Education Without Borders: Youth for Human Rights recently organized in Geneva the 7th Annual International Human Rights Summit. Which state of affairs do you make after this event?
Dr. Mary Shuttleworth: The 7th Annual International Human Rights Summit highlighted the valuable role of youth in raising awareness about human rights abuses while implementing grassroots human rights education around the world.
The purpose of Youth for Human Rights International is to teach youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and inspire them to become advocates for tolerance and peace.
The presentations made by the youth during individual as well as the group and panel discussions shared many examples of what they had done in their respective countries to promote human rights, what obstacles they faced and what successes they had.
The goals of the summit followed guidelines of the United Nations in honor of the International Year of Youth:
“In its resolution proclaiming the Year, the General Assembly called on governments, civil society, individuals and communities worldwide to support activities at local and international levels to mark the event. Under the theme ‘Dialogue and Mutual Understanding,’ the Year aims to encourage dialogue and understanding across generations and promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and freedoms.”
The works of this summit will be summarized in a final report, which will be made broadly available to share valuable contributions with concerned stakeholders. It will propose action items to support the implementation of human rights education and contribute to the ongoing discussion at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Education Without Borders: More than 30 countries participated to this event. Do you think that this summit lived up to your expectations? If yes, which ones?
Dr. Mary Shuttleworth: The summit surpassed my expectations. I watched the youth from countries around the world present the work they had done to teach human rights in their local communities and to their peers. They talked about their experiences and also showed photos of their work. They had done presentations to youth groups, orphanages, in schools and even organized murals and football games.
A group of our delegates from the International Human Rights Summit 2009 organized an International Walk for Human Rights in honor of Human Rights Day on December 10th, 2009. They coordinated most of the logistics via Internet. The walk was a huge success with several countries and more than 9,000 people around the world participating. At the summit they showed photos and shared stories from the walk. Everyone leapt to their feet in standing ovation! What an excellent example of raising awareness on human rights and involving the community!
It was amazing to watch how these young people had become active and reached out to their families, friends and communities to teach human rights in creative ways.
Education Without Borders: As per your opinion, which would be the urgent actions to promote?
Dr. Mary Shuttleworth: It is urgent that youth know that they have human rights, what those rights are and the important role of responsibility as set out in Article #29 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a vital part of the human rights.
Human rights are like a bicycle wheel. There are 29 spokes to the wheel. For example: the right to an education, freedom of speech, right to a nationality, right not to be discriminated against, etc. There is one cog in the middle of the wheel that holds all those spokes together. If there is no cog then the whole bicycle does not work. That cog is responsibility. The right to an education is one example. If the student does not pay attention, does not do the homework and so on, then the education would be lost. Not because someone took it away but because the student did not take responsibility for that education. Human rights and responsibilities go hand-in-hand.
So, the urgent actions are to promote human rights education along with responsibilities. No one person can change the world, every one person can do something to help change the world. Get inspired. Get active. Get creative. I think the media can do a lot to promote this.
Education Without Borders: Don’t you think that the best way to defend the rights of the youth goes through a better consciousness raising in the school fields?
Dr. Mary Shuttleworth: Yes, we must raise awareness about human rights in the fields of education. In 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into existence, they called upon all member countries “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.” In schools we teach the basic elements the students will need to succeed in life, eg. Math, science, history, etc. Human rights fall right into those basic elements. Teaching human rights is part of so many subjects for example, history, social sciences, current affairs, etc. Some teachers even use it as a way to teach English by using the short videos.
Knowledge empowers and paves the way to long-term improvements in the quality of life.
Education Without Border: One of the difficulties in the developing countries is the lack of means and infrastructures. And it is in these countries that the Human Rights are the most trampled up. Do you have programs put in place in order to support educators in the poor countries?
Dr. Mary Shuttleworth: Lack of resources and infrastructures are major barriers to development and progress, particularly in this information age where developments occur almost exponentially. Fortunately, there are many communities that do have access to computers, the Internet or at least to radios and newspapers. This helps disseminate information and inspires growth and development. Education is key to improved quality of life.
We are very happy that at this time we are able to offer a limited quantity of Youth for Human Rights Information Kits for free on our websites – www.youthforhumanrights.org and www.humanrights.com. These kits include our videos and booklets that can be used to teach youth about human rights. We are also very excited that we still have a limited quantity of Youth for Human Rights Education Kits available for free on our website. The kits include a teacher’s manual with lesson plans, our videos, two dozen booklets for the students and 30 posters, each one depicting one of the human rights. These kits will be mailed for free to educators anywhere in the world! This is a limited offer so we urge educators to order their education kits as soon as possible.
Education Without Borders: When will happen the next summit?
Dr. Mary Shuttleworth: We have been hosting our International Human Rights Summits every year since 2004. Our next summit will be in 2011. We already have people enquiring and preparing so that they can participate in the summit next year. I hope you will join us too!