Education for Democracy and Human Rights

CitizenchipWhat 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.

Latest news

The first conference to assess the impact of the Council of Europe’s Charter on democracy and human rights education is being held from 28-30 November 2012, in Strasbourg. The Charter for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education requires democracy and human rights education to be made available to all European citizens of whatever age. The conference – entitled Human Rights and Democracy in Action – will evaluate a report on the implementation of the Charter in the 50 States which have ratified the Council of Europe’s European Cultural Convention. It will take stock of progress achieved and identify future challenges. It is being organised by the Council of Europe in cooperation with the European Commission and the European Wergeland Centre (Conference website).


  • All 47 European countries belonging to the Council of Europe have agreed that they should make democracy and human rights education available to all their citizens, by adopting the Organisation’s Charter for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.
  • The Council of Europe is the first and only Organisation in the world to develop a comprehensive set of materials on democracy and human rights education both in school and out of school. These are for children, young people, educators and policy-makers in education as well as for non-governmental organisations (Compass, Compasito, EDC/HRE site).
  • In the Council of Europe’s unique European Youth Centres, in Strasbourg and Budapest, 5,000 young people a year learn about human rights and intercultural dialogue.
  • Through its Pestalozzi Programme, some 600 teachers and educational specialists are trained every year.
  • The Summer Academies on democracy and human rights, started in 2010, help teachers, non-governmental organisations and parents' associations develop action plans to implement democracy and human rights education and intercultural dialogue. The academies are organised in cooperation with the European Wergeland Centre and the governments of the countries where they are held.
  • The Council of Europe runs human rights training programmes for judges, prosecutors, court officials, lawyers, prison officers, the police, bailiffs and members of national and international non-government organisations, among others.
  • The Organisation’s network of democracy and human rights education co-ordinators ensure inter-governmental cooperation and exchange of good practice. There is also an International Contact Group.
  • Support to specific countries is provided in the framework of the Joint Programmes between the European Commission and the Council of Europe. In Turkey, for example, the Council of Europe, in partnership the Turkish authorities, has developed an elective course on democracy and human rights education as well as its Strategy Paper on Developing Democratic School Culture in Turkey, both of which are being piloted and will be introduced throughout Turkey in 2013 Joint Programme – Turkey.