15 May 2001
Education in the responsibilities of the individual
Recommendation 1401 (1999)
Reply from the Committee of Ministers
adopted at the 751st meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (2 and 7 May 2001)
The Committee of Ministers has studied the Parliamentary Assembly’s Recommendation 1401 (1999) on Education in the responsibilities of the individual, with interest.
It points out that the Assembly’s concerns, formulated in March 1999, were borne in mind by the Committee of Ministers in so far as the second Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe decided to develop education in democratic citizenship. The political impetus imparted by the Summit led to the Declaration and Programme for education in democratic citizenship based on the rights and responsibilities of citizens, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 7 May 1999, on the occasion of the Council of Europe’s 50th anniversary.
The Committee of Ministers recalls its reply of July 1999 to Recommendation 1346 (1977) on human rights education, which also contains information covering areas mentioned by the Assembly in paragraph 10 of Recommendation 1401 (1999).
The Committee of Ministers can assure the Assembly that human rights education, the raising of awareness among target groups such as the police, media professionals and social workers, the training of teachers in the values of democratic citizenship, cultural diversity and the wealth that the pluralism of ideas and traditions represents, continue to be important parts of the Organisation’s programme of activities.
It can also inform the Assembly that, following on from the Declaration and Programme for education in democratic citizenship based on the rights and responsibilities of citizens, the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) has continued work on this important subject. The Committee of Ministers agrees that the responsibilities and duties of the individual must never be a legal precondition for entitlement to the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Fundamental human rights are universal and inalienable and everyone is entitled to their enjoyment. At the same time, as the Assembly rightly stresses, the extent of the enjoyment of human rights in practice also depends on attitudes and behaviour of other people. The Committee of Ministers therefore agrees with the Assembly that education is a valuable means of raising awareness of the responsibilities which everyone must assume in relation to the human rights and dignity of every individual. In this way, education helps form moral and ethical attitudes which promote the general enjoyment of human rights in practice.
In this connection, the Committee of Ministers recalls that, at the European Ministerial Conference on Human Rights held in Rome in November 2000 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights (Resolution No. 2, Chapter E, “Human rights and civil society”), the ministers reaffirmed the importance of human rights education and awareness-raising, stressed that these are effective ways of preventing negative attitudes towards others and of promoting a culture of tolerance and solidarity in society; and recalled that such education can raise awareness of the responsibility of each individual to respect the human rights and dignity of others.
The Committee of Ministers encourages member states to take or apply more broadly educational and awareness-raising measures of the kind listed in paragraph 9 of the Recommendation. The Committee of Ministers believes that the Council of Europe may have a specific role to play in promoting, and assisting in, the adoption of national programmes for human rights education. In this respect, the Committee of Ministers informs the Assembly that, in the follow-up to the Rome Ministerial Conference, it has instructed the CDDH to give an opinion of the feasibility of a European programme for human rights education. The Assembly will be kept informed of the outcome of the reflections on this question.
The Committee of Ministers draws the Assembly's attention to the conclusions of the Education Committee's project on "Education for democratic citizenship" which were adopted at the final conference held in Strasbourg in September 2000. These conclusions were discussed at the 20th session of the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education ("Educational policies for democratic citizenship and social cohesion: challenges and strategies for Europe" in Cracow in October 2000). Besides desirable continuation of work in this area, particularly by organising a European campaign in 2003, the Ministers adverted specifically to the close relationship between education for democratic citizenship and human rights education. In this context, the Assembly should also note the publication of a Human rights education resource pack for teachers' use, and the staging of numerous seminars on the subject under the Council of Europe In-Service Training Programme for Educational Staff.
Consideration of this subject also received input from the October 1999 Delphi Seminar on ‘Empowerment and responsibility: from principle to practice’ and from the conference organised jointly in Warsaw in December 1999 by the Council of Europe, the European Union and UNESCO on ‘Education for democratic citizenship: methods, practices and strategies’. Other activities have included the ‘European Studies for Democratic Citizenship project’, which included a pan-European conference in October 1998 and regional seminars for the countries of the CIS (July 1999) and southeast Europe (September 1999) – which emphasised the importance of including citizenship and democratic culture in studies often closely focused on the institutional aspects of European construction.
Moreover, the final resolution of the 20th session of the Ministerial Conference contains a recommendation that educational measures be taken, particularly in the field of teachers’ training, to help prevent the repetition or denial of crimes against humanity, such as the Holocaust or the ethnic cleansing which were still a tragic feature of the 20th century, comprising as they did such massive violations of human rights and the fundamental values defended by the Council of Europe. The Ministers agreed that in schools one day each year should be designated a day of remembrance and prevention of crimes against humanity, chosen in relation to the history of each member state. In this context, it should be remembered that the Council of Europe was involved in the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust and participates in the International Task Force on the Holocaust.
Lastly, the Committee of Ministers wishes to inform the Assembly that Recommendation 1401 (1999) has been forwarded to the governments of member states.