Section nine of ten of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2017 peace proposal, “The Global Solidarity of Youth: Ushering In a New Era of Hope.”

[Photo by UN Photo/JC McIlwaine/CC BY-NC-ND]

The third priority area I would like to discuss is the building of a culture of human rights.

In addition to protracted armed conflict and civil war, another serious threat currently confronting global society is the frequent occurrence of terrorist attacks and the rise of violent extremism. There are far too many cases where young people, struggling to find meaning in life, bereft of hope for the future, are lured into violent extremism.

Last November, the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research cosponsored a two-day conference at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia to discuss approaches to prevent the spread of violent extremism.

With an increasing number of states accepting the idea that punitive measures are the most effective way of preventing violence, participants interrogated the actual effectiveness of this approach and related issues through an analysis of case studies in different regions of the world. Further, they explored ways of advancing peacebuilding efforts in areas of continuing tension.

The meeting also focused on identifying factors that drive violent extremism as well as means for its prevention, particularly the importance of comprehensive efforts to encourage ways of addressing problems and differences without resorting to violence.

I believe that the key element here must be the promotion of human rights education.

Last year marked the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training. The SGI, as a civil society organization, has supported from its drafting stage this important UN Declaration, in which UN member states for the first time agreed to international standards for human rights education.

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of its adoption, an intergovernmental panel was held during the Human Rights Council session in September, with representatives of the SGI in attendance. In her remarks, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore noted that while we have seen hatred and violence spread in parts of the world, we have also witnessed the launch of initiatives in human rights education which are inspiring people to positive action. She also stated:

“Human rights education fosters our common humanity beyond our individual diversities. It is not an ‘optional extra’ or just another routine obligation. It teaches fundamental lessons.”

These words underscore the true significance of human rights education.

Examples of the impact of human rights education, such as the transformation of one young schoolgirl, were introduced during the meeting. Through a human rights education program in her school, she began to deeply consider the nature of her own dignity. This awakening to her innate value allowed her to find strength and confidence in the future, learning to stand up to the circumstances surrounding her. She was transformed; no longer a victim, she felt compelled to defend the human rights of others.

Ms. Gilmore described this young girl’s story as an example of the “extraordinary power of human rights consciousness” and stressed that “education is the accelerant of that transformation.” Indeed, it attests to the immeasurable power and potential that human rights education holds.

In order to spark this kind of chain reaction of positive transformation, I would like to encourage efforts to adopt a convention on human rights education and training based on the Declaration that would strengthen measures ensuring its implementation.

related article Restoring Hope in the Lives of Refugees Restoring Hope in the Lives of Refugees Work and education are vital for dignity. Developing an aid architecture to enable displaced persons to work in fields that contribute to enhancing resilience and promoting the SDGs would help solve humanitarian challenges and protect human dignity. Next year is the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). I would like to propose that the occasion be marked by the holding of a UN and civil society forum on human rights education that would review achievements to date and deepen deliberations toward the adoption of such a convention.

It is estimated that there are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of ten and twenty-four living in our world today. If these young people, rather than resorting to conflict and violence, can come to uphold and protect the core values of human rights, I am positive that a path toward a “pluralist and inclusive society”—as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training—can be brought into being.

Human rights education can be the driving force for achieving this. In order for states to promote such education in a consistent and sustained manner, legal frameworks and educational programs need to be created. Mechanisms for the periodic monitoring and review of these systems will also be necessary.

This is one of the points that the SGI—speaking on behalf of Human Rights Education 2020 (HRE 2020), a global coalition of civil society organizations—stressed at the intergovernmental panel referred to earlier.

International efforts to ensure human rights, which draw from wellsprings in the UDHR, were initially focused on standard setting, defining the rights to be protected and then providing access to remedy in case of violations. Today the focus has shifted to establishing and firmly rooting in society a culture of human rights, where there is a mutual appreciation of diversity and a shared undertaking to protect the dignity of all.

The SGI, with the cooperation of UN agencies and other partner organizations, has developed a new human rights education exhibition that will be launched from the end of February in conjunction with the convening of the Human Rights Council. Through initiatives such as this, we aim to inspire renewed commitment within civil society to generate a constantly expanding solidarity in favor of a culture of human rights. And further, in collaboration with other NGOs, we hope to move global public opinion toward the adoption of a legally binding convention on human rights education and training.

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