- Human Rights Education for the Twenty-First Century
As the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1 approaches, the significance of this book cannot be overstated. Over the past fifty years, international human rights have been conceptualized and articulated primarily by state actors and legal scholars. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have made striking contributions to the rights discourse in recent years, but public discourse on human rights is just beginning in many parts of the world through formal and informal human rights education.
Public discourse on human rights is critical because the legitimacy of rights as universal claims and social ideals requires the participation of people on a global scale. Moreover, the realization of rights through state discourse has been limited by state interests of sovereignty and national security. Historically, human rights concerns among states and NGOs have focused primarily on documenting violations, attempting to achieve accountability and justice through “shaming” and/or prosecuting those responsible and subsequently instituting legal reforms. Although such efforts have an important deterrent effect, they are normally employed only after abuses have occurred and do not effectively promote the conditions for rights to flourish. A human rights “culture” cannot be legislated. Genuine respect for human dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family reflects an understanding of who we are in relation to the world. People gain such understanding in the course of development, through education and the practical application of knowledge and experience. Human rights education is a long-term strategy for human development. It is a proactive way of promoting the health and well-being of a global civil society in the twenty-first century.
Although the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 1995 to 2005 the UN Decade of Human Rights Education, few educational resources have provided the conceptual insight and practical teaching information that this publication offers. Editors George Andreopoulos and Richard Pierre Claude have assembled a comprehensive and indispensable resource for all of those who wish to transform the aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into action. The book constitutes such a program of action for the promotion of the “inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of [End Page 731] the human family [as] the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” 2
The book is written for a global audience of educators at all levels, scholars in all disciplines, research specialists, NGOs, policy makers, and foundation officers. It contains original, previously unpublished articles by authors who represent a wide range of experiences as activists, education experts, and representatives of international and governmental organizations. Where the text discusses actual programs, the editors provide critical discussion of the utility and constraints of the programs so that they may be a model for transferability.
The book is divided into five parts. Part I consists of chapters that address conceptual issues relevant to the implementation of human rights education. Examples of such issues include: the problem of reconciling national security interests and humanitarian/human rights concerns, the relationship between conflict resolution studies and human rights education; the importance of including women’s human rights, and the need for human rights education to be an end in itself and not solely an instrument of social change. Other chapters discuss the potential for human rights education to influence the process of development and to be a force of democratic empowerment as well as a means of laying long-term foundations for governance.
Part II provides practical strategies for the inclusion of human rights in public education. Authors in this section discuss the training of educators, specific teaching methods and the designing of activities, the implementation and evaluation of educational initiatives, curriculum development at the university level, challenges in developing an interdisciplinary minor for university students, and the development of a critical pedagogy for adult education in the community.
Chapters in Part III focus on specialized human rights training for various professionals, including lawyers, police and military officials, health professionals, scientists...