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Human rights education is the teaching of the history, theory, and law of human rights in schools and educational institutions, as well as outreach to the general public.


Human rights education and the United Nations

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed it as central to the achievement of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)[1]:

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that 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...

—Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Article 26.2 of the UDHR states the role of educators in achieving the social order called for by the declaration:

Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

—Article 26.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires states to ensure that children are enabled to develop a respect for their own cultural identity, language and values and for the culture, language and values of others.[2]

The importance of human rights was reaffirmed by the United Nations in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action:

The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that States are duty-bound, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in other international human rights instruments, to ensure that education is aimed at strengthening the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

—Paragraph 33, section 1 of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action[3]

As a result of the Vienna Declaration the decade from 1995 to 2004 was declared the UN Decade of Human Rights Education.[4][5]

UNESCO has a responsibility to promote human rights education, and was a key organiser of the UN's Decade for Human Rights Education[6] UNESCO attempts to promote human rights education through:[7]

  • Development of national and local capacities for human rights education, through its co-operation in development projects and programmes at national and sub-regional levels.
  • Elaboration of learning materials and publications and their translation and adaptation in national and local languages.
  • Advocacy and Networking Activities.

Following the Decade of Human Rights Education, on 10 December 2004, the General Assembly proclaimed the World Programme for Human Rights Education, and ongoing project to advance the implementation of human rights education programmes in all sectors:

Building on the achievements of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004), the World Programme seeks to promote a common understanding of the basic principles and methodologies of human rights education, to provide a concrete framework for action and to strengthen partnerships and cooperation from the international level down to the grass roots.

—United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website[8]

Human rights education organizations

Organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) promote human rights education with their programmes[9][10], believing "that learning about human rights is the first step toward respecting, promoting and defending those rights". Amnesty International defines Human Rights Education as a “deliberate, participatory practice aimed at empowering individuals, groups and communities through fostering knowledge, skills and attitudes consistent with internationally recognized human rights principles”.[11]

External links


  1. ^ "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". United Nations General Assembly. 10 December 1948. "Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."  
  2. ^ Murphy, Ruane (2003)
  3. ^ "Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action". United Nations. 25 June 1993.  
  4. ^ General Assembly resolution 49/184 of 23 December 1994
  5. ^ "UN Decade of Human Rights Education". United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  
  6. ^ "UN Decade for Human Rights Education". UNESCO. "UNESCO is called upon “…to play a central role in the design, implementation and evaluation of projects under the Plan of Action of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education”, considering the Organization’s “…long experience in education, educational methodology and human rights and through its network of UNESCO schools, clubs, human rights Chairs and National Commissions”."  
  7. ^ "UNESCO's Strategy and Action".  
  8. ^ "World Programme for Human Rights Education". Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  
  9. ^ "HREA Programmes". Human Rights Education Associates (HREA).  
  10. ^ Murphy, Ruane (2003) "Human Rights Education is becoming an essential ingredient to all societies in the world in order to encourage respect and tolerance to those around us and build good citizens for the future."
  11. ^ "Human Rights Education". Amnesty International.  


  • Murphy, F.; Ruane, B. (2003). "Amnesty International and human rights education". Child Care in Practice Vol. 9 (No.4) pp. 302-307. Routledge.


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