Human Rights Education Conference in Murmansk, Russia
Kazunari Fujii, SGI UN Liaison Officer in Geneva and chair of the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education & Learning of the CONGO (Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationships with the UN), attended an International Conference on Human Rights Education from March 27-28, 2007, in Murmansk, northwest Russia, organized by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in collaboration with Murmansk City.
Some 100 participants came from local schools and other educational institutions as well as NGOs in the Murmansk region and from Norway. Representatives of the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, the local Murmansk authorities, the UNESCO Offices in Moscow and Oslo and the Norwegian and Russian justice systems also participated.
Following presentations by Bjørn Engesland, secretary general of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Dendev Badarch, director of the UNESCO Office in Moscow, and an outline of concrete initiatives by schools and NGOs, Mr. Fujii gave a presentation on the UN World Programme for Human Rights Education (WPHRE) from an international civil society perspective. He outlined the involvement of civil society in the adoption of the World Programme, described four challenges to the WPHRE, and defined national implementation and partnership as its critical objectives.
Discussion groups followed on primary and secondary school systems, human rights education and teacher training in higher education and the justice system. In the group discussing school systems, initiatives and ongoing activities in Norway were introduced. At the kindergarten-level, picture books are used to introduce basic human rights. At primary and secondary levels, pupils have to take an exam in this subject and are expected to be able to explain major international human rights instruments.
From Russia, NGO activities that address violence in schools and children living on the streets and also integrate human rights education were introduced. A project called "Street Law" has a long history of helping children with problems in Russia and is now linked with human rights education in school systems along with the World Programme.
Conference participants commented on the need for improved information sharing related to ongoing initiatives in human rights education in different countries. This requires cooperation between education authorities and civil society in each country. It was agreed that there is a need to draw attention of governments and the UN as a whole to the importance of human rights education and learning in line with the WPHRE.
[Adapted from a report by Kazunari Fujii, SGI UN Liaison Officer in Geneva]