody knew his or her rights, in which governments were held accountable for their actions, the chances for human rights to prevail would significantly improve.  Human rights education was an indispensable element in any strategy to prevent racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance.

Among the achievements of the Decade for Human Rights Education, he mentioned the fact that such education now figured prominently on international agendas, and many activities had been developed at the local and national levels.  Awareness had been raised, and a framework for international cooperation in that area had been provided.  Many challenges still remained, however.  It was necessary to collect and disseminate good practices, facilitate exchange of expertise at national and regional level and further develop educational materials.  Resources for human rights education were often too scarce.

The European Union attached great importance to efforts to promote human rights education, he added.  The meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna this year had focused on consolidating ongoing efforts to promote human rights education and training and gave recommendations on how to improve the quality of human rights education.  The Union strongly supported the Human Rights Education Youth programme of the Council of Europe.  It also welcomed the proclamation, today, of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, which, he hoped, would lead to significant and visible activities at the national and local levels.  The Union was particularly pleased to see the focus of its first phase on the primary and secondary school systems, for –- as the Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulated –- the education of children should be “directed to the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin”.

Recalling that a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, together with a copy of the United Nations Charter, had been deposited inside the United Nations cornerstone, he asked:  “What did we actually do?” Did we really build our United Nations on the foundations of human rights?  Or did we just safely bury the Declaration in a place for nobody to find?  We talk about human rights, but we should always walk the talk”.

“So let us teach, let us train, let us educate and let us learn”, he said in conclusion.  “Let us create a culture of human rights, where the threshold to knowing about our human rights is law and the rule of law prospers.  But let us also never forget our duty to speak out for the victims.  And let us never fail to remember our obligation to promote and protect human rights.”

ALAN ROCK (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network (Austria, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand and South Africa as an observer), said human rights education could be a tool for prevention of conflict in general and more specifically of human right abuses.  Such education provided a unifying vision of acceptable norms and standards for sustainable conflict resolution and the promotion of mutual understanding, respect and dialogue, as well as for participation in democratic processes.  Human rights education was also an important weapon in the fight against intolerance –- be it discrimination, racism or xenophobia.  “It is therefore essential that strategies for conflict prevention and post conflict rehabilitation be built upon strategies that promote and protect human rights”, he urged

In 2002, under the Chairmanship of Austria, the Human Security Network (HSN) established education as a thematic priority that was subsequently taken up by Chairs from Mali and Canada, he said.  In May 2003 a manual on human rights education and the Graz Declaration on Principles of Human Rights Education was adopted by Ministers of the Network.  That manual was now being used by human rights educators and students around the world to assist education efforts and to raise awareness and a basic understanding of human rights.  He welcomed the proclamation of the World Programme for Human Right Education scheduled to begin on 1 January 2005.

CHRISTIAN REHREN (Chile) read a statement issued on behalf of the Community of Democracies (CzechRepublic, India, Republic of Korea, Mali, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, United States).  Among other things, it said that the Community joined in the celebration of Human Rights Day.  The principles enshrined in the Vienna Declaration were the cornerstone of a secure and prosperous world, and best protected by governments committed to democracy and the rule of law.  The Community recognized the importance of promotion and protection of all fundamental rights.  It also commended all nations that had worked hard to build democracies and to promote human rights.  The text had been issued in Geneva and in the capitals of all the Community’s Member Countries, he added.

BOLAT BAYKADAMOV (Kazakhstan) said that by observing Human Rights Day annually, the international community was becoming more and more convinced of the increasing attention being paid by people everywhere to human rights as a precondition of free life and an important legacy of civilization.  For Kazakhstan and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the just-concluded Decade of Human Rights Education, coincided with the period of consolidation of their national independence and State sovereignty and the reform of his country’s economy and social and political system.

During that decade, the way of life of many of Kazakhstan citizens underwent radical transformation, and their own experience convinced them of the advantages of a liberal economy, the rule of law and democracy, he said.  Those reforms were already bearing fruit, and thanks to them, the process of development of a self-regulating, open and democratic society in Kazakhstan had become irreversible.  He noted that the government was currently carrying out a step-by-step democratization of society and tried to instil among the population a culture of respect for human rights.  Realizing that human rights had to first become an integral part of the culture of any society, the Government chose not to force the process of their universal acceptance, but instead chose to gradually raise the awareness about them among its citizenry.

He said that a reform of the judiciary that provided for the introduction of a jury system was being implemented, and an indefinite moratorium on the death penalty had been proclaimed.  Further, non-governmental organizations had become reliable partners in human rights education and had been engaged in performing “informal” human rights education.

XIE BOHUA (China) said his country valued the achievements of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education highly.  Through its unremitting efforts, the Decade had enhanced worldwide respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, encouraged understanding, tolerance and friendship among different racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups and nations, and facilitated people-centred sustainable development and social justice.  The international community had increasingly become aware of the important role played by human rights education, and comprehensive, effective and sustainable strategies thereon had been formulated and implemented at the national level.

China supported the proclamation and implementation of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, he said.  Human rights education should take full account of the historical traditions and social context of countries concerned.  It should cover the wide spectrum of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development.  Moreover, while national governments bore primary responsibility for human rights education, the international community had an obligation to provide necessary guidance and assistance.  His own country had developed a five-year literacy plan to raise awareness about the constitution, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said human rights education could play an important part in reducing the significant gap between standards and implementation of human rights if States were committed to a long-term engagement in that respect, and reliable funding was provided.  Only if human rights were known, understood and taught, could they also be practiced.  Particular efforts should be directed to the sensitization of professionals in the social and educational field.  Training on human rights in areas such as police and law enforcement was also important to prevent human rights violations and promote understanding and awareness of human rights.  His country had recently adopted a new school curriculum in which human rights constituted one of the core principles.

He said that other measures must also be taken to make human rights a reality, particularly in the area of intergovernmental work.  The way human rights was tackled in the Commission on Human rights and the Third Committee required radical overhaul, as current debates were often politically charged and complicated.  Human rights issues must be placed at the core of the United Nations agenda and be treated as truly cross-cutting issues.  He therefore welcomed the strong emphasis that the report of the High-level Panel of the Secretary-General placed on human rights.  The Panel’s bold suggestions in that regard offered an excellent point of departure for the creative and innovative measures needed to reinvigorate the human rights machinery of the Organization.

MUKTA D. TOMAR (India) said that while the importance of human rights education was widely accepted, action was still wanting in most areas.  Human rights continued to be perceived through the prism of condemnation and punishment rather than promotion.  Education offered considerable scope for bringing together the international community in a collective endeavour and needed to be taken up as a priority activity.  Her country would therefore study the draft plan of action for the first phase of the proposed World programme for Human Right Education.

The relationship between democracy and human rights was well established, she said.  “We believe that a sound democratic tradition that promotes respect or pluralism, diversity and tolerance, goes a long way in ensuring the success of our efforts in human rights education”.  Democratic institutions and people’s participation in the political and developmental process through such institutions would guarantee the success of efforts.  Human rights education had therefore been integrated into diverse subjects at different stages throughout India’s education policy.  Furthering human rights education was a multidimensional task.  Therefore in her country, the work of the Government, both in the states and at the centre was supported by the active involvement and participation of the National Human Right Commission.

Her delegation was a co-sponsor of the resolution before the Assembly today and also agreed with the Secretary-General that “human rights education was more than a lesson in schools or a theme for a day; it was a process to equip people with the tools they need to live lives of security and dignity”, she said.  But security and dignity could not be achieved on empty stomachs where situations of extreme poverty, hunger and deprivation became the primary concern.  Strengthening international cooperation for poverty eradiation was still a key ingredient to promote and protect human rights, as well as education.

CHEICK SIDI DIARRA (Mali) said the gains made in human rights had been increasing as the Decade drew to a close.  Democratic processes were becoming more entrenched in Africa, as well as around the world.  Nevertheless, economic, social, civil and political rights violations continued, particularly in conflict situations.  The international community had two tools to deal with massive human rights violations:  the imposition of sanctions and, most importantly and effectively, education.

So while Mali welcomed the establishment of the International Criminal Court under the Rome Statute, it stressed that such legal remedies, while crucial, were most often set in motion after the fact and in some cases did not necessarily serve as a firm deterrent to rights violations.  That was why education, which inculcated respect for and adherence to fundamental rights and freedoms was so important.

He said that the African Charter of Rights for the well-being of children promoted education that would promote understanding of and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  But practical evaluation and adaptation mechanisms must also be established.  Mali, for its part, had created a National Commission on Human Rights, as well as a human rights mediator to handle those tasks.

RODNEY LOPEZ CLEMENTE (Cuba) said the Assembly’s gathering today would be a noble task if it really aimed to spread, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms as guaranteed in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, with dialogue and encouragement under the guiding principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.  It would be a noble gesture if the world’s nations would not close their eyes to the current global realities, where all those rights were materialized, not where legal instruments were kept.  He said that the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights considered that human rights education, training and public information were indispensable to the establishment of harmonious relations among communities.  But how could that be ensured, when United Nations reports revealed that billions of boys and girls worldwide lived in poverty?  How could States ensure that their future generations knew about their rights when more than 140 children had never attended school?

Poverty, poor health care and lack of access to clean water and sanitation were wrecking educational opportunities for millions of children in both the developing and developed worlds.  Those scourges often led children to fall prey to other deplorable phenomena such as commercial sexual exploitation and violence, both of which were on the rise.  Indeed violence continued to be promoted or glorified in the media.  All that made it clear that the outcomes of any action plan on human rights education –- such as the one before the Assembly, as compiled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) -- would have limited scope unless the unjust and inequitable international order were rectified.

As for Cuba, its Government placed high priority on the full realization of human rights, which, it believed, included education that respected all cultural and instilled values, mutual respect and social justice.  Cuba’s education system had undergone a revolution since 1953, when more than half the island’s children did not have access to education.  One of the earliest measures had been aimed at eliminating illiteracy and creating conditions, which would guarantee universal free, quality education at all levels.  As a result of that and other efforts, the goals outlined by UNESCO through 2015 had been reached despite more than 45 years of suffering under the genocidal blockade imposed by the United States.

JUDITH MBULA BAHEMUKA (Kenya) said there was a clear correlation between poverty, education and development.  Poverty continued to ravage the people of sub-Saharan Africa -- a situation exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  As an empowerment right, education was a primary vehicle by which those who were economically and socially marginalized could emancipate themselves and participate fully in their communities.  Her delegation strongly believed that individuals could exercise none of their civil, political, economic or social rights until they received a certain minimum education.  The human right to education was inextricably linked to other fundamental human rights –- rights that were universal, indivisible, interconnected and interdependent, including the right to equality between men and women and to equal partnership in the family and society.

She said the role of human rights education in conflict prevention and management was undisputed.  Her country was therefore fully committed to upholding human rights principles and had subsequently put in place related administrative and legislative measures.  She called for international cooperation and support in strengthening national and regional capacities for human rights education.  In conclusion she said, “It is through human rights education, that we recognize the legitimacy and full potential of every human being and group”.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that each and every state bore the responsibility of protecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms. And in order to create a society in which all persons enjoyed those rights, it was essential to make sure that all citizens understood and respected the human rights of others.  In that regard, Japan firmly believed that human rights education in which everyone learned tolerance and respect for others was crucial to building decent societies.  Of course, in order to be effective, such education needed to be provided throughout peoples’ lifetimes.  In this era of globalization and diversification, human rights education was also important in fostering and promoting understanding among different peoples and cultures.

Turning to Japan’s efforts and progress during the Decade, he said, among other things, that in 1995, his Government had established a national executive headquarters, headed by the Prime Minister, to promote the Decade.  It had elaborated and published a national action plan in 1997, which had been based on the principle that human rights education must be promoted by all and at all levels.  Finally, he hoped the Assembly would adopt the resolution before it by consensus since the text would further facilitate international coordination of relevant activities in follow-up to the Decade.

NAJLA AL-QASSIMI (United Arab Emirates) said that in the three decades since her country had been established, it had created a set of laws for regulating human rights that were a top priority in its national policy.  The State’s Constitution affirmed the rights of citizens to equality, social justice, security and equal opportunities.  It had also defined the rights of children and motherhood as well as provided protection to minors, the handicapped and the elderly.  The right to education and health care had also been granted to all citizens of the United Arab Emirates.  As part of its efforts to promote a culture of human rights in the country, her Government had incorporated the basis of human rights in school curricula, police academies and army schools.

The principles of human rights were deeply rooted and represented a heritage of high values that called for the preservation of the cultures and the beliefs of people, she said.  Help to countries trying to achieve development must not affect their political independence, interfere in their internal affairs or impose external reforms.  In order to affirm the importance and credibility of the principles of human rights, it was essential for the international community to ensure neutrality and impartiality in the international resolution passed on human rights questions.

YOUSIF GHAFARI (United States) said human rights education contributed to preventing violations of human rights, promoting equality and enhancing participation and democratic processes.  Support for the protection of fundamental human rights constituted one of the foundations of the country’s foreign policy; the lesson was clear -– enjoyment of human rights helped to secure the peace, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracy and prevent humanitarian crises.  The best guarantor of security and prosperity at home and abroad remained respect for individual liberty and protection of human rights through good governance and the rule of law.

While people’s desire for individual freedom could be repressed by authoritarian and corrupt regimes, history had demonstrated that transition was inevitable, he affirmed.  Freedom-loving people everywhere had inalienable rights; meeting the challenge of realizing them would require strong cooperation among democratic nations.  Each country had a unique history and traditions, which would lead to different paths to freedom.  However, whatever the path or pace, the United States would continue to stand with those seeking freedom.

ANDREI DENISOV (Russian Federation) said that the principles set out in the Vienna Declaration had laid the groundwork for the creation of democratic societies.  Its tenets were particularly important as the treat of terrorism continued to menace all the world’s nations.  Indeed, given the global nature of that scourge, it was critical that all States look at the problem realistically and define it for what it was.  Indeed, dividing terrorists into categories of “good” and “bad” actors was an exercise in futility.

The Russian Federation was convinced that everyone had a right to live free from fear and to be protected from terrorism.  His delegation had introduced a resolution subsequently adopted by the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) on terrorism and human rights, which stressed that the consequences of terrorism affected every aspect of peoples’ lives and livelihoods. Indeed, battling the scourge was a collective responsibility, and complacency or isolation in that fight could lead to greater vulnerability.  Such cooperation was also necessary to confront other issues hindering peoples’ exercise of human rights, such as racism, extremism, intolerance and xenophobia.

He went on to say that the Russian Federation would continue to do its utmost to enhance relations between and among nations towards the promotion and protection of fundamental rights.  In that regard, it had actively cooperated with the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights and adhered to relevant international treaties.  He added that Russia was set to be visited by several of the Commission’s human rights rapporteurs and experts in the coming year.

ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY (Indonesia) said democracy, development and human rights were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  Human rights education would result in further effective democratic participation in the political, socio-economic and cultural spheres of national life, and should be used as a means of promoting economic and social progress, as well as people centred sustainable development.  “We believe that promotion of human rights can best be attained through dialogue both at the national and international levels, rather than by publishing a ‘world report’ or a long list of human rights practices in other Member States and criticizing them for not doing better”, she said.

To that end, she continued, on 25 August in Jakarta, Indonesia had launched its national Plan of Action on Human Rights for the period 2004-2009.  The main objective of that plan was to ensure the enhancement of respect, promotion, fulfilment and protection of human rights in her country.  Like the first plan of action (1998-2003), the second had established a timetable for the attainment of concrete goals in education about human rights issues.  In addition, the level of partnership between her Government and other stakeholders in Indonesia had reached a significant stage where national programmes of action were being constructively discussed and roles as well as responsibilities had been mandated, leading to the full promotion and protection of human rights.

ROMAN KIRN (Slovenia) said today’s debate on human rights should have included civil society and human rights educators in acknowledgement of the contributions they had made to human rights education and learning.  Emphasizing that education and learning about human rights and fundamental freedoms was by definition an all-inclusive process, he said governmental efforts in that field would only fully succeed if they were widely recognized and supported by their societies.  Drawing attention to the Global Appeal for Human Rights Learning being issued today, he said it called for actions enabling all people to understand human rights and to make human rights learning a dynamic and powerful force.

He said Slovenia would shortly assume the chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and planned to make human rights education a priority of that organization.  His country would build on numerous commitments that the OSCE had made regarding human rights education and training, and was currently considering an operational project on Human Rights Education for school children.  Welcoming the Council of Europe’s initiative on the “Year of Citizenship”, he stressed that international organizations must work together to promote human rights education.

KIM SAM-HOON (Republic of Korea) said the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education had realized significant accomplishments, raising public awareness about the importance of human rights education.  Many governments had taken steps to incorporate human rights education into their broader educational programmes, including through development and revision of school curricula to reflect human rights norms, revision of textbooks to eliminate stereotypes, and teacher training in human rights principles.  Human rights education had served to empower vulnerable communities by advancing the idea that all human beings possessed an inherent dignity and were entitled to live free from discrimination and violence.

Many challenges remained, he admitted.  Overcoming long-entrenched ideas and practices antithetical to human rights constituted a difficult task.  Furthermore, physical and environmental challenges such as poverty, conflict, terrorism and HIV/AIDS, made the task more difficult.  For its part, his country had established a National Human Rights Commission in 2001, which had established a five-year plan for human rights education in 2003.  That plan reflected commitment to comprehensive human rights education –- including all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, the interdependence of human rights, development and democracy, and the importance of early human rights education in the school system.

MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said the principles and purposes of the Vienna Declaration had been reaffirmed in countless human rights instruments and forums. The importance of human rights education, particularly towards the building of democratic societies had likewise been affirmed.  By instilling values of democracy and respect for fundamental freedoms, such education would contribute to the establishment of the rule of law and promote tolerance among nations and communities.  Morocco would support all collective efforts towards the full realization of the goals of the Decade, he added.

For its part, Morocco had undertaken considerable efforts to improve its educational system so that the people of the Kingdom would be better prepared to face the dizzying prospects of globalization.  Those efforts aimed to expand school curricula, improve human resources, and establish innovative partnerships, among other things.  Within the framework of Morocco’s national development plans, a programme aimed at eliminating illiteracy by 2015 had been initiated, in line with the Millennium Development Goals.  Morocco had consistently focused its wider education efforts on meeting the objectives of the Decade.

Among other things, its textbooks had been updated to include human rights principles and to promote gender equality.  That programme had spread to all schools.  Courses on human rights had also been implemented in law enforcement fields.  At a regional level, Morocco had organized a conference on human rights in Arab countries, which had elaborated relevant local and regional strategies. That conference, held in Rabat, had also established a documentation and training centre.  He added that all Morocco’s efforts had been undertaken with the invaluable assistance of civil society networks.  Finally, he reminded delegations that the world of tomorrow was being formed in the hearts and minds of today’s school children, thus making human rights education critically important for all.

VICTOR LEU (Republic of Moldova) said that this year his country had ratified most of the international human rights instruments.  National legislation had been modified and adjusted to recognize and incorporate international trends and norms.  Moldova also clearly recognized the need for human rights education, and, working closely with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had produced and adopted a national action plan to address the issue.  That plan contained recommendations on how to improve the human rights situation in his country.  Also his country’s adjusted legislation meant that its practices were now in line with the goals and objectives of the resolution that would be adopted today.

JORGE BALLESTERO (Costa Rica) said his country, along with Namibia, had put forth the text originally proclaiming the Decade.  At the dawn of the new millennium, all nations must reaffirm their commitment to the objectives of the Decade.  Those objectives, indeed, those human rights, would remain illusory to those that did not know they existed.  He acknowledged the achievements of the Decade, but nevertheless believed that much remained to be done.  Unfortunately, the document containing the proposal of a two-phase programme of action had been issued only late Thursday, preventing States from adopting it.  He hoped that delegations would study the proposal now that it had been released, so that adoption could move forward.

He said education was a vehicle that would bridge the dichotomy that divided political and economic rights from civil and social rights, bringing about a holistic approach that would solidify worldwide belief in, and adherence to, guaranteed fundamental freedoms.  He stressed that Costa Rica’s President was committed to the pre-eminence of education in making freedom universal and promoting economic development.  In a rich world full of poor people, all States should reaffirm that only commitment and concentrated action would ensure the exercise and promotion of all human rights for all people on the planet, without distinction.

Action on Draft

The Assembly then adopted the text on the World Programme for Human Rights Education (document A/59/43) without vote.

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For information media. Not an official record.