“Education for democratic
citizenship” means education, training, dissemination, information, practices
and activities which aim, by equipping learners with knowledge, skills and
understanding and moulding their attitudes and behaviour, to empower them to
exercise and defend their democratic rights and responsibilities in society, to
value diversity and to play an active part in democratic life, with a view to
the promotion and protection of democracy and the rule of law.
“Human rights education” means education, training, dissemination, information,
practices and activities which aim, by equipping learners with knowledge, skills
and understanding and moulding their attitudes and behaviour, to empower them 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
Education for democratic citizenship and human rights education are closely
interrelated 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, while human rights education is concerned with the broader spectrum of
human rights and fundamental freedoms in every aspect of people’s lives.
The Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and
Rights Education (Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)7)
What is the aim of Education for democratic
citizenship and human rights (EDC/HRE)?
Education for democratic citizenship and
human rights aims to give people the knowledge, understanding, skills and
attitudes that will help them to play an effective role in their community -
be it on the local, national or international level. It shows people how to
become informed about their rights, responsibilities and duties and it helps
them to realise that they can have influence and make a difference.
What is EDC/HRE?
Education for Democratic Citizenship and
Human Rights doesn't just happen in schools during citizenship lessons: it
covers all forms of education, from children up to young adults at college
and university, and through into adult education, vocational training and
the workplace. You can find EDC/HRE through the work of campaigning groups
and on Internet pages aimed at children. It is not just about learning to
vote. It is about learning to sort out problems in the family without
recourse to violence. It is about learning to resolve playground disputes in
a fair and sensible way. It is about neighbours joining together to keep
their environment clean and safe.
Why do we need EDC/HRE?
Democratic citizenship is a skill, and
skills need to be learned. Many schools taught the basic government
structures in the past: not so many taught their pupils how they could have
a voice in the society in which they lived, and why it was important.
Democracy comes from the Greek meaning "of the people". Yet studies show
that most people throughout Europe are becoming disenfranchised from their
political systems. They do not trust politicians, they are confused about
political institutions and they are skeptical about the value of voting.
How does it help young people?
Children and young people may not be old
enough to vote in elections or sit on juries, but they have rights and
duties and they are entitled to have a say. EDC/HRE teaches them the skills
they need for school and family life, whilst giving them knowledge for the
What about adults?
Many adults have lost interest in what
they see as "politics". They are jaundiced by political parties and feel
their political representatives are cut off from them and their way of
feeling. Yet many people are very interested in the world around them -
campaigning for local hospitals, for the environment or against animal
cruelty for example. EDC/HRE can help these people to see how they can gain
influence in society.
There are other obstacles to people being
able to express themselves. Some women do not have the chance to vote or get
involved in society because they come from a background where men dominate.
Disabled people and older people may be impeded because it is harder to get
their voices heard. EDC/HRE works, both to give them confidence and to open
the eyes and ears of the rest of society.
Why is the Council of Europe involved?
The Council of Europe is the oldest and
biggest European organisation. With 47 member states, it covers almost the
whole of geographical Europe and touches the lives of over 800m people
living there. The Council is the watchdog for human rights for Europe's
citizens, and a guardian of democracy and the rule of law: the best
structure to oversee EDC/HRE in Europe.
Some thoughts on Democracy, Human Rights and
"If liberty and equality, as is thought by
some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when
all persons alike share in the government to the utmost." Aristotle (384
BC - 322 BC)
"Education is the most powerful weapon
which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela
"You have to be the change you want to see
in the world". "To safeguard democracy the people must have a keen sense of
independence, self-respect, and their oneness." "The spirit of democracy
cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within. In true
democracy every man and woman is taught to think for himself or herself".
"Voting is one of the few things where
boycotting in protest clearly makes the problem worse rather than better."
Jane Auer, American Author
"The world is a dangerous place, not
because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do
nothing." Albert Einstein
"Responsibility does not only lie with the
leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to
do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually. Peace, for
example, starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be
at peace with those around us." The Dalai Lama
Aspects of citizenship
Democratic citizenship is not limited to
the citizen’s legal status and to the voting right this status implies. It
includes all aspects of life in a democratic society. Democratic citizenship
is therefore related to a vast range of topics such as sustainable
development, participation of people with disabilities in society, gender
mainstreaming, prevention of terrorism and many other areas.