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Promotion of Human Rights Education

Human rights education is a long-term and lifelong process by which all people at all levels of development and in all strata of society learn respect for the dignity of others and the means and methods of ensuring that respect in all societies…(it) significantly contributes to promoting equality and sustainable development, preventing conflict and human rights violations and enhancing participation and democratic processes, with a view to developing societies in which all human rights are valued and respected.

(UN Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 2004/71)

UNESCO has a longstanding commitment to promoting human rights education.  In accordance with its commitment to quality education for all, UNESCO is concerned not only about access to education, but also about content and process in education.  The need to implement quality education was affirmed in the Dakar Framework for Action 2000 , in which the sixth EFA goal is “improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence so that recognised and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.” 


Human rights education is an important element of quality education.  Quality education aims not only at forming trained, professional workers, but also contributes to the development of individuals who possess the skills to act and interact in a just society.  Human rights education allows people to participate in their communities and society in a constructive and respectful way for themselves and others.  It aims to deliver outcomes such as personal and social growth, the respectful conduct of citizens toward each other and the provision of opportunities for learners to develop critical thinking and life skills.


What is Human Rights Education (HRE)?
HRE is defined broadly by UNESCO as the learning and practice of human rights.  This means that human rights are implemented at all levels of the education system, and are taught through both content transmission and experience.  HRE includes the provision of information on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions.  It also means that the school environment itself must respect and promote human rights: education must be provided which respects the inherent dignity of the child. 


More specifically, HRE has been defined by the United Nations General Assembly as training and information aimed at building a universal culture of human rights through the sharing of knowledge, imparting of skills and moulding of attitudes directed to:

  1. The strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  2. The full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity;
  3. The promotion of understanding, tolerance, gender equality and friendship among all nations, indigenous peoples and racial, national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups;
  4. The enabling of all persons to participate effectively in a free and democratic society governed by the rule of law;
  5. The building and maintenance of peace;
  6. The promotion of people-centered sustainable development and social justice.

HRE encompasses:

  • Knowledge and skills – learning about human rights and mechanisms for their protection, as well as acquiring skills to apply them in daily life;
  • Values, attitudes and behaviour – developing values and reinforcing attitudes and behaviour which uphold human rights;
  • Action – taking action to defend and promote human rights.

(United Nations General Assembly, Proposed Plan of Action for the First Phase (2005 - 2007) of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, A/59/525, para. 3 & 4