UN Committee Continues Push for Declaration on Human Rights Education
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
According to the recently released draft Declaration on human rights education and training (the “draft declaration”), all people have a fundamental right to education and training in human rights. Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (the “Committee”) considered the draft declaration. This is the latest development in the UN’s attempt to mandate the indoctrination of individuals in an ambiguous and undemocratic human rights regime.
The purpose of the Committee, which is part of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), is to serve as the HRC’s “think-tank,” providing expertise and research-based recommendations on specific issues. The Committee is composed of 18 experts who meet twice a year. On August 7, 2009, the Committee concluded its third session .
Since 1993, the United Nations has promoted human rights education. In 2005, the UN adopted the World Programme for Human Rights Education . The World Programme is being implemented in a series of phases, the first of which will end in December 2009. Meanwhile, in its September 2007 session, the HRC requested that the Committee prepare a draft Declaration on human rights education and training. The draft declaration is scheduled to be reviewed by the HRC at its 13th Session in March 2010.
According to a handbook published by the UN, human rights education consists of “education, training and information aimed at building a universal culture of human rights.” Its goal is to equip all individuals to “promote, defend and apply human rights in daily life” by encouraging the “attitudes and behaviours needed to uphold human rights for all members of society.”
The draft declaration would obligate States to ensure a minimum level of human rights education to all members of society, including children. The draft declaration also emphasizes the need to utilize all sectors of society when providing human rights education, including local government, the private sector, businesses and transnational corporations, cultural institutions, nongovernmental organizations, the media, and parents.
The draft declaration recommends establishing human rights education monitoring mechanisms. It encourages States to ratify the international conventions that discuss the right to education (including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), and calls on the various UN treaty-body committees to encourage States to pursue the human rights education agenda. The document also calls for the establishment of an international monitoring body that would facilitate the implementation of the draft declaration.
The draft declaration presents a significant threat to State sovereignty. The document does not provide a definitive explanation of the content of human rights education. Without this, unelected UN officials and treaty monitoring committees will have the power to define the nature and scope of human rights, including so-called “emerging” human rights. Also, allowing Geneva-based officials to dictate the content of human rights education in the United States denies U.S. citizens the right to chart the course for human rights education, if determined necessary, through domestic democratic processes.
Jim Kelly is the President of Solidarity Center for Law and Justice, P.C., a public interest civil and human rights law firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. The opinions expressed herein are his own.