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Human Rights Review

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Follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights, New York 1998

XI. Education and public information

80. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action affirmed that 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 (sect. I, para. 33).

81. Pursuant to the recommendation made by the World Conference, in December 1994 the General Assembly proclaimed the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004), during which Governments, international organizations, national institutions, non-governmental organizations, professional associations, all sectors of civil society and individuals were called upon to establish partnerships and concentrate their efforts on promoting a universal culture of human rights through human rights education, training and public information. The international Plan of Action for the Decade (see A/51/506/Add.1) sets out detailed objectives for the international community: the building and strengthening of programmes and capacities for human rights education at the international, regional, national and local levels; the coordinated development of effective materials; the strengthening of the role and capacity of the mass media; and the global dissemination of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see also E/1998/60).

82. The Plan of Action for the Decade encourages the establishment of national committees for human rights education, which should include a broad coalition of governmental and non-governmental actors responsible for developing and implementing national plans of action for human rights education. Guidelines to assist such national efforts, developed by OHCHR, were presented in an addendum to the previous report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly (A/52/469/Add.1). At the national level, initiatives undertaken in the framework of the Decade vary considerably in scope, focus and participants involved. Initiatives include sponsoring human rights training programmes for government officials and law enforcement officials, as well as representatives of civil society and providing overall policy guidance through the publication of training and resource materials. Human rights-related courses have been added to school curricula at all levels of instruction, and new methods of human rights instruction have been developed. Reports refer to steps to provide teachers with updated methodological resources, which in many cases are intended to integrate human rights education into a broader range of school subjects. Some countries have adopted comprehensive plans of action for human rights education and established national committees to coordinate activities in this area.

83. Unfortunately, only in a relatively small number of cases has support by the international community for human rights education, training and public information, in terms of human and financial resources, corresponded to the fullest extent with the proclamation of the Decade. However, the occasion of the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has mobilized more partners to undertake ad hoc or long-term educational initiatives. At the international level, efforts have been made to combine limited resources and avoid duplication, including through close cooperation among United Nations agencies (e.g., involving DPI and its United Nations information centres all over the world, UNESCO and its national commissions and ITU) and with international organizations. This has significantly enhanced support for national human rights initiatives.

84. The use of the Internet as a tool for providing information on the work of the United Nations human rights programme has been greatly enhanced by the creation of the United Nations Human Rights Web site (www.unhchr.ch). The site was launched in December 1996, and is maintained by OHCHR in English, French and Spanish language versions. It has become one of the major sources of human rights data on the Internet, providing complete and current information on the activities carried out by the United Nations in the field of human rights. A CD-ROM version of the site, which will be produced by the end of 1998, will also contain over 12,000 bibliographic references and the full text of the international human rights instruments. A new quarterly review of OHCHR entitled Human Rights was launched in 1997, and provides information on the work of the United Nations human rights machinery.

85. The implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action provisions concerning human rights education and public information and the success of the Decade will, over the next five years, require stronger involvement on the part of the international community and a strengthening of the partnership between governmental and non-governmental actors. It is imperative that the importance of human rights education and public information as major investments towards a just and peaceful society be fully understood and valued. Ultimately, the effective promotion and protection of human rights benefitting all people is not possible without a global human rights culture of which education and information are major tools.

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