10 quotes on the power of human rights education

By Camille Roch

10 times human rights defenders and activists around the world have reminded us how human rights education makes a difference in protecting people's rights:

1. "Human rights education is much more than a lesson in schools or a theme for a day; it is a process to equip people with the tools they need to live lives of security and dignity. On this International Human Rights Day, let us continue to work together to develop and nurture in future generations a culture of human rights, to promote freedom, security and peace in all nations."

Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Nobel Peace Prize winner

2. "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

Eleanor Roosevelt, American political leader and activist

3. "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

Nelson Mandela, South African civil rights activist

4. "An intensive human rights education for all communities needs to be provided to overcome the old prejudices."

Ruth Manorama, Indian activist

5. "Human rights education is key to addressing the underlying causes of injustice around the world. The more people know about their rights, and the rights of others in society, the better equipped they are to protect them."

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International

Demonstration in Oslo takes place on the day Laureate Kofi Anna receives the Nobel Peace Prize, Oslo, Norway, December 2001 © Amnesty International

6. "The effects of human rights education can be dramatic in awakening people to the value and power of their own lives […]."

Daisaku Ikeda, Japanese philosopher, activist, author and educator

7. "Education… is the key to unlocking other human rights."

Katarina Tomasevski, Croatia, UN Special Rapporteur

8. "Even in kindergarten, children should learn – and experience – the fundamental human rights values of respect, equality and justice. From the earliest age, human rights education should be infused throughout the program of every school – in curricula and textbooks, policies, the training of teaching personnel, pedagogical methods and the overall learning environment…. [Children] can be guided by human rights education to make informed choices in life, to approach situations with critical and independent thought, and to empathize with other points of view."

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Jordanian UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

9. "Knowledge will bring you the opportunity to make a difference."

Claire Fagin, American nurse, educator, academic, and consultant

10. "Human rights education should involve more than the provision of information and should constitute a comprehensive life-long process by which people at all levels in development and in all strata of society learn respect for the dignity of others and the means and methods of ensuring that respect in all societies."

UN General Assembly

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