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Amnesty International Campaign Manual



Human rights education is increasingly seen as an important and integral part of the struggle against human rights violations. It aims to increase knowledge and understanding about fundamental rights and about the legal instruments designed to protect them. It also aims to transmit the skills needed to uphold human rights.


AI and human rights education / 268

A closer look at human rights education / 268

    Human rights education in practice / 269

Integrating human rights education in campaigning / 270

AI and human rights education

AI's mandate aims to contribute to the observance throughout the world of human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In pursuance of this aim, AI promotes awareness and knowledge of, and adherence to, human rights standards in general, and actively campaigns against violations of certain civil and political rights.

AI's mainstream activities until the 1980s were mostly designed to oppose and denounce existing violations of some civil and political rights. In the past decade there has been growing awareness that the worldwide struggle against human rights violations can be strengthened if it is combined with more vigorous preventive human rights work such as human rights education (HRE) or human rights awareness (HRA).

AI defines human rights education or training as a program which provides knowledge and understanding about human rights, and which also seeks to develop attitudes and behaviour respectful of those rights. To be successful, such an educational program must be sustained over a period of time and involve interaction between two parties _ trainer/trainee; teacher/pupil.

HRE includes the development of basic skills such as critical thinking, communication skills, problem-solving and negotiation, all of which are essential for effective human rights activism and participation in decision processes.

AI defines human rights awareness in terms of focusing on the dissemination of information about human rights. HRA work includes, for example, the displaying of posters, a concert such as "Human Rights Now", a radio program, or a lecture. The active participation of the audience is not required, and the event can be a one-off. This means that individual HRA events are unlikely to have a long-term impact on attitudes and behaviour.

There is a natural overlap between HRE and HRA. In some countries it may be necessary to begin with some HRA work in order to create the desired environment in which a sustainable HRE program can be developed and implemented.

A closer look at human rights education

HRE is about helping people understand the importance of human rights and providing them with the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to promote and protect them.

HRE can be regular training courses for police personnel on how to respect the rights of detainees, or on the need to report colleagues responsible for ill-treatment, or it may entail developing a curriculum and teaching materials on the UDHR for young children. Lobbying the relevant authorities to have human rights introduced in a specific training or teaching curricula is also part of the work human rights educators do.

While HRE work does not include AI's campaigning work on individual cases, HRE and other preventive work can be part of a country strategy, to enhance the local impact of AI's actions against violations of human rights and to help the development of a wider and stronger human rights movement.

AI's campaigning contributes to education for and about human rights. AI's members develop knowledge and skills in the course of everyday campaigning. Their activities educate the people they seek to mobilize in the wider community as well as those who are the targets of AI's actions.

Human rights education in practice

Educating an entire population about human rights is clearly an ambitious goal _ particularly for AI or other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

AI Sections have adopted a range of more focused approaches to increase their effectiveness. These approaches have included lobbying governments to ensure that human rights are included at all levels in the educational syllabus and sometimes working with the ministry of education or the police authorities providing advice on the contents of that curriculum. Some AI Sections have developed HRE packs which form the core of such educational programs. For other Sections the focus of lobbying has been targeted towards IGOs or NGOs. In some societies there are national human rights bodies, again with large funds at their disposal and HRE within their mandate. The lobbying of these organizations and of governments has sought to ensure that building knowledge of human rights is one of their tasks, and one that they take seriously.

The armed forces have been another focus of domestic lobbying for targeted human rights training _ partly in response to the growing number of governments deploying soldiers on international peace-keeping missions. The role and mandate of soldiers on such missions is, it has been argued, quite different from the role of a soldier sent to war.

This remains quite a new field of expertise, but one of growing importance as such deployments increase, particularly where armies with a domestic record of violating human rights serve in such missions.

Integrating human rights education in campaigning

Below are just some ideas which you might find useful. You might want to try them out or you might think of more appropriate ones for your country and AI structure.


c     Make systematic the training of AI Section and group members on human rights issues. This will ensure that all those involved in campaigning have a sound knowledge and understanding of human rights and the mechanisms designed to protect those rights.

c    When deciding Section and group action plans, ensure that HRE is an integral component. The integration of HRE work in AI enhances the work of Sections and groups.

c    Coordinate with the Section and group members involved in HRE so that their work takes into account AI campaigns (they can use AI campaigning materials), and vice versa. For example, a poster produced to accompany a campaign could be made into a human rights teaching tool by sending it out with a leaflet giving suggestions on how the educator might use it in a lesson (see box above).

c    Relevant sectors of society can be specially targeted in a particular campaign to make them sensitive to human rights issues, so that they can be asked to work for the introduction of human rights in specific teaching curricula.

c    When relevant, appeals to governments of other countries can include the request for the introduction of teaching for and about human rights. For example, in a campaign on a country where children are victims of gross human rights violations the appeals written to the authorities can ask that those working with children receive training on children's rights and the mechanisms which protect them.

c    Getting young people, and others, involved in campaigning action can be a valuable way of educating people _ and can be done formally, using contacts with schools and other bodies. Members of the Colombian Section running an information stall about human rights

Aims of a human rights education program

A human rights education program aims to enable individuals to acquire knowledge, understanding and experience of:

N     human rights concepts and the underlying values and attitudes that lead to the respect of human rights;

N     the instruments which record and protect human rights;

N     the skills, values and attitudes that uphold the same rights for all and encourage action in defence of these rights.

Aims of a human rights awareness program

A human rights awareness program aims to ensure that individuals acknowledge the existence, relevance and importance of:

N     the instruments which record and protect human rights;

N     the need to promote and protect human rights;

N     the human rights work carried out by governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Elements of a human rights education program

AI's HRE program includes:

N      lobbying for incorporation of HRE in official training and educational programs in institutions ranging from schools to universities, military and police academies and the civil service courses;

N      taking part in educational and training programs, whether organized by AI, by other organizations, or by official bodies;

N     organizing, alone or with other organizations, informal educational activities, such as street theatre, puppet shows for children, writing competitions for young people, films, radio and television programs;

N      supporting and facilitating the work of human rights educators inside and outside AI, mainly through participation in human rights education regional and national networks.

A campaigning poster as an educational tool

1992 was the anniversary of the arrival of Europeans in what came to be known as the Americas. Many indigenous organizations from the Americas region took this opportunity to teach people about the richness of their cultures. One of the many materials produced was a large poster which was distributed throughout the region in large numbers.

One side of the poster showed a beautifully illustrated map of the region. Next to each country an image described an aspect of the local indigenous population's culture. The poster was very colourful and attractive.

The other side of the poster showed ideas about how an educator could use it, and an explanation of what each picture represented. In one corner there was a short list of reference books which the educator could probably find in a library if s/he wanted more information on the subject.

The poster was laminated to help it survive wear and tear in the classroom, and was large enough to be easily read. It was sent to organizations that work on human rights issues, HRE, adult education, teachers' unions, etc, and was widely used as an HRE tool for campaigners in the region.

If you need advice the HRE Team at the IS will be more than happy to discuss any ideas with you and help in whatever way possible. You may also want to read Amnesty International's Human Rights Education Policy (AI Index: POL 32/03/93) and Amnesty International's International Human Rights Education Strategy (AI Index: POL 32/02/96). But always remember to share your plans with the HRE group in your AI structure.

Amnesty International Campaign Manual