Press Releases

9 December 2004

Human Rights Education:
A Strategy to Achieve Freedom for All

(Re-issued as received from Geneva.)

Message of United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour on the occasion of Human Rights Day, observed on 10 December 2004:

International Human Rights Day is always a bittersweet occasion.  It is an opportunity to review the impressive progress made in the last 60 years in putting the protection of the individual at the heart of affairs of States.  But it is also a reminder that there are many people all over the world who continue to be denied their human rights.  Ultimately, it is a call to action in the face of the enormous effort needed to make human rights a reality for everyone. One strategy to achieve that reality is human rights education.

For a society to develop and nurture a human rights culture, human rights education is fundamental. It is a tool for promoting equality and enhancing people’s participation in decision-making processes within democratic systems.  It is an investment in the prevention of human rights abuses and violent conflicts.

Today, the General Assembly will devote a plenary session to mark the end of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004).  Possible future initiatives for the enhancement of human rights education worldwide will be discussed and elaborated.

The Assembly will have before it the recommendations of the Commission on Human Rights and of the Economic and Social Council to proclaim a World Programme for Human Rights Education, starting on 1 January 2005. The World Programme will continue to provide the international community with a common global framework for human rights education.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in close consultation with UNESCO and governmental and non-governmental experts and practitioners, has prepared a draft plan of action for the first phase of this Programme, drawing on the principles and frameworks set by several international human rights instruments.  This and other initiatives will have real value, however, only if local and national players use them to mobilize and lobby for human rights education in their communities. 

On this Human Rights Day, I would like to pay tribute to the many human rights educators -- indeed, human rights defenders -- who, in formal and informal settings, in large and small communities, often facing difficult and hazardous situations, contribute to building a universal culture of human rights. Through the development of educational initiatives and by setting standards, they lead by example.

Human rights are our common heritage and their realization depends on the contributions that each and every one of us is willing to make, individually and collectively, now and in the future.

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