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Human Rights Education Today

A girl reads names on the Monument to Memory and Truth in San Salvador which commemorates the people killed during the Salvadoran civil war of 1980–1992 [© AFP]

In recent years, human rights have come to be seen as a byword for the growth of democracy around the world. However, the knowledge, skills and values for participating in a healthy democracy do not come ready-made; they need to be learned by each generation. Values such as respect for others, dignity, tolerance; skills such as critical thinking, cooperation and the ability to stand up for your rights and those of others--these can be nurtured throughout our lives. Education itself means to "draw out," implying that human beings' inner qualities need to be drawn out for them to flourish.

The human rights education movement has developed around the world as a way to encourage awareness and understanding toward building a culture of human rights, a world in which respect for other people, for their difference and diversity, constitutes the fabric of daily life. Human rights education provides a unique model in which vital questions such as "How can I stand up to bullying and injustice?" "How can I resolve conflict peacefully?" or "How can I engage with people who hold different values from mine?" are placed at the heart of our growth as human beings.

This year's United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training creates significant momentum toward international standards for human rights education; it is an important landmark toward creating a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. In many ways it represents a culmination of the efforts of countless individuals who have chosen to dedicate their lives to benefiting and expanding our sense of human dignity and worth.

But human rights education, building a culture of human rights, is something that each of us can do in the course of daily living. It can start with "inner dialogue"--the questioning of our own attitudes and values that is vital if we are to engage with one another on the basis of respect. It also lies at the heart of transforming ourselves and our societies. In this issue of the SGI Quarterly, we celebrate the work of those who promote and teach human rights around the world, as true heirs to the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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