Panel on Human Rights Education in Formal and Informal Settings

On March 14th, 15th and 16th, 2012, several  NGOs  organized a  series of panels on Human Rights Education (HRE) in Practice.    
The first one, entitled “International Policies on Human Rights Education,” organized by the Organisation Internationale pour le Droit à L’éducation et la Liberté D’enseignement  (OIDEL) and Soka Gakkai International (SGI), and was held on Wednesday, March 14th.
The first speaker’s address, Ms. Eugenia Gutiérrez from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, contextualized the panel by stressing the need for mainstreaming HRE in all sectors of society, emphasizing the participation of various stakeholders – academia, NGOs, etc. – as essential to involving society as a whole. 
H.E. Mr. Petru Dumitriu, representative from the Council of Europe, acknowledged “a missing link” between education and human rights and the need for “an articulate, comprehensive system,” stating that due to “a lack of vision, policy declarations are not being supported by practical measures.” 
Ms. Kristen Roberts, director for the Irish Human Rights Commission, explained how a HRE training project, supported by philanthropic aid, was established to provide free HRE to civil and public service agents and has received positive feedback from the participants thus far. Ms. Marianne Haslegrave astutely noted that the UN’s terminology is unfamiliar to outsiders and affirmed that if HRE is meant to benefit everyone, both experts and non-experts alike, then those involved in HRE should  undergo appropriate teacher preparation.   
The third side event, entitled “Human Rights Education in Non-Formal Settings in Practice,” took place on Friday, March 16th.  
Ms. Rosslyn Noonan, Chair of the International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs, focused her speech on human rights community development, an approach that would allow community members to become key actors in human rights issues that directly concern them. 
Dr. Katrien Beeckma, Head of Principles and Values from the Department of the Red Cross, stated that HRE should aim to foster a personal engagement of individuals in the promotion and defense of everyone’s rights.
 Mr. Alfred Fernandez, Director of  the Collège Universitaire Henry Dunant, spoke of the courses offered by the institute he heads as tools which should help governmental and non-governmental actors in spreading a human rights culture. 
Ms. Asmae Fahoum’s presentation was on the Theater Association Instant Présent, in which theater is used as a means for promoting solidarity, team spirit and emancipation of disabled children. 
Mr. Andre-Marc Huwyler described the activities of the Children’s Orchestras of the State of Bahia, an initiative of the Brazilian government that is integrating young people irrespective of social class, by training them in orchestral and choral music. 
Mr. Ahmed Seghaier, EURO-MENA for HRE & Training, focused his talk on the role played by social media in the dissemination of HRE, particularly in the Arab spring, which allowed individuals in Arab countries to quickly spread ideas, acquire awareness of their rights and organize movements in defense of their basic freedoms.
In conclusion, this Series of NGO Panels on Human Rights Education in Practice successfully examined international policies on human rights education, raised awareness about their significance, and shared practices for the effective implementation of HRE. Moreover, the  panels all stressed the importance of participation from NGOs and civil society actors in the international policy-making process.