Human Rights Education: Building block for a democratic Europe

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Summary of the Youth Panel during the European Leadership Conference held in Brussels on the 4th and 5th of December 2012. For a full report on the event click here: Report ELC Brussels 2012.

The 1st speaker was Mr. Tobias Troll, Advocacy Officer with ‘Developing Europeans’ Engagement for the Eradication of Global Poverty’ (“DEEEP”) and ‘the Confederation for Cooperation of Relief and Development NGOs’ (“CONCORD”) explained that his organizations work both in developing countries and in education in their home nation. The relationship between human rights and education is based on the UN framework on ‘the Convention on the Rights of the Child’ approved in 1989 to which all countries except Somalia and the USA are signatories. This means that it is legally binding on states everywhere. Also, its provisions are quite ambitious. For example, it states that children (18 years old and above) should have the full rights of citizenship and are not citizens to be. They therefore have something to contribute. He then went on to explain about the 3 aspects of human rights pertaining to education – namely rights through education, rights to education and rights in education.

The second speaker was Ms. Illaria Esposito, a member of the Council of Europe Advisory Council on Youth and a trainer in Human Rights Education. She began by showing one of the Council’s videos dealing with human rights (see http://www.coe.int/enter). She explained that In terms of human rights education, the Council of Europe speaks about all the issues that young people are facing today. This video attempts to link the grass roots work with the decision making authorities, in order to improve the lives of young people, using a rights based approach. Young people elected by NGOs contribute to the decisions made in the Council of Europe. In some countries there are youth councils which are recognized by the member states. This contributes to the right to participation of young people. “Living, learning, acting for human rights” is a programme currently under way. There is also a program on intercultural dialogue, which includes a Roma youth action plan.

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The third speaker was Mr. Bogdan Pammer, Youth Director of UPF Europe, who spoke about how UPF youth committees around Europe are dealing with these issues. He first quoted the so-called “Böckenförde” dictum: “The liberal secular state lives on premises that it cannot itself guarantee”. He mentioned that it is human beings that violate human rights and that human rights violations are often committed “along the borders of identity”. He said that, “our practical focus is to work with those people who want to make a difference but feel that they don’t have the power to do so”. This involves providing practical skills and sustainable tools which go beyond the initial excitements. According to him, the “universal” in UPF doesn’t refer to “peace on Mars”, but to something “holistic”! “When we talk about Human Rights, we always refer to something higher and in UPF we have the concept of “one family under God”, which is not a theological concept”, he added. And he concluded by saying that “a lot of power springs from the power of conscience. Young people have a lot of power but can easily become disillusioned. Hatred and revenge give so much energy, but we have to develop the same kind of energy for the sake of goodness,”.

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