Understanding Human Rights

Understanding Human Rights

Educational Challenges for the Future

Paula Gerber

Paula Gerber argues that international law can learn from the medical profession, which has long recognised that ‘prevention is better than cure’. There is an urgent need for HRE to be recognised as one of the best ways of preventing future human rights abuses; it is, in essence, a prophylactic for human rights violations. The book explores the provenance of human rights education in international law before critiquing the UNs work in this area across numerous different organs, including treaty committees, the Human Rights Council, General Assembly and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The author identifies a number of deficiencies in the UNs HRE activities, and makes recommendations for how the UN can more effectively promote HRE and increase states compliance with their international HRE obligations. This book provides a unique and timely insight into the workings of the UN in this vital aspect of international human rights law.

Chapter 2: Provenance of human rights education within the UN

Paula Gerber

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights


Eleanor Roosevelt famously answered the above question with the words: ‘In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world’. This chapter seeks to answer a similar question – ‘Where, after all, did the international law mandate regarding human rights education begin?’ The answer is very different from that given by Eleanor Roosevelt. The directive that states educate their people about human rights did not emerge in small places, close to home, but rather within the amorphous body known as the United Nations. This chapter seeks to identify exactly where, within the organs, committees, bodies and agencies that make up the UN, the idea of mandating HRE was developed, what the motivation was, and how it has been developed and embellished since that time. This goal is achieved by tracing HRE developments through the drafting of a number of international instruments, namely: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC). By analysing the provenance of HRE through these sources, a clear picture begins to emerge of the UN’s aims and ambitions regarding HRE. This provides context for understanding the UN’s subsequent work regarding HRE.

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