Human Rights Education

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Education About, With and for Human Rights

Law-related education aims to improve the ability of adult learners to understand and apply elements of law that affect their everyday lives, as well as raising awareness of fundamental rights as core social and civic entitlements.

Knowledge of rights and legal issues empower individuals and communities to participate in the democratic process, gain access to public services and demand fundamental rights. Moreover, law-related education programmes have the potential to re-engage adults in life-long education and enables them to take more control over their lives and careers. Recent European research in the field of Law-related education and wider access to justice issues has highlighted significant gaps in the ability of Europeans to understand their rights and the processes that are available to gain redress.

Human Rights Education

Education, training, awareness raising, information, practices and activities which aim, by equipping learners with knowledge, skills and understanding and developing their attitudes and behaviour, to empower learners to contribute to the building and defence of a universal culture of human rights in society, with a view to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

CoE: Charter of Education for Democratic Citizenship/Human Rights Education [1]

This definition refers to Human Rights Education as an active approach (empowering learners to co-create the civic culture), as a cognitive learning (understanding Human Rights) and a reflective learning (regarding their attitudes/behaviour related to Human Rights). Human Rights Education includes:

  • Learning about human rights, knowledge about human rights, what they are, and how they are safeguarded or protected;
  • Learning through human rights, recognising that the context and the way human rights learning is organised and imparted has to be consistent with human rights values (e.g. participation, freedom of thought and expression, etc.) and that in human rights education the process of learning is as important as the content of the learning;
  • Learning for human rights, by developing skills, attitudes and values for the learners to apply human rights values in their lives and to take action, alone or with others, for promoting and defending human rights. [2]

Human Rights

Source: Youth for Human Rights: The Story of Human Rights

Human Rights Law


What exactly is a right? To what rights refer our values and attitudes in democracy-related education and training? In this box we collected some of the Human Rights' foundational texts in order to help you and your learners to learn more about them:

European Union

United Nations

Council of Europe

Although Human Rights Education has a law and rights core, it includes much more than only facilitating knowledge in the traditional sense. HRE, as competence-based learning, contributes to citizens empowerment and encouraging for the people to enforce and respect rights, to shape new rights, or to defend them.

What is a Human Right?

Source: UN Human Rights: What is a Human Right?

Ways to facilitate Human Rights Education

  • Planning and facilitating trainings or workshops while knowing and respecting Human Rights.
  • Courses to improve access to justice,
  • Empowerment of victims of domestic violence,
  • Law-related simulations
  • Court observer schemes
  • Facilitating knowledge about human and civil rights
  • Connecting the knowledge dimension with citizens empowerment to action for human and civil rights
  • Promoting human and civil rights in the society[3]


Legal Sources

Source: Council of Europe: Education for Democracy and Human Rights in 10 steps

How Human Rights Education Addresses Competences

Although Rights and law are cognitive constructs, learning about, with, and for them addresses skills, knowledge and attitudes. Following the DARE network for Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe this learning includes:

  • Recognizing the universal character of human rights
  • Respecting democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms and being able to enforce them in public and private life
  • Empowering the individual citizen and groups to make full use of their democratic rights
  • Combatting discrimination, racism, xenophobia and related intolerance
  • Enforcing gender equality
  • Inclusion of persons with disabilities
  • Empowering the individual citizen to actively participate in public life (active citizenship) [4]


Human Rights Education and Empowerment for Democracy

Education for democratic citizenship and human rights education are closely inter-related and mutually supportive. They differ in focus and scope rather than in goals and practices.

  • Education for Democratic Citizenship focuses primarily on democratic rights and responsibilities and active participation, in relation to the civic, political, social, economic, legal and cultural spheres of society,
  • Human Rights Education is concerned with the broader spectrum of human rights and fundamental freedoms in every aspect of people’s lives.

Why Values Matter

The researcher Kris Grimonprez explains their connection to the EU policy dimension and advocates for more value awareness in citizenship education:
Source: Kris Grimonprez/NECE network

Embededness in the Society

Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education seek to combine the awareness and knowledge with empowerment to implement these in the society.

At the state level, in civil-society organizations or in classrooms. This implies the training ground and the learning field is the society. Therefore, educational measures in these fields need to build cooperation with the society, include the social reality around the classroom or ideally cooperate in activities planned and conducted by non-formal and formal learning providers together. Non-formal EDC work with young people is probably the perfect training field for democracy: close to society developments, close to young peoples ́ everyday life experience, promoting learning on eye-level, backed with pedagogues who are capable of making the difference:

„Non-formal education has the specific strength to quickly react to challenges and threats to democracy as it is close to societal developments. It is able to identify issues at their grassroots stage and develop educational concepts long before the debate has made it to the political and subsequently curricular level.“ [5]

Inspiring Handbooks and Resources


  1. Council of Europe: Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education
  2. Council of Europe. Introducing human rights education in Compass: Manual for Human Rights Education with Young People
  3. DARE Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe: Demanding Fundamental Rights: Law Related Education in Adult Learning, Blue Line Edition 2013
  4. DARE Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe: Antwerp Declaration on Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe
  5. DARE Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe: G. Pirker (ed.): EDC for All – Qualifying and Mainstreaming Education for Democratic Citizenship in Europe, Blue Line Edition 2015


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Standard Building Blocks:

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Just Now

A toolbox for teaching Human Rights in the field of youth education


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Online manual on intercultural understanding, ethics and human rights


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W. Benedek

Understanding Human Rights

A manual on Human Rights Education published by: European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Graz (AT)