By Ravi Kanth Devarakonda
GENEVA (IDN) - Several international civil society groups and governments have joined hands to highlight the power of human rights education in transforming lives. In commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, they launched an Exhibition on March 6 at the UN in Geneva.
The Exhibition to be displayed until March 17 "reiterates the vital role of human rights education and training in the promotion of dignity, equality and peace, and in the prevention of human rights violations and abuses" – in the face of the rising wave of xenophobia, bigotry, and intolerance.
The Exhibition is co-organized by Soka Gakkai International (SGI), Human Rights Education 2020 (HRE 2020), the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning, and the states comprising the Platform for Human Rights and Training, "with thanks to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)".
The 25-panel exhibition shows how human rights education has transformed the lives of people in Australia, Burkina Faso, Peru, Portugal and Turkey. It invites citizens, governments and civil society organizations to take action to nurture a culture of human rights.
At the opening, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Ambassador Maria Nazareth Farani Azevedo said, human rights education and learning is critical for “achieving peace, tolerance, and sustainable development in the society”, particularly at a time of “increasing polarization, violence, and extremism”.
She was speaking on behalf of the nine governments involved in Platform for Human Rights Education and Learning. The nine governments are: Brazil, Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, the Philippines, Senegal, Slovenia, Switzerland, and Thailand.
An escalating “rumble” from people all over the world is that “growing discrimination and abuse, joblessness and deprivation, inequality, and elite corruption,” will no longer be tolerated as there is growing awareness of the power of human rights, said Craig Mokhiber, a senior official in charge of development and economic and social issues of the UN Commission for Human Rights.
Knowledge and power of human rights education as demonstrated in the Exhibition, he said, empowers people to live with freedom and dignity.
He praised SGI’s initiative in spreading the human rights education and learning which ultimately helps the victims of “domestic violence in Turkey” or harsh and violent methods of segregation imposed by the Australian authorities.
SGI is a community-based Buddhist association with 12 million members around the world. Its members promote peace, culture and education as part of the long-standing tradition of Buddhist humanism.
Quoting SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, Hirotsugu Terasaki, the Tokyo-based organisation's Director General of Peace and Global Issues said: ". . . it has never been more important to create and solidify a movement for human rights education that will foster the social conditions in which people treasure human diversity and dignity. . ."
In a statement read out by Terasaki, Ikeda said that the Exhibition was being held for the first time at the venue of the Human Rights Council meeting.
As the “dark forces of hatred and xenophobia are increasingly directed at refugees, migrants, and foreign nationals”, sustained efforts must be made at all levels to promote human rights education for combating and eradicating “all forms of discrimination, racism, stereotyping, and incitement to hatred, and the harmful attitudes and prejudices that underlie them”, Ikeda said in his statement.
In times of “profound transformation and uncertainty”, said Abdulaziz Almuzaini, director of UNESCO’s office in Geneva, “human rights education and freedoms is a fundamental tool to guarantee respect for the rights of all people”.
Almuzaini said the exhibition organized by SGI “demonstrates that human rights education can be a powerful tool for nurturing values, including peace, justice, non-violence, tolerance and respect for human dignity”.
After the adoption of “universal declaration of human rights” seventy years ago, Almuzaini said, UNESCO wants “all human rights- civil, cultural, economic, social, and political- can be best spread and promoted through sustained human rights education, and learning”.
On behalf of the HRE 2020 – a coalition of 15 non-governmental organizations working on human rights and co-organizer of the exhibition – Emma Melander Borg underscored the need for continuous “monitoring and implementation of human rights as enshrined in the UN Declaration” in a world undermined by challenges to democracy and violations of human rights.
Against the backdrop of rising violence and growing violations of human rights by states and their new rulers, it is important to adopt “various approaches that are necessary” for empowering victims through human rights education and learning, Terasaki said.
Each case involving human rights violations needs a thorough examination for which human rights education must be central in all stages of peoples' lives commencing at “elementary and primary” school. “Unless we create a feeling for understanding the importance of human rights in all people, human rights violations would be repeated. This is what [SGI’s] initiative aims at through the exhibition,” he told IDN-INPS, in an interview during the exhibition.
Asked about the current plight of immigrants and their dire plight in the United States, Terasaki said: “America has developed through pluralism and diversity which helped the country to develop rapidly. If they actually change their attitude then they are rejecting their past, they are denying their past.”
He expressed concern over the current global phase characterized by unpredictability, uncertainty, violence, deprivation, and anxiety and general attack on human rights. “That is the reason why SGI is making a strong effort on human rights education,” he argued.
Relevant to the theme of the Exhibition is the book titled “Age of Anger – A History Of The Present” by Pankaj Mishra, an Indian author and writer of literary and political essays.
Mishra says: “The post-9/11 policies of pre-emptive war, massive retaliation, regime change, nation-building and reforming Islam have failed – catastrophically failed – while the dirty war against the West’s own Enlightenment, inadvertently pursued through extrajudicial murder, torture, rendition, indefinite detention and massive surveillance, has been a wild success.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 March 2017]
Photo: Ambassador Maria Nazareth Farani Azevedo of Brazil (left in the photo) addressing launch of the Exhibition as representative of the Platform for Human Rights Education and Learning, comprising the governments of Brazil, Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, the Philippines, Senegal, Slovenia, Switzerland, and Thailand. Credit: Kimiaki Kawai | SGI
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate