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Human rights education: not just a product of teaching

Project Updates


26 Dec 2019

Human rights education is not just a product of teaching but more a process of learning about human rights, learning through human rights and learning for human rights. It is not just about gaining knowledge and understanding of human rights, but it is also about learning to respect human rights of others as well as empowering individuals to exercise their rights which also includes respecting other people’s rights.

This was one the key messages of the 19th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights (ASEMHRS19): “Human Rights Education & Training” held on 4-6 November 2019 in Tromsø, Norway. The goal of the Seminar was to provide a platform for discussion on how to further strengthen the implementation of and access to human rights education (HRE) at the ASEM level, as well as to discuss examples of good practices and existing approaches to HRE.

The Seminar, which was hosted by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the Arctic University of Norway (UiT), brought together over 120 experts, academics and government representatives from 44 ASEM Partner countries.

The Seminar convened four working groups which discussed four topics: Human Rights Education in School Systems; Equal Access to Human Rights Education; Human Rights Education & Learning Beyond the Classroom; and Human Rights Education & Professional Training.

The Working Group on Human Rights Education in School Systems was led by rapporteur Mr Frank ELBERS from Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe Network and moderator Dr Nina BURRIDGE from the University of Technology of Sydney.

The Working Group on Equal Access to Human Rights Education was headed by Dr Sriprapha PETCHARAMESREE from the Mahidol University, Thailand and moderated by Dr Calin RUS from International Institute of Timisoara, Romania; the findings of the Working Group on Human Rights Education & Learning Beyond the Classroom were summarised by Professor Felicia YEBAN from the Philippine Normal University and the discussion was moderated by Ms Krittika VISHWANATH from Amnesty International, Norway.

Mr Knut ASPLUND from the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights acted as rapporteur for Working Group on Human Rights Education & Professional Training, while Associate Professor Haina LU from Renmin University of China served as moderator. The main outcomes of the discussions are gathered in Key Messages which has been shared with all 53 ASEM Partners.

The Seminar was organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (nominated by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

As a follow-up to the Seminar, the series will deliver a capacity-building training component on the theme “Human Rights Education & Training” during the first half of 2020.

Despite the notable progress in making human rights education part of national curricula most countries do not appear to have done so or have not continued despite commitments. We therefore need to be more creative, assertive, and innovative and I would suggest adopt some other action plans so that we truly realise the implementation and integration of human rights education in many more national school systems,” stressed Dr Fernand de VARENNES, UN Special Rapporteur of Minority Issues in his keynote speech. The other keynote speakers were H.E. Ms Ine Marie Eriksen SØREIDE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway and Professor Vitit MUNTARBHORN, UNESCO Human Rights Education Prize Recipient.

(from left to right: Assoc Prof Ánde SOMBY, Professor ØYVIND RAVNA, Prof Torjer OLSEN, Prof Gunhild HOOGENSEN GJØRV, Assoc Prof Marc LANTEIGNE; and moderator Ms Marcela DOUGLAS, UiT The Arctic University of Norway)

The last day saw an insightful panel discussion on “Sámi – & Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Arctic Areas”, organised by UiT.

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