Human Rights Education and Awareness Projects

AuthorCommonwealth Secretariat

Page 147

  1. This paper by the Human Rights Unit (HRU) of the Secretariat seeks the further support of Law Ministers of member countries for certain educational, promotional and awareness-building activities of the Unit, in pursuit of attainment of the Commonwealth's strategic goal of strengthening respect for and fulfilment of basic human rights in member countries.

  2. The human rights awareness projects and initiatives of the Secretariat are premised on an understanding that "...recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." (Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Preamble). Considerations of principle, as well as this recognition of a link between widespread respect for human rights and the existence of a peaceful, just and prosperous society informs the commitment of member countries to Commonwealth values and principles, including respect for fundamental rights.

  3. Effective promotion and protection of human rights requires that there be knowledge and awareness of the source, nature and scope of human rights (and their proper and reasonable limitations) among public decision-makers at all levels, law enforcement officials and the judiciary, members of civil society, the media and the professions, students and young people, and women and vulnerable persons. The 1996 Law Ministers Meeting held in Malaysia noted the Oxford Declaration on Human Rights Education and its framework of activities on human rights and urged the Secretariat to continue providing assistance and training on such matters.

  4. This paper is intended to be read with the Activities Report of the Human Rights Unit (LMM(05)36), to which it refers. Rather than dealing with a particular issue, as some policy papers do, it puts before Ministers for their consideration the thematic issue of human rights education in the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth best practice
  1. As well as having certain international and domestic legal consequences, ratification of major human rights conventions and conventions on international humanitarian law (and promulgation of accompanying implementing legislation) has a demonstrative effect that itself helps to promote awareness of and respect for the human rights standards described in such conventions. Similarly, the production and public promulgation of model legislation, implementation kits and best practice guidelines has the effect of increasing awareness of specific human rights issues that Commonwealth countries have decided to deal with (such as Trafficking in Women and Children).

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