Doc. 8484

16 July 1999

Human rights education

Recommendation 1346 (1997)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 676th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (1-2 July 1999)

The Committee of Ministers has noted with great interest Recommendation 1346 (1997) of the Parliamentary Assembly on human rights education. Like the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers attaches great importance to this issue, which is both one of the Council of Europe's priorities for action and a key condition for establishing on a lasting basis and developing throughout Europe the values which constitute the organisation's raison d'ętre.

Most of the concerns raised by the Parliamentary Assembly are already taken into account in specific activities concerned with human rights education undertaken, in particular, by the Directorate of Human Rights, the Directorate of Education, Culture and Sport and the Youth Directorate. Detailed information on the activities currently under way and priorities for the future are included in the opinions adopted by the CDCC and CDDH and shown respectively in appendices 1 and 2 of this reply.

The Committee of Ministers will examine closely and in a constructive spirit the CDDH's proposal for the drawing up of a pan-European action plan for human rights education, which could be supplemented by national programmes in the Council of Europe's member states. At all events, such an initiative would have to complement the activities already being undertaken as part of the decade of human rights education declared by the United Nations (1995-2004).

At this stage, the Committee of Ministers wishes to draw the Parliamentary Assembly's attention to the Declaration and Programme on education for democratic citizenship, based on the rights and responsibilities of citizens, adopted by the Committee of Ministers at its 104th

Session (Budapest, 7 May 1999), on the occasion of the Council of Europe's 50th anniversary. Human rights education is a key element of education for democratic citizenship, which has been given high priority in the working programme of the Council of Europe by the Declaration.

The Committee of Ministers also wishes to draw the Parliamentary Assembly's attention to the significance of the establishment, again at the Committee of Ministers' 104th Session, of the post of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. The new Commissioner's task will be to encourage education in, awareness of and respect for human rights, as enshrined in the instruments of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers is very concerned that every step should be taken to ensure that the future Commissioner, elected by the Assembly, can take up his or her duties on 1 January 2000 at the latest.

The Committee of Ministers will keep the Parliamentary Assembly informed of future developments concerning the various matters raised in Recommendation 1346, via the statutory report or by any other appropriate means.

Appendix 1


1. The Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) has taken note with great interest of Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1346 (1997) on human rights education.

2. The protection and development of human rights has been a cornerstone of the Council of Europe’s mission throughout its existence. The legal basis for this mission is the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, supplemented by a series of other legal instruments. Two of the most recent instruments - the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, both of which entered into force in the course of spring 1998 - are of particular importance to education and culture.

3. While the legal instruments provide the basis for the Council of Europe’s human rights mission, legal instruments will remain without practical significance unless steps are taken towards their implementation. Education plays a key role in creating and maintaining a human rights culture, characterised by respect for the rights of others, including minority groups, cultures, beliefs and ways of life, as well as a sense of responsibility towards fellow human beings and society. The CDCC welcomes the Parliamentary Assembly’s underlining the importance of education in creating attitudes favourable to human rights. Education can play a crucial role both in teaching about human rights and in including human rights aspects as well as issues related to cultural, linguistic, religious and philosophical diversity in more “classical” school and academic subjects.

4. The CDCC largely shares the Parliamentary Assembly's concerns regarding the role which the Council of Europe is called upon to play in the education field in relation to awareness-raising education on human rights. It recalls that the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education (Kristiansand, 22-24 June 1997) adopted a resolution entitled: "Fundamental values, aims and future role of educational co-operation in the Council of Europe". In this resolution, the Ministers drew attention to the need for educational co-operation in Europe as one means of meeting the major challenges facing European societies today while respecting common basic values, in particular by teaching ethical values based on respect for the rights of others, tolerance and solidarity, the fight against racism and anti-Semitism.

5. As the Assembly notes in paragraph 9 of the Recommendation, CDCC has always attached the utmost importance to human rights, whether directly by means of explicit educational and training programmes, or as a frame of reference when determining educational policies and the overall management of the education system. Indeed, as the European Education Ministers noted in Kristiansand, human rights education is not just a question of knowledge, but must be given practical effect in daily life and schools in particular.

6. The role of the media is essential in the battle for the protection of human rights and in particular public television. The Culture Committee has made an inventory of cultural obligations of radio broadcasters and elaborated rules of good practice.

7. Both the Education Committee and the Higher Education and Research Committee have undertaken activities directly or indirectly related to human rights education. The CDCC is co-organising with the Norwegian Ministry of Cultural Affairs a symposium on "Promoting Freedom of Expression in the Cultural Field" in Oslo on 15-16 June 1998.

8. In the case of the Education Committee, it should be noted that, with a view to disseminating the results of the projects on "Democracy, Human Rights, Minorities: Educational and Cultural Aspects" and "A Secondary Education for Europe", the Council of Europe has provided member States with in-depth studies, educational and methodological proposals, and actual teaching materials focusing on human rights education and related issues (cf. paragraph 11 of the Recommendation). The capacity of governments to intervene in the content of programmes varies considerably according to the structure of the state.

9. In the context of the In-Service Training Programme for Teachers, a special effort has been made over many years to encourage member states to run training courses on the general theme of human rights. For example, in 1997 alone, courses were organised on "Human Rights and Children’s Rights" (Belgium), "Education in Respect for the Law in Europe and the Role of Schools" (Italy), "The Inalienable Human Rights" (Germany), and "Education in Human Rights and Peace" (Switzerland). During the first half of 1998, courses will be held in Bulgaria on "Intercultural Education in the Light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and in Switzerland on "Media Package on Racism" and "Education in Human Rights and Peace".

10. As concerns paragraph 12 of the Recommendation, several projects and activities in the medium-term programme of the CC-ED were shaped by concerns close to those expressed by the Assembly:

(i) paragraph 12.i: Under the project on "Education for Democratic Citizenship", which now forms part of the Action Plan adopted by the Second Summit, research has been done in order to arrive at the most suitable definition of democratic citizenship for the current situation in Europe. The themes of human rights and the fight against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance are naturally key components of this definition. In addition, efforts are being made to use training courses as a way of disseminating information on concrete examples of good practice in this field.

Under the project on "Learning and Teaching about the History of Europe in the 20th Century", work has begun on producing teaching materials relating to the history and development of human rights in the 20th century. These will be available in 1999. Similar materials will also be produced on the history of the gender equality movement.

As part of the "Democratic Security, Social Cohesion and Educational Policies" activity, a symposium will be held in 1998 on the problems of violence in schools, its causes and possible remedies involving awareness-raising and respect for human rights.

(ii) paragraph 12.ii: The CDCC shares the Assembly's wish to make available a European database of educational material for the promotion of tolerance and inter-ethnic understanding. However, it should be noted that such material is already being produced in large quantities at both national and international level and that establishing a database would require considerable financial outlay and staffing in view of the need to keep it updated. Nonetheless, plans have already been made, under the project on "Education for Democratic Citizenship" and the history teaching project, to make the results of these projects and relevant studies available on the Web site of “Europe of Cultural Co-operation”, together with information on the best examples of innovation and good practice on Net sites dealing with citizenship in particular.

(iii) paragraph 12.iv: If the monitoring and evaluation of national policies on human rights education is to be fully comprehensive and continually updated, they will pose problems of capacity. Nonetheless, in line with the Assembly's recommendations, the projects on the Education Committee's programme give priority to identifying and disseminating examples of good practice.

(iv) paragraph 12.v: Operational links have been set up in the field of education for citizenship with the European Union and UNESCO, in particular, and several joint activities are planned for the near future.

(v) paragraph The CDCC would not only be pleased to inform the Parliamentary Assembly on a regular basis of its activities in the field of human rights education, but also proposes a dialogue with the Assembly on this matter when appropriate. In this context, representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly are especially welcome to attend the major events held as part of the projects mentioned above.

11. While the foundations of a human rights culture must be laid at an early stage of education, as shown through the programme of the Education Committee, higher education and research also have an important role to play. This is reflected in the programme of the Higher Education and Research Committee.

12. Through a joint working party with the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the Higher Education and Research Committee has been actively engaged in establishing an overview of ongoing research into the causes of racism and intolerance. This work has facilitated the efforts of ECRI to strengthen its co-operation with the research community.

13. In 1995, the Higher Education and Research Committee held its annual thematic conference on “Higher Education for Tolerance in Europe” (Ljubljana, 18-20 October 1995). These concerns are followed up through the third pillar of the Committee’s current programme on Higher Education for a Democratic Society. In particular, the sub-activity on “European Studies for Democratic Citizenship” will include an important dimension related to human rights and tolerance. The sub-activity on “Helping Social Sciences meet the Challenge of Transition” focuses on academic disciplines of crucial importance to research and education for human rights and tolerance, particularly in the new member states.

14. In addition to education and research directly or indirectly related to human rights and tolerance, it is important to create conditions favouring equity and equal opportunities in higher education. This is an important aspect of the first pillar of the Committee’s programme on Building the University of Tomorrow: Policy and Practice for Higher Education in Europe.

15. The project on “Access to Higher Education in Europe”, completed in 1996, has elaborated a draft recommendation and a compendium of good practice in securing access for underrepresented groups. The activity on recognition, carried out jointly with UNESCO and in co-operation with the European Union, aims at facilitating the fair recognition of foreign qualifications, thus making it easier for students to move between education systems and gaining first hand experience of foreign countries and cultures. The new project on “Lifelong Learning for Equity and Social Cohesion: a New Challenge for Higher Education” will consider ways of improving the provision of higher education to a wide diversity of groups in various walks of life.

16. Within the third pillar of the CC-HER programme on Higher Education for a Democratic Society, the focus on the activity on “European Studies for Democratic Citizenship” is on encouraging the establishment of high quality programmes addressing the issues of European civilisation, culture and institutional development in a pan-European way, including concepts of democratic society, human rights and cultural diversity. Several aspects of European studies will be used as a basis for the reinforcement of democratic values and attitudes of tolerance and respect for human rights in the training of young people as active members of society.

17.       One of the important activities implemented by the Culture Committee over the past ten years, has been to subject States who so wish to an evaluation of their cultural policy. A dozen such cultural policy reports already exist, and the Culture Committee is currently directing exercises towards the study of transversal themes whose importance has been underlined in the existing reports. The attention of the Culture Committee will be called to the need to pay particular attention to the theme of human rights "with a view to identifying examples of good practice" in the various national cultural policies.

Appendix 2

Opinion of the CDDH

on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1346 (1997)

on Human Rights Education

adopted in Paris on 30 April 1999

at the 53rd meeting of the CDDH Bureau

1.       The CDDH welcomes the Parliamentary Assembly's Recommendation 1346 on Human Rights Education and joins the Assembly in calling on the Committee of Ministers to consider human rights education a priority area for the intergovernmental work of the Council of Europe in the years to come.

2.       In particular, the CDDH asks the Committee of Ministers that, in the framework of the Programme of Action on Education for Democratic Citizenship, appropriate attention is given to human rights education in the broadest sense: that human rights education is recognised as a life-long learning process by which people learn respect for the dignity of others and the means and methods of ensuring that respect in society.

The CDDH therefore considers that any programme developed on education for democratic citizenship must contain a pan-European plan of action for human rights education, targeting schools, professional groups and the public in general.

If this plan of action, in concrete form and looking towards the future, is to aim at promoting a genuine human rights culture in all sectors of society, it must pay particular attention to the younger generation which will determine the future of Europe. It would therefore be desirable that each member State introduce « human rights education » in the school curricula. The CDDH recalls the main guidelines which appear in Recommendation No. R (85) 7 of the Committee of Ministers on Teaching and Learning about Human Rights in Schools (in relation to curricula, skills, knowledge to be acquired, the school climate and teacher-training). The CDDH recommends that the Committee of Ministers examines on a regular basis how far member States have been able to implement this Recommendation.

3.       In addition, the CDDH considers it useful to encourage the creation and the development, in each member State, of a national programme for human rights education and information. The responsibility for its implementation could be entrusted to a broadly represented national committee.

Guidelines encouraging the creation of these national programmes could be drawn up by the Council of Europe, whilst keeping in mind those initiatives which have already been taken in the framework of the UN-declared Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004, see Appendix to this opinion). Close co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is necessary, particularly in view of the inventory to be carried out of existing activities on human rights education in member States and of the database which is to be set up of available educational material.

4. Finally, the CDDH is of the opinion that :

- the new Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights’ first task should be to promote education in, awareness of and respect for human rights through the instruments of the Council of Europe;

- the Directorate of Human Rights of the Council of Europe should have a key role in the co-ordination of the various activities related to human rights education and awareness-raising, both within and outside the Council of Europe. Whilst regretting that the three-year programme which had been approved by the Secretary General in 1993 following consultation of the CDDH, could not be implemented for lack of adequate resources, the CDDH requests that the Committee of Ministers allocates appropriate budgetary and human resources to the Directorate of Human Rights so that these activities may be carried out.

The Appendix contains further information on education, information and the need to ensure co-ordination of the various activities.

* * *

Appendix to the Opinion

of the CDDH

on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1346 (1997)

on Human Rights Education

1.       Education

Education in Schools

1.       In line with Committee of Ministers Resolution (78) 41 on the Teaching of Human Rights and Recommendation No. R (85) 7 on Teaching and Learning about Human Rights in Schools, it is considered of paramount importance that future generations are properly educated in human rights as early as possible. Throughout their school career, all young people should learn about human rights as part of their preparation for life in a pluralistic democracy. Such learning should be available to all.

Education in various professional groups

2.        Beyond the educational sector, human rights education should reach :

- professional groups, and in particular the judiciary, the police, prison officials, the military, trade unions, politicians, journalists, etc.

- civil society as a whole, including vulnerable groups, older people, and those who have missed out on the educational process.

3.       In the Directorate of Human Rights, the Human Rights Awareness Unit has paid particular attention to human rights training for public officials and over the years has focused at different times on police officers, prison staff and people dealing with refugees and asylum-seekers. The three-year programme, "Police and Human Rights 1997-2000", should, in particular, be pointed out as well as the achievements of this programme to date.

4.       The programme plays a vital role in developing human rights approaches to policing practice in Europe, co-ordinating and facilitating the exchange of expertise and experiences. The programme aims to equip all police officers in the member States of the Council of Europe with appropriate knowledge about human rights standards and to develop the skills that will enable them to apply these in their daily practice.

5.       The launch and the development of the programme have been made possible by special contributions from individual governments. In order that the momentum generated by the programme is not lost the continuation of these activities should be guaranteed by their integration into the regular programme of the Council of Europe with appropriate priority.

Education against racism and intolerance

6.       Recommendation 1346 raises several issues that relate specifically to the work of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). Through its country-by-country work, ECRI has been carrying out an analysis of the situation concerning racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and related intolerance in all 40 member States and to date has made public 35 of these country-specific reports, with the remainder due for publication before the end of 1999. As from 1999, ECRI began the second, “follow-up”, stage of this country-by-country approach, which will include a contact visit to the country concerned to obtain information on the implementation of ECRI’s earlier recommendations to the government. In the course of this work, ECRI examined, in particular, policies at national level for promoting tolerance, including training of key professional groups and human rights education programmes in schools.

7. Two general policy recommendations made by ECRI to governments should also be mentioned:

- General Policy Recommendation No. 1, inter alia, recommends that governments ensure that school curricula, for example in the field of history teaching, are set up in such a way as to enhance the appreciation of cultural diversity.

- General Policy Recommendation No.3, concerning combating racism and intolerance against Roma/Gypsies, recommends the introduction into the curricula of all schools information on the history and culture of Roma/Gypsies and to encourage awareness-raising among media professionals to avoid transmitting prejudices about the Roma/Gypsy community.

II.       Information

Internet Sites

8.       The Human Rights Web Site of the Council of Europe was formally opened in September 1997 and offers access to a range of human rights information, particularly in relation to the work of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights, as well as the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

9.       The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) launched its Web Site on the Internet in October 1997 (, giving access to a range of educational materials aimed at promoting tolerance. The Web Site also contains information about “good practices” for promoting tolerance, particularly through education and training.

10.       Priority should be given in the immediate future to a site providing other information more generally useful in education for human rights and human rights awareness-raising in Europe, including materials and programmes, in relation to a range of groups, including the police.

Role of the media

11.       The key role that can be played by the mass media cannot be overstated:

-       For examples of good professional practices, reference must be made to Recommendation N° R (97) 21 of the Committee of Ministers on the media and the promotion of a culture of tolerance which enumerates different strategies which could be implemented by the media to foster a culture of understanding between different ethnic, cultural and religious groups in society, for example via specific training and employment policies or the adoption of codes of conduct;

-       In view of the fact that the dissemination of racist and intolerant views and opinions, in particular via the media, can seriously undermine democracy, Recommendation N° R (97) 20 of the Committee of Ministers on « hate speech » sets out a number of measures which member States should take to combat the expression of such views, bearing in mind the need to respect fully the editorial independence and autonomy of the media;

- It should also be noted that the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) will be preparing a publication on good practice in the media in combating racism and related intolerance;

- In addition, the Council of Europe itself continues to support the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) media and tolerance awards.

III.       Co-ordination of Activities

12.       It is clear that each member State of the Council of Europe carries its own political responsibility for national programmes for human rights education and awareness-raising and, through them, for the destiny of Europe. However, the key to success is co-ordination of efforts and policies in this field at the national, regional and international levels. It also requires the establishment of a true partnership among all actors - governmental, non-governmental, professional, business, international organisations.

13.       For maximum effect and budgetary efficiency, national needs and strategies should be co-ordinated with activities carried out under the aegis of the United Nations and its specialised agencies and by other regional organisations, such as the Council of Europe, the European Union and the OSCE. It is therefore necessary to have a list of existing resources and programmes. To this end, the Council of Europe must work closely with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in its efforts to carry out a world-wide review of the status of human rights education and to set up a comprehensive database of educational material.

14.       In addition, the Council of Europe is to link up with other activities undertaken in the framework of the UN-declared Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004). The Plan of Action for the Decade focuses in particular on establishing in all member States broadly representative national committees responsible for the development of comprehensive, effective and sustainable national plans of action for human rights education and information. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has developed guidelines to assist States in the establishment of these national action plans. In a joint letter of September 1998, the High Commissioner and the Director-General of UNESCO requested all Heads of Government to co-operate in this matter.