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U.N. Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Malta Recommendations on Human Rights Teaching, Information and Documentation (1987).


The International Congress on Human Rights Teaching, Information and Documentation, meeting in Malta from 31 August to 5 September 1987,

1.     Aims and objectives of human rights teaching

Recalling the obligation incumbent upon Member States to promote human rights education,

Noting the need for long-term and concerted efforts to increase awareness and to ensure implementation of the responsibilities incumbent upon Member States in order to achieve through education the aims set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, the Constitution of UNESCO and other documents, in order to promote further international understanding and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Mindful of the need for UNESCO not only to continue its present efforts for human rights education but to increase these efforts, with the necessary financial resources,

Considering the progress that has been made in the field of human rights education during the past decade, in particular since the Vienna Congress (1978),

Recalling the provisions of Article 13 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Article 7 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,

1.1     Recommends that the Director-General draw the attention of Member States to the necessity of continuing, as far as possible, to establish a complete system of human rights teaching and education available to all citizens and all population groups and covering all levels of education, with the broad participation of the various public organizations and the media;

1.2     Recommends that UNESCO invite all Member States to issue a statement calling for the intensification of efforts to develop human rights teaching and education in primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and in non-formal education and adult education systems in the various countries;

1.3     Recommends that UNESCO, in its periodic reports to the Expert Committee on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), draw the attention of Member States to the obligation to provide human rights education as required by Article 13 (1) of the said Covenant and Article 7 of the aforementioned Convention and in particular to the efforts States Parties have made to include human rights teaching in the school and university curriculum;

1.4     Recommends that the Director-General of UNESCO update the study on the advisability of preparing a convention on education and teaching in the field of human rights;

1.5     Recommends that UNESCO address to the United Nations General Assembly a proposal, based on a study (For a World Decade for the Promotion of Human Rights Education), and further recommends that the Director-General of UNESCO transmit to the United Nations General Assembly the proposal that 1989, the bicentenary of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, be proclaimed International Year of Human Rights Teaching and Education;

1.6     Recommends that the Director-General draw the attention of Member States to their international obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants to provide for the teaching and dissemination of knowledge of human rights and to create material conditions for adequate teaching at all levels of schools and universities as well as in adult education;

1.7     Recommends that the Director-General highlight, in accordance with his report to the Executive Board of UNESCO (126 EX/l6), the relationship to be established between education for Human rights and fundamental freedoms on the one hand, and education for peace and international understanding on the other;

1.8     Recommends that the Director-General draw the attention of Member States to the preparation of educational programmes for the promotion and defence of human rights and against all forms of racism, and to the question of the struggle against apartheid;

2.     Contents and programmes

Recalling that education relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms is an integral part of international education, in accordance with the 1974 Recommendation of UNESCO,

Taking note of the reports submitted to this Congress on the situation of human rights teaching in various regions of the world, and in particular on a tendency in various countries for citizens ' duties to be given precedence over their rights,

2.1     Recommends that the Director-General co-operate with Member States in the development of programmes of human rights teaching and education within the framework of formal and non-formal systems of education, duly taking into account: age; training level; professional orientation of the students, the most important international instruments in the field of human rights; national and regional systems concerning human rights; the experience of different countries in solving socio-economic, political, legal and other problems in order to ensure the effective exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, bearing in mind that the contribution of various cultures and regions is important in this respect;

2.2     Recommends that the Director-General encourage the inclusion or human rights teaching at all levels of formal educating taking into account the following characteristics which these programmes should display: education in human rights and for human rights (in particular through access to knowledge, school life, school and out-of-school educational activities), matching programmes or specific methodologies for their implementation, giving them a pluridisciplinary character, taking into account the multi-ethnic and pluri-cultural character of societies, stressing the interrelationships between rights of peoples and human rights, as they are defined in existing universal international instruments, international humanitarian law and refugee law; and that human rights education should be provided to civil servants working in the various branches of public administration, and should be integrated into literacy programmes and into special education programmes for handicapped persons;

2.3     Recommends that the Director-General of UNESCO assist Member States in developing new educational methods and materials which emphasize the interrelationship between Human rights teaching and the other major problems of mankind as mentioned in para. 18 of the 1974 Recommendation, with a view to strengthening human rights education;

2.4     Recommends that the Director-General of UNESCO and international NGOs assist Member States in taking appropriate measures in order to stimulate those responsible for the development of teacher training programmes and in order to improve the dissemination of knowledge on existing international instruments in this field;

2.5     Recommends that Member States and NGOs intensify their efforts to develop methods and materials for human rights teaching that take account of both consensus and conflict on contemporary human rights issues, and present information on the reasons - despite the undisputed validity of existing international instruments - why human rights issues are understood differently according to different social and cultural contexts; in particular, information on the mechanisms for setting standards in the United Nations system, as well as information on different political attitudes that the term human rights implies in various countries, should be considered an integral part of human rights teaching;

2.6     Further recommendsthat the Director-General of UNESCO, in view of Article I of UNESCO's Constitution, seeks further opportunities for fostering co-operation with Member States in this field, and considers human rights teaching as an area for giving fresh impetus to community education in UNESCO's Member States;

2.7     Recommends that UNESCO support and encourage intensive and systematic education on the procedural aspects or the implementation of the International Covenants and Conventions on Human Rights, both in formal and non-formal education;

3.     Forms, methods and teaching materials

Considering the prominent role of UNESCO’s Associated Schools project in the implementation of the 1974 Recommendation on International Education,

Appreciating the innovative function of the Associated Schools and of UNESCO Clubs and Associations in many Member States,

Considering the fundamental role of the family as an educating agent for the individual,

Considering that the family is the special context in which human rights are first perceived,

Considering that the rights of children must be recognized,

3.1     Recommends that the Director-General of UNESCO, its Member States and NGOs, encourage the Associated Schools and the UNESCO Clubs and Associations:

(a)     to develop further pilot projects in the field of human rights education, and to make their experience available to others;

(b)     to multiply their efforts in inter-school co-operation, at national, regional and interregional levels, with a view to experimenting with exchanges and to discussing teaching/learning materials, in order to make both teachers and students aware of approaches to human rights issues that may exist in other countries;

3.2     Recommends to the Director-General that the primary educational role of the family should be reaffirmed, both in formal and non-formal education, and that particular attention be given to human rights education within the family, and to the education of parents, increasing co-operation with competent non-governmental organizations in order to train parents to transmit knowledge of human rights to their children by ensuring that the latter understand, respect and put into practice these rights;

3.3     Recommends that the Director-General promote the training in human rights of professionals, particularly those concerned by human rights, such as magistrates, doctors, nurses, police officers, journalists, those in positions of responsibility in the armed forces, personnel of refugee camps, frontier guards, etc., through their national and international organizations, and promote the cause of human rights with senior executives of the mass media;

3.4     Recommends that the Director-General circulate the reports prepared for the Malta Congress to Member States and NGOs, with a view to encouraging the possibility of adapting the methods and strategies elaborated in these reports;

3.5     Further recommendsthat the Director-General bear in mind the proposals made in these reports on UNESCO ' s activities aimed at developing methods and strategies for human rights teaching;

3.6     Recommends that the Director-General ensure the updating, reprinting and dissemination of human rights teaching and training materials published by UNESCO for use at various levels of formal and non-formal education ( for example Human Rights: Questions and Answers and the bulletin Human Rights Teaching), and further recommends that the Director-General disseminate these publications in as many countries as possible;

3.7     Recommends that the Director-General promote the teaching of non-violent alternatives and strategies for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and encourage the drawing up of history and civics programmes and manuals in a human rights perspective, with a view to promoting the responsibility of citizens, respect and cc-operation among peoples of the same region and among the peoples of the world; and that the elimination of all racial discrimination from all textbooks should be called for;

4.     Teacher training and protection of teachers and other educators in the field of human rights education

Stressing the need to protect the individual who teaches human rights against discrimination, harassment, dismissal or other interference because of this teaching,

Noting the existence of both national and international procedures which afford some protection in this respect,

Recognizing the importance of the effective guarantee of the fundamental rights of teachers at all levels, both as human beings and as members of a profession responsible for disseminating knowledge of and respect for human rights in schools and universities,

Recognizing further that academic freedom cannot be exercised if citizens are deprived of their fundamental rights,

Noting the existence of international associations engaged in human rights education,

4.1     Recommends that the Director-General attach particular importance to the training of teachers and other educators who will be responsible for, or who will have the opportunity of, teaching human rights, as well as to the in-service training of practising teachers, through training sessions, conferences, study tours, etc.;

4.2     Further recommendsthat the Director-General invite competent ministries, teachers' associations, heads of schools, specialized institutes and non-governmental organizations to prepare all teachers for human rights teaching and education;

4.3     Recommends that the Director-General study:

(a)     ways and means to improve the protection of such individuals in their teaching through strengthening procedures at the national and international levels;

(b)     the possibility of extending guarantees to the personnel of higher education (not covered by the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation (1966) concerning the Status of Teachers and the UNESCO Recommendation (1974) on the Status of Scientific Researchers) as quickly as possible;

4.4     Recommends that the Director-General encourage educational activities which might promote the ratification by Member States of the International Covenants on Human Rights and the Optional Protocol;

4.5     Further recommendsthat the Director-General invite Member States to respect the provisions concerning the academic freedom of teachers at all levels in all international instruments;

4.6     Recommends that the Director-General support associations which can protect the freedom and the physical and moral integrity of their members;

5. Research on human rights education

Considering this era as being one of wide-ranging scientific and technological revolution,

5.1     Recommends that the Director-General take steps to promote the study of the methods of human rights teaching and education and of solutions to difficulties encountered in this field as well as in the training of teachers and educators; call a meeting of experts to discuss problems involving teaching methods; encourage comparative research on the methods of human rights education;

5.2     Recommends that the Director-General effectively support, particularly from the material point of view, training institutes and centres specializing in human rights research or teaching, particularly those striving to develop a pluridisciplinary approach and corresponding to the expectations of students, teachers and other professions or officials of various associations, and encourage exchanges between researchers and educators;

5.3     Recommends that the Director-General encourage Member States, non-governmental organizations and teaching and research institutions to take an interest in problems linked to the development of the relations between science and technology on the one hand and respect for human rights on the other;

6.     International co-operation and role of non-governmental organizations

Taking into account the essential universality of human rights,

Taking note of the information made available by a large number of expert meetings and seminars on human rights teaching, information and documentation that have been held as a follow-up to the 1978 International Congress in Vienna,

Recognizing the crucial role of non-governmental organizations, at national, regional and international levels, in human rights education,

6.1     Recommends that the Director-General play an active role in arranging and facilitating a full exchange of material, information and experience among Member States and also teacher and student exchanges whenever possible;

6.2     Recommends to the Director-General that a fellowship scheme be established by UNESCO in the most appropriate way, in order to allow teachers who so wish to take part in the regional, interregional and international training sessions on human rights teaching and education of their choice;

6.3     Recommends to the Director-General that UNESCO prepare a compilation of the various resolutions, recommendations and declarations on human rights teaching and education adopted by UNESCO and United Nations bodies, so as to provide a consolidated set of instruments on human rights teaching and education; furthermore an annotated version could be prepared for distribution to teachers and non-governmental organizations;

6.4     Recommends that the Director-General effectively support, in particular on a material level, teachers' and researchers' associations at national, regional and international levels which aim to promote co-operation, exchange of experiences, training, research and publications in the field of human rights;

6.5     Recommends that the Director-General of UNESCO ensure the preparation of a synoptic report on all of these meetings and their results, and assist Member States and non-governmental organizations in drawing conclusions from them, particularly in the field of training, in preparing updated materials, and in intensifying international co-operation;

6.6     Recommends that the Director-General pursue co-operation with non-governmental organizations, making provision, whenever possible, for resources to support their educational programmes which reinforce or complement national programmes;

6.7     Recommends that the Director-General co-operate with the regional intergovernmental organizations and their specialized institutions and with non-governmental organizations concerned with matters of education and information, in carrying out the recommendations adopted by the International Congresses of Vienna (1978) and Malta (1987) on human rights teaching, information and documentation;

6.8     Recommends that the Director-General give the necessary backing to strengthen the institutionalization of non-governmental organizations for non-formal and community education, especially to develop their work in pedagogical research, in the preparation of written and audiovisual materials for wide distribution, in exchanges of experience and their subsequent systematization;

6.9     Recommends that the Director-General pay particular attention to the support which should be given to human rights education in countries which have suffered severe violations of human rights so as to improve respect for human rights at all levels of society: children as well as adults and special groups such as members of the armed forces, police, lawyers, government officials, etc., and in particular recommends that the Director-General support efforts for human rights education and for information on the bases of the struggle against apartheid led by national liberation movements recognized by the Organization of African Unity;

6.10     Recommends that the Director-General formulate projects with clear priorities in the area of human rights education for funding by the Voluntary Fund for the Development of knowledge of Human Rights through Teaching and Information, so as to encourage more substantial contributions to the Fund from Member States and interested institutions;

7.     Activities in the framework of the Plan for the Development or Human Rights Teaching

Recognizing the efforts made by UNESCO towards the implementation of the Plan for the Development of Human Rights Teaching both through its own action and through the encouragement of action by Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations for the promotion and development of human rights education and teaching,

Taking note of the fact that the experience and information gained through the regional preparatory meetings for this Congress have endorsed the human rights education and teaching programmes in their entirety and have underscored the imperative need for UNESCO to continue and increase these activities on all fronts and at all levels,

7.1     Recommends that the General Conference extend activities in conformity with the Plan, placing emphasis on the development of priorities identified in the Plan and indicating an allocation of specific responsibilities between UNESCO, Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations; in the case of Member States, indications should also be given of the institutions which would discharge these functions;

7.2     Further recommendsthat the Director-General address the present recommendations to the Consultative Committee on steps to promote the full and comprehensive implementation of the 1974 Recommendation, so that the latter may take the necessary steps to ensure the desirable co-ordination in this field; for that purpose, the Consultative Committee might set up a subcommittee;

7.3     Recommends that the Director-General evaluate every five years the situation of human rights teaching in each Member State by addressing a detailed questionnaire to National Commissions and competent institutions, the synthesis of the replies being published and disseminated to Member States in co-ordination with the submission of the periodic reports in application of the 1974 Recommendation;

7.4     Recommends that the possibility of holding a Congress to review progress in human rights teaching, information and documentation in seven years (1994) be examined;
The Congress also formulated the following recommendations addressed to the Director-General:

8. Research on human rights (social and human sciences, legal and political sciences history and philosophy)

8.1     UNESCO should actively promote the development of interdisciplinary research on human rights issues. While the complexities of different societies meant that case-studies should be continued, UNESCO should also promote comparative social science research on human rights issues, and research on the pedagogy for human rights education;

8.2     In recognition of the considerable amount of relevant research that has been carried out in a number of UNESCO programmes, integrative overviews of this existing research should be carried out in order to explicitly identify its relevance for the study and promotion of human rights even when human rights have not been mentioned as part of the paradigm;

8.3     Attention should be paid to the development of the infrastructures for carrying out research. In this connection, UNESCO should assist centres of human rights research that already exist, should ensure that the question of human rights is included in the agenda of professional social science organizations, should encourage the question of human rights to be included as an area of research at faculty level and should assist in the creation of human rights centres where these were needed. In this connection the offer of the Foundation for International Studies (Malta) to include a centre for human rights research for the Mediterranean should be encouraged. In addition to this UNESCO should encourage the networking of existing institutions exchanges between research centres as well as encouraging individual researchers;

8.4     Bibliographies are necessary as research tools. In this connection UNESCO should expand and publish the document Human Rights Documentation, Data Bases and Bibliographies (reference document prepared by UNESCO) (SHS-87/CONF.401/4), circulated at the Congress, have it translated into other languages and update it at regular intervals;

8.5     Continuing research should be carried out on the effect of social and economic rights on the enjoyment of individual rights. In addition UNESCO should further the debate on the concept of the rights of peoples including the rights of people to preserve their national culture and to struggle against discrimination. Those rights of a collective nature, as for example the right to a healthy and sane environment and the right to development should be the subject of research in order to clarify their dimensions. Of crucial importance is research on the right to life and the right to peace notably with reference to the right to dignity and liberty;

8.6     Research should be sponsored on the interaction between individual human rights and the rights of ethnic, religious, political and other minorities, as well as the interaction between individual rights and group or community rights;

8.7     Research needs to be done on the relationship between the exercise of human rights factors determining their realization and their limitations in situations of structural violence, public emergencies and internal strife. In this connection research should be encouraged on the notion of the security of the human person as against prevailing theories including that of the security of the State;

8.8     UNESCO should continue to sponsor research on the question of torture. This research should include not only torture, as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, but also the study of traditional practices affecting personal integrity and the analysis of the conditions under which torture emerges, in what way it is legitimized and its impact on other rights within the society;

8.9     With regard to development; UNESCO should study the role of human rights in development and as an element in the development co-operation programmes. In addition, research should be done on the whole question of hunger and the debt crisis as these affect individual and group rights;

8.10     Research should be conducted on the development of human rights discourse per se, in order to map the changing forms of human rights discourse over time and the different, though apparently comparable discourses of human rights that are employed in different contemporary contexts;

8.11     Research should be encouraged on the emergence of forms of resistance to the implementation of human rights policies. In addition, an international comparative study should be initiated into the ways by which informal mechanisms are utilized to avoid implementation of human rights policies while constitutional guarantees remain accorded;

8.12     UNESCO must include and sponsor research on the question of value systems particularly with reference to religions and the relationship between these and behaviour as this affects human rights;

8.13     Research should be promoted on the potential significance for human rights of developments in science and technology. The possibility of a convention governing the uses of science and technology and the responsibility of scientific workers needs to be explored;

8.14     Research should be done on the role of mass media in shaping popular conceptions of human rights issues;

8.15     Research should be done on the consequences for human rights, particularly for peace and development, of South Africa’s programme of destabilization in southern Africa;

8.16     Certain situations of extreme discrimination include an important component of massive human rights violations. Research should be encouraged on these situations and particularly on apartheid, racism and discrimination according to gender;

8.17     Research should be sponsored on the violations of human rights as result of armed conflicts and violence and the ways of protecting individual and group rights during armed conflicts;

8.18     UNESCO should support and encourage research and training on procedural aspects of remedies against human rights violations in UNESCO's field of competence with a view to improving and making more accessible national and regional implementation and international machineries for redress of grievances. In addition UNESCO should sponsor research on the efficacity of present national, regional and international mechanisms with regard to implementation and redress;

9. Human rights information and documentation

9.1     Full and equal access to human rights information must be ensured. One of the basic conditions for ensuring human rights is free access to relevant human rights instruments and adequate information on the remedies available to redress human rights violations, at the national, regional and international levels. To this end, UNESCO should encourage the democratization of information leading to an active participation of both human rights entities and the public at large;

9.2     In promoting human rights information and documentation, due regard should be paid to language diversity and the need for translating human rights instruments and materials into various national and local languages. UNESCO should endeavour to provide financial assistance for such initiatives;

9.3     In providing human rights information, special attention should be paid to the interests and needs of discriminated and disadvantaged social groups, such as illiterates, the rural poor, indigenous peoples, and those suffering under the apartheid regime;

9.4     In order to enhance the role of the mass media in the promotion of human rights information, special courses and dissemination activities for comnunicators should be organized by UNESCO and other institutions. The awareness of communication and mass media issues among the human rights milieux should be increased and the media should be encouraged to use existing human rights information and documentation systems in reporting, thereby establishing a fruitful dialogue between all those concerned and in a position to enhance human rights information and documentation and reminding them of their important and responsible role in diffusing information about human rights;

9.5     In promoting information channels, increased attention should be paid not only to television and films but also to other information systems, such as children's games, drama, cartoons and posters. UNESCO should consider the possibility of preparing directories of television and radio programmes and films illustrating different aspects of human rights;

9.6     Considering the abundance of human rights information already existing in certain areas, increased endeavours should be made to make the existing information known and available to all concerned. In this context, the United Nations, other international organizations and governments could make the contents of their official documents more easily available to the public at large. UNESCO could play an important role in initiating and supporting such activities;

9.7     Efforts to improve human rights information and documentation should capitalize upon the existing governmental and non-governmental institutions, networks and systems, without hampering the creation of new institutions and networks. Human rights information and documentation networks should be based on the principles of decentralization and autonomy. UNESCO should continue to support existing centres and networks, including National Commissions for UNESCO and national human rights commissions, with a view to improving their capacities and the co-ordination of activities between different centres. Support should also be given to the institutions taking part in the UNESCO Associated Schools project, to enhance their capacity to disseminate information and materials on human rights;

9.8     Where gaps exist in present national and regional information and documentation structures, UNESCO should support the creation of new centres and networks and encourage the building up of infrastructures and upgrading information and documentation skills;

9.9     UNESCO should consider reinforcing its infrastructure with a view to establishing a clearing house of data-based information on human rights teaching, taking into account the 'composite model' mentioned in the feasibility study referred to in paragraph 4 of the Introduction to this report. The documentation could include, in a first stage, information not only on teaching materials and bibliographies but also curricular and special programmes, audiovisual aids, institutions and individuals involved in human rights teaching, as well as educational and social science research of relevance for teaching purposes;

9.10     In order to identify the modalities and requirements of the above proposed clearing house and of its liaison with local, national and regional institutions and networks, the Congress invites the Director-General of UNESCO to conduct an international consultation of experts, with a view to expediting the setting up of the clearing house as soon as possible;

9.11     UNESCO should continue to provide information on documentation sources and bibliographies in the field of human rights and to publish at regular intervals a directory of education and research institutions specialized in human rights, including information on the nature and availability of information in those institutions. Information on UNESCO publications should be more effectively circulated among national and regional institutions interested in human rights;

9.12     In the building up of international information and documentation networks, the UNESCO bulletin Human Rights Teaching should play a central role. It is vital that the bulletin appear regularly, preferably on a quarterly basis. Other periodicals published by the United Nations system, including the UNESCO Courier, should pay more attention to human rights questions;

9.13     UNESCO should support the launching of newsletters to provide information and documentation on human rights teaching in the most widely spoken languages of the world;

9.14     UNESCO should contribute to the development of compatible computerized data-processing systems to be used by national, regional and international institutions, so as to facilitate exchanges among the information and documentation centres. UNESCO should also publish a multilingual glossary on human rights terminology;

9.15     UNESCO should assist in the organization of courses and training programmes for human rights information and documentation personnel. Such training should include information technology, substantive information on human rights concepts and issues as well as information on the procedural aspects of human rights protection at national, regional and international levels;

9.16     In the building up and strengthening of national and regional centres and networks, UNESCO should assist especially institutions in the developing countries to establish the necessary infrastructure and skills, taking into account the experiences of existing systems in this field and the availability of technologies at a low cost. It is also important that UNESCO supports national institutions and networks in times of political or social crises, and public emergency;

10.     The International Congress on Human Rights Teaching, Information and Documentation, held in Malta from 31 August to 5 September 1987,

10.1     Stresses the importance of the recommendations formulated in the several regional meetings organized for the preparation of the Congress; and,

10.2     Expresses the wish that the Director-General implement them so far as they are compatible with the conclusions and the recommendations of the present Congress.


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