Conference Helsinki, 10-11 December 2015

“Council of Europe, National Human Rights Institutions, Equality Bodies and Ombudsman Offices Promoting Equality and Social Inclusion”

Panel “Human Rights Education – Know your rights, use your knowledge”

Frank Elbers, Executive Director, HREA


First, I’d like to thank the organizers, particularly the Council of Europe, the Human Rights Centre and the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland, for inviting me. Venues like this are, in my opinion, extremely important to share experiences and take stock of where we are and where are heading.

Before I share the Human Rights Education Indicator Framework with you, let me just say a few words about HREA and share some general observations about the state of human rights education with you.

HREA is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to education and training about, in and for human rights. We work globally and are involved in education and capacity building both in the formal schooling sector, non-formal education for NGOs, and the training of professional groups like law enforcement officials and legal professionals. We also provide technical assistance to governments that want to introduce human rights education, and we advocate for human rights education (HRE) within the Council of Europe and United Nations human rights system.

HREA was established in 1996, a year after the start of the UN Decade of Human Rights Education (1995-2004). At the time we assumed that by the end of the UN Decade our mission would have been fulfilled… Although that was obviously rather optimistic, a lot has changed since then, however.

If you allow me, let me make a few observations about the progress that has been made since the start of the UN Decade in 1995, now twenty years ago.

First, there is an abundance of HRE resources, initiatives, actors and policy frameworks. Curricula, teaching and training materials in many languages, including in braille, and formats and for many target groups have been developed over the past years and are now widely available.

Yet, and that is my second observation, despite all these resources and policy frameworks, there is an implementation gap. Simply put: not enough is happening on the ground.

Third, governments, as the main duty-bearers, need to be held accountable for implementation of HRE. Under several human rights instruments governments have an obligation, or at least a commitment, to ensuring that both public officials and citizens are aware of their human rights.

Which brings me to HRE 2020 and the Human Rights Education Indicator Framework, which I will focus on for the remainder of my presentation.

About HRE 2020

HRE 2020 is a civil society coalition that supports and strengthens the implementation of international human rights education commitments. It seeks to ensure a systematic monitoring of governments implementation of human rights education provisions in international human rights instruments, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, the World Programme for Human Rights Education and the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.

HRE 2020 works with civil society and other stakeholders to promote quality human rights education. We call for greater accountability for human rights commitments because a comprehensive education in human rights provides knowledge, imparts skills and empowers individuals to promote, defend and apply human rights in daily life.

Amnesty International, HREA and Soka Gakkai International are the original members of HRE 2020 and launched the coalition on 19 December 2013, the second anniversary of the adoption on the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education.

The year 2020, one year before the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, will be a key year to assess the achievement of governments, international institutions and civil society to provide access to quality human rights education.

HRE 2020 is a global civil society coalition comprised of 14 like-minded international, regional and national organizations from all regions of the world with experience in raising awareness, delivering human rights education and capacity building programmes, and advocating for government implementation of human rights education.Members include the Arab Institute for Human Rights, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, and the DARE (Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe) Network.

The human right to human rights education

There is an increasing body of international human rights law and standards on human rights education and a growing consensus within the international community on the fundamental role of human rights education in the realization of all human rights. International frameworks and standards promote and encourage the development of sustainable national strategies and programmes in human rights education and training.

The right to an education that promotes human rights, fundamental freedoms and respect for the content of specific treaties can be found in multiple international conventions and covenants. These include article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Indeed, the Committee on the Rights of the Child developed the concept in its very first set of General Comments. Other standards can be found in:

·        the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women;

·        the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;

·        the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; and

·        the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

There is a growing consensus within the international community on the fundamental role of human rights education in the realization of all human rights. The UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training and the World Programme for Human Rights Education and its accompanying Plans of Action are guiding documents that set out standards for human rights education to encompass principles of peace, non-discrimination, equality, justice and respect for human dignity.

These international and regional standards are set out in The Right to Human Rights Education web resource published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September last year.

Why should we monitor human rights education?

Systematic monitoring of the implementation of human rights education ensures that government obligations and commitments do not just remain on paper, but are effectively translated into action and practice.

Review and monitoring at the national level will in many cases be the most important way to ensure that the state is meeting its obligations. However, it remains imperative that UN and regional mechanisms also review state implementation of human rights education. For example a review of human rights education should be included in state reports to treaty bodies. Additionally, mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review process and the work of the UN Special Rapporteurs contribute to the promotion and implementation of human rights education. The international review processes can mutually reinforce the national level initiatives.

Civil society organizations can play a key role in monitoring, ensuring that it is comprehensive, accurate and inclusive

A consultative review process, which involves the participation of different relevant stakeholders with various backgrounds and expertise (including for example, non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions), not only facilitates the collection of detailed data and information, but also ensures reliability of information.

A consultative review process can serve multiple aims:

First, the review can help shape recommendations to governments for improving their human rights education programming. These recommendations can be quite specific and become the basis of advocacy efforts by civil society in the intervening years between treaty body and Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports.

Second, the review process can be an educational opportunity. It can help to inform those who are less familiar with human rights education about its aim and forms. Human rights educators who participate in these reviews will come to know the treaty body mechanisms of the UN and engage in such processes at the grassroots level.

Finally, such a process can provide baseline data that can be built upon and compared against in subsequent data collection efforts. Indicators are designed precisely for this purpose.

The Framework is a set of key indicators, or measurements, to examine the presence and quality of human rights education policies and practices. It is a tool to support civil society organizations, national human rights institutions and government bodies, as well as United Nations mechanisms to review and assess the status of human rights education implementation within national planning, the formal education sector, and the training of professional groups. It is a means to understand the scale and quality of such practices and identify gaps and areas for improvement. 

The Human Rights Education Indicator Framework has a clear, user-friendly structure of key questions, indicators and sub-indicators to provide a comprehensive picture of the status of implementation of human rights education at national level. HRE 2020 can also provide expertise and technical assistance to those who wish to engage in a consultative review process to assess national implementation of human rights education and training.

What is the structure of the Human Rights Education Indicator Framework?

Consistent with the standards outlined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training and the guidelines provided by the World Programme for Human Rights Education, this indicator framework contains key questions related to the presence, scale and quality of human rights education within a range of sectors.

The Human Rights Education Indicator Framework is divided into the following sections:

The framework is intended to provide a holistic rendering of a range of categories of

investigation that can be explored through the review of documents, interviews, surveys and other forms of data collection. The tables that follow include key monitoring indicators and suggested descriptors/sub-indicators across all relevant categories or sectors. These can be directly converted into questions and used in surveys and interviews. Ideally they will be adapted for use in other questionnaires or data collection processes, as the local context requires. This adaptation may have to do with specific questions for the environment – such as the availability of human rights education materials in local languages – as well as the specific ways in which data collection will be carried out. Questions can be designed with yes/no answers, multiple choice options, numerical data or open-ended replies.

For example, in Section I, the first key indicator under Domain 1 reads:

Has a national focal point and/or body (council, committee, commission, or work group) been established to develop and implement a plan for human rights education?

This question can be answered with a “yes” or a “no”.

The associated sub-indicators ask for additional detail. The sub-indicator, “the focal point is part of the government,” could elicit both a “yes” and also details on the department or office in which the focal point is located. Another sub-indicator, “activities it has performed,” could elicit quantitative data (the number of activities that have taken place annually over a period of the last three years, perhaps grouped according to type of activity and the number of persons involved directly in each activity) as well as qualitative data (a focus on human rights education planning, implementation, etc.).

Systematic collection of data

Local actors are in the best position to decide which indicators to use and how to collect information. It is most important that the data be collected in a way that is systematic and inclusive and brings in the required information. It may be wise to review other human rights education monitoring reports that have been developed in deciding which kinds of information to collect and how.

Examples of human rights education-related surveys that have already been used to collect monitoring information can be found on the HRE 2020 website as additional resources. In addition to using surveys, human rights education monitoring can take place through the review of documents, such as government policies and courses in teacher training institutions, interviews and observations. Decisions on which approach to take may depend on not only methodological preferences but also the availability of human and technical resources required for data collection and analysis.

What happens after a monitoring report has been prepared?

Monitoring reports developed through a consultative review process or otherwise can be submitted as stakeholder reports to the relevant treaty and UPR bodies, and to government bodies who are preparing their own state reports.

The monitoring of human rights education policies and practices is just beginning to be carried out and will undoubtedly improve in the coming years.

Thank you for your attention.