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World Programme for Human Rights Education (2009)

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Friday 14 December, 2012

World Programme for Human Rights Education

Australian Human Rights Commission
submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights re possible
focus for the second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education

July 2009


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1 Introduction

  1. Australia’s duty to provide human rights education is set out in
    several international human rights
    agreements.[1]

  2. Australia’s national human rights institution, the Australian Human
    Rights Commission, has statutory functions relating to human rights education in
    Australia. These include promoting understanding and public discussion of human
    rights, and undertaking research and educational programs for the purpose of
    promoting human rights.

  3. This submission provides the views of the Commission on what the focus
    should be for the second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights
    Education.

  4. The Commission is not in a position to comment on what other UN member
    countries should be doing in relation to human rights education. The following
    views are to be seen as a priority in the Australian context.

  5. In putting forward these views, the Commission draws on over two decades of
    experience working on the major human rights issues in Australia. It also draws
    on its extensive experience and strong track record of working with
    Australia’s state and territory education departments, schools, teachers,
    the media, lawyers, police, government officials and community organisations to
    promote an understanding of and commitment to human rights
    education.

2 Background

  1. On 10 December 2004, the General Assembly of the
    United Nations proclaimed the World Programme for Human Rights Education to
    advance the implementation of human rights education programmes in all
    sectors.

  2. The World Programme is structured around an ongoing series of phases, the
    first phase (2005-2009) focusing on the integration of human rights education
    into primary and secondary school systems, intended as a comprehensive process
    touching on policy and legislative measures, teaching and learning processes and
    tools, the learning environment and the education and professional development
    of teachers.

  3. The first phase was initially scheduled to end in 2007, but was extended by
    the Human Rights Council until 31 December 2009.

3 Focus for the second
phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education

  1. We urge the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to consider the
    following when determining the focus for the second phase of the World Programme
    for Human Rights Education:

Developing a human rights culture
through human rights education

  1. To develop a robust human rights culture, all people need to better
    understand their human rights and their responsibility to protect the rights of
    others.

  2. The Commission considers that human rights education is fundamental to
    building a human rights culture where the rights of all people in Australia are
    understood and respected, and should be incorporated into every level of general
    education.

  3. A broad human rights education program should be aimed at parliamentarians,
    court officials, public servants, private sector workers, students in both
    schools and universities and the wider community.

  4. It is also important to develop specific human rights education initiatives
    to address the needs of communities facing particular human rights issues (for
    example, Indigenous peoples and particular faith-based
    communities).

Improving human rights education in
Australian education systems

  1. In Australia, there is no cohesive approach by state and territory education
    departments to the delivery of human rights education at the primary and
    secondary levels (despite this being the focus of the first phase of the
    WPHRE).

  2. There is also a lack of professional development and support for educators
    (across all curriculum areas) who teach human rights content.

  3. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) has
    primary responsibility in Australia for reporting on progress in implementing
    the goals of the WPHRE. DEEWR has identified the Commission’s education
    program and resources in its reports.

  4. In order to fulfil the goals of the WPHRE, the Commission has recommended to
    DEEWR that there be an audit (situational analysis) of all of the human rights
    education initiatives that currently exist in Australian education systems. This
    has not occurred to date.

  5. This situational analysis should be the precursor to developing a
    comprehensive National Plan for Human Rights Education.

  6. Some of the areas the Commission feels are important to be covered in a
    National Plan for Human Rights Education include:

    • consideration on how best to incorporate human rights education across the
      school curriculum

    • mechanisms to achieve the pre-service and in-service human rights training
      and professional support for all teachers in Australian schools

    • increased production, distribution and promotion of human rights education
      curriculum materials.

4. Conclusion

  1. Considering that a national study on the status of human rights education in
    the schooling sector in Australia has not been conducted (as asked for in the
    WPHRE’s Plan of Action); professional support for teachers to teach human
    rights content is very limited; and a comprehensive national implementation
    strategy re human rights education has not been developed, the Commission
    considers that these areas should continue to remain the focus and priorities
    for the second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights
    Education.

[1] ICESCR, art 13; CRC, art 28;
CERD, arts 5, 7; CEDAW, art 10.