Follow Us:

International Obligations and Committments to Promote and Implement Human Rights Education

Human Rights Education in International Conventions

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26(2):


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.


International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Article 13(1):


The State Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to education.  They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Convention Against Discrimination in Education, Article 5(1)

The State Parties to this Convention agree that:

(a) 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.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Article 7:

States Parties undertake to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information, with a view to combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and to promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and racial or ethnical groups, as well as to propagating the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and this Convention.


Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 29(1):

States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
(a)The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.


In interpreting these provisions, the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child have provided the following comments:


Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 1: The Aims of Education


The education to which every child has a right is one designed to provide the child with life skills, to strengthen the child’s capacity to enjoy the full range of human rights and to promote a culture which is infused by appropriate human rights values (para. 2).


Article 29(1) can also be seen as a foundation stone for the various programmes of human rights education called for by the World Conference on Human rights, held in Vienna in 1993, and promoted by international agencies…Human rights education should provide information on the content of human rights treaties.  But children should also learn about human rights by seeing human rights standards implemented in practice, whether at home, in school, or within the community.  Human rights education should be a comprehensive, life-long process and start with the reflection of human rights values in the daily life and experiences of children (para. 15).


The term ‘human rights education’ is too often used in a way which greatly oversimplifies its connotations.  What is needed, in addition to formal human rights education, is the promotion of values and policies conducive to human rights not only within schools and universities but also within the broader community (para. 19).


Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 13: The Right to Education


States parties are required to ensure that curricula, for all levels of the educational system, are directed to the objectives identified in article 13(1).  They are also obliged to establish and maintain a transparent and effective system which monitors whether or not education is, in fact, directed to the educational objectives set out in article 13(1) (para. 49).


HRE in Other International Commitments


Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, 25 June 1993)

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.  The World Conference on Human Rights emphasises the importance of incorporating the subject of human rights education programmes and calls upon States to do so.  Education should promote understanding, tolerance, peace and friendly relations between the nations and all racial or religious groups and encourage the development of United Nations activities in pursuance of these objectives.  Therefore, education on human rights and the dissemination of proper information, both theoretical and practical, play an important role in the promotion and respect of human rights with regard to all individuals without distinction of any kind such as race, sex, language or religion, and this should be integrated in the education policies at the national as well as international levels (para. 33).


The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that States develop specific programmes and strategies for ensuring the widest human rights education and the dissemination of public information, taking particular account of the human rights needs of women (para. 81).


Governments, with the assistance of intergovernmental organisations national institutions and non-governmental organisations, should promote an increased awareness of human rights and mutual tolerance…They should initiate and support education in human rights and undertake effective dissemination of public information in this field (para. 82).


The Dakar Framework for Action

Education programmes should be designed to promote the full development of the human personality and strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26) (para. 58).

Whether school-based or delivered non-formally, basic learning tools should increase the capacities of learners to deal with issues of day-to-day survival, to resolve community conflict and to enjoy human, political and civil rights to a greater extent (p.59).

UNESCO Instruments
• The Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace, and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Paris, 1974)
• The World Plan of Action on Education for Human Rights and Democracy (Montreal, 1993)
• The Declaration and Integrated Framework of Action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy (Paris, 1995)
• The UNESCO Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and the Follow-up Plan of Action for the United Nations Year for Tolerance (Paris, 1995)
• The Declaration and the Programme of Action on a Cultural of Peace (1999)
• Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001)