In November 2023, at its 42nd General Conference in Paris, UNESCO adopted a “Recommendation on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Sustainable Development”. A few weeks later, on 10 December 2023, we observed the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Although obviously related to it, this post is not about that landmark Declaration. It is about the UNESCO Recommendation; about Human Rights Education.
Did you know that the UDHR is one of the most translated documents in the world?
As of 2023, it has been translated into 561 languages!
This UNESCO Recommendation is in fact a revision of an influential 1974 Recommendation. Long before the terms Global Citizenship Education (GCED) or Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) were coined, the 1974 document called on Member States to ensure that their educational policies were guided, among other things, by:
An international dimension and a global perspective in education at all levels and in all its forms;
Understanding and respect for all peoples, their cultures, civilisations, values and ways of life, including domestic ethnic cultures and cultures of other nations;
Awareness of the increasing global interdependence between peoples and nations.
The 2023 Recommendation builds on those principles. And half a century later, it addresses new concerns. These include:
Peace. The Recommendation emphasises that peace is not merely the absence of war and armed conflict; it “requires an inclusive, democratic and participatory process”; where “internal and international conflicts are resolved through mutual understanding and cooperation, sustainable development in all its dimensions is achieved, universal access to lifelong and life-wide education… [and] extreme poverty is eradicated” – a far wider ambit for “peace”.
Global citizenship. Likewise, this document sees GCED as essential to prepare citizens and nations to value cooperation and dialogue to address the collective challenges that humanity faces.
Gender equality. As UNESCO notes elsewhere, “Women still account for almost two-thirds of all adults unable to read”. The 2023 document focuses on gender equality as “key to the realisation of the right to education for all and for the empowerment of women and girls”. (Strangely, in the 1974 Recommendation, the words “women”, “girls” and “gender” do not occur even once in the document. Check for yourself!)
Climate change education, as part of education for sustainable development, “should be integrated into curricula and across subjects to help understand and address the impacts of the climate crisis, to promote climate justice and to empower learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes needed to act as agents of change. It should be learner-centred, experiential, contextualised, solutions-based and action-oriented.”
Digital literacy includes “the ability to effectively search, access, critically evaluate, ethically produce, use and disseminate information… to detect and to combat disinformation and misinformation, hate speech, all forms of violence… harmful content and online abuse.…” In short, “think critically and click wisely”!
While NCF stresses “Rootedness in India”, it also aims “to develop knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions that support responsible commitment to human rights, sustainable development and living, and global well-being, thereby reflecting a truly global citizen.” The alignment is clear between the UNESCO Recommendation and India’s NCF.
Further, while NCF stresses “Rootedness in India”, it also aims “to develop knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions that support responsible commitment to human rights, sustainable development and living, and global well-being, thereby reflecting a truly global citizen.” The alignment is clear between the UNESCO Recommendation and India’s NCF.
Although non-binding on Member States, the 1974 Recommendation influenced educational policies worldwide at many levels. The comprehensive 2023 Recommendation, which addresses so many of humankind’s current concerns, promises to do the same.
About the Author
A Giridhar Rao is an MA in Education faculty member at Azim Premji University. He teaches courses on multilingualism in education. He is also active in the Esperanto movement. He blogs in English on Bolii and in Esperanto at Lingvo kaj vivo, where you can also read this post in Esperanto.