What is it?
Democracy and human rights education is about our rights and our responsibilities. Children are not born knowing they have rights, duties and responsibilities. They have to learn. To build a democratic culture in Europe, every child, every young person, needs to acquire this knowledge.
Why is it important?
Democracy and human rights education does not only help prevent future human rights violations; it teaches us how to fight discrimination and racism, to work towards social cohesion and to defend and protect everyone’s human rights. It gives us the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes we need to play an effective role in our communities, at local, national or international level. It shows us how to have influence, how to participate in society and how to shape our own future.
The Council of Europe is making a difference
The Council of Europe recognised that its vision of a Europe based on human rights, democracy and the rule of law could only be achieved if those values were effectively promoted in schools and through training for young people and adults.
The Council of Europe’s Charter on Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education raises awareness of its core values and fosters the active engagement of Europe’s citizens.
The Charter is already making a difference. Thanks to the work developed in the Council of Europe and to the growing awareness and commitment of its 47 Member States, democracy and human rights education is increasingly being adopted in schools and out of school as a subject, a cross-curricular topic and an approach to learning. It is included in teacher training and is covered in non-formal education, training and the workplace. It is growing in popularity and importance; more and more people see it as a defence against the rise of violence, inequality, racism, extremism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance in Europe and across the world.
Who is democracy and human rights education for?
It is particularly important for children and young people who are developing their knowledge, skills, values and attitudes towards society. They may not be old enough to vote in elections or sit on juries, but they have rights and duties and are entitled to have a say. Citizenship and human rights education helps young people to develop the skills they need for school and family life and gives them knowledge for the future. For example, it helps them sort out problems without recourse to violence and to resolve playground disputes in a fair and sensible way.
It is also important for adults. Many may have lost interest in traditional politics, but remain very interested in the world around them, campaigning for local hospitals, for the environment or against animal cruelty, for example. Democracy and human rights education can help them see how they can gain influence in society and make their voice heard.
Some women have no opportunity to become involved in society because they come from a background where men dominate. People with disabilities and the older generation may also find it harder to be heard. Democracy and human rights education gives them the confidence to open the eyes and ears of the rest of society.