Using Compass to deliver HRE across cultures and languages

Experience from the first edition of Compass has shown that it is possible to write one manual for the whole of Europe. Differences in cultures and languages are not hurdles but resources that enrich our work.  Everyone can relate to human rights because each of us has a sense of dignity and can feel the humiliation that results from the denial of our rights. Furthermore, because human rights are universal and relate to internationally approved documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it follows that the aims and principles of HRE are also applicable to every society even if the practice of HRE always needs to be contextualised.

Europe is a world of diversity in itself. More than 200 languages are spoken across the continent. Every major religion is to be found within Europe's borders. The continent is associated with the birth of democracy and, at the same time, with some of the worst examples of fascism and totalitarianism that the world has ever seen. Europe's past is marked by the Holocaust, by colonialism and by slavery, and today it harbours enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all life on earth. Yet, it hosts the annual ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize and it has established a permanent court of human rights, which is acclaimed throughout the world.

Parents can only give good advice or put them [children] on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.
Anne Frank

Today, the states that make up Europe include many that did not exist when the Council of Europe was created in 1949, and others whose borders have barely changed over hundreds of years. Some continue to change even today, as conflicts threaten unstable borders. Thus, there are people in Europe who face violence and conflict on a daily basis, while many others live in relative peace, security and prosperity.

There are millionaires in every European country and millions of people living below the poverty line. There is diversity within each country, and diversity between them. Become a teacher in one part of Europe and you may receive more in a day than colleagues in other parts receive in a month. Become a teacher in another region and you may not receive a salary at all, for months on end. And what about their pupils? The number of years of compulsory schooling varies from nine in Cyprus and Switzerland to 13 in Belgium and the Netherlands. When pupils leave school the chances of getting a job vary. The chances for young people to access their social rights and be autonomous are also very different. Youth unemployment, according to Eurostat figures, could vary from 7.6% in the Netherlands to 44.5% in Spain or 43.8 % in Latvia.7

The social, cultural and political setting for HRE varies between communities and countries; thus the detail of approach, content and methods must vary, although the principles and aims do not.

HRE in different educational settings

Experience with the first edition has shown that Compass is used widely not only in youth clubs, youth organisations and NGOs but also in schools, businesses and even by government training departments. In other words, Compass is being used with people of all ages and in many different educational settings.

It was our original intention that Compass would be used primarily by youth workers in non-formal educational settings, for example after-school clubs, sports groups, church youth groups, university clubs, human rights groups and youth exchange organisations. In these settings the focus is on the personal and social development of young people, and for that reason the activities take a holistic approach, that is they work with cultivating knowledge, skills and attitudes within a social context. 

Compasito activities are often simpler, more playful
and, because they are shorter, potentially better tailored for use in the classroom.

However, Compass is also used in formal settings such as schools, colleges and universities where the focus is often more on the acquisition of knowledge rather than on the development of skills and attitudes. Many teachers find opportunities to use Compass activities within the history, geography, language and civics syllabi and the possibilities will increase as the shift towards competence-based curricula is consolidated. Personnel training, for instance training of teachers, managers, government officials and judicial staff, lies somewhere between the formal and informal, but here too trainers use Compass both for training about human rights in general and to address issues of equal opportunities and racism within the institution.
Compass has been accredited as an official learning resource in the school system of some countries. Aware of the importance of introducing human rights education to younger children, the Council of Europe's youth sector also developed Compasito, a manual for human rights education with children. Compasito is particularly suitable for children from 7 to 13 years of age and, as the name suggests, is based on the approaches and methodologies of Compass.

People practise and learn human rights education in many different ways and although each of the activities in Compass proposes methods and dynamics that are interesting in themselves it is important to keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of the activities is what participants can learn and what they can do with what they learn. Some of the suggestions for how to "follow-up" what was learned include running the activity with family or friends or writing to the media. These are two of the ways through which Compass can also be of use in informal education.

Approaches to formal education, especially the methods used and the role that the teacher plays, differ from country to country. Similarily, the availability of non-formal education in the form of youth clubs and organisations, their philosophies and the way they are run differ between countries. Nonetheless, there are certain structural differences between formal and non-formal sectors that can be generalised.

Informal education

Informal education refers to a lifelong learning process, whereby each individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from the educational influences and resources in his or her own environment and from daily experience. People learn from family and neighbours, in the market place, at the library, at art exhibitions, at work and through playing, reading and sports activities. The mass media are a very important medium for informal education, for instance through plays and film, music and songs, televised debates and documentaries. Learning in this way is often unplanned and unstructured.

Formal education

Formal education refers to the structured education system that runs from primary (and in some countries from nursery) school to university, and includes specialised programmes for vocational, technical and professional training. Formal education often comprises an assessment of the learners' acquired learning or competences and is based on a programme or curriculum which can be more or less closed to adaptation to individual needs and preferences. Formal education usually leads to recognition and certification.

Non-formal education

The inter-relation of knowledge, attitudes and skills characterises good human rights education, and nonformal education as well.
Conclusions of the forum
Living, Learning, Acting for
Human Rights, 2009

Non-formal education refers to planned, structured programmes and processes of personal and social education for young people designed to improve a range of skills and competences, outside the formal educational curriculum. Non-formal education is what happens in places such as youth organisations, sports clubs and drama and community groups where young people meet, for example, to undertake projects together, play games, discuss, go camping, or make music and drama. Non-formal education achievements are usually difficult to certify, even if their social recognition is increasing. Non-formal education should also be:

  • voluntary
  • accessible to everyone (ideally)
  • an organised process with educational objectives
  • participatory
  • learner-centred
  • about learning life skills and preparing for active citizenship
  • based on involving both individual and group learning with a collective approach
  • holistic and process-oriented
  • based on experience and action
  • organised on the basis of the needs of the participants.

Formal, non-formal and informal education are complementary and mutually reinforcing elements of a lifelong learning process. We wish again to stress here that the individual activities of Compass can usefully be applied in very different contexts, in formal or less formal settings, and on a regular or irregular basis. However, it is important to stress that because the where and the how of what takes place is very important, the authors of Compass tend to have a bias towards non-formal education as being potentially more favourable to HRE (and also because Compass was originally designed for youth work purposes). In relation to schools and colleges HRE cannot be viewed as something that takes place isolated in the classroom; it must extend into the whole school and community. The democratic governance of educational institutions is, for example, a dimension that is widely recognised as playing a major role in the process of human rights learning (and its credibility)8.

In this manual you will find information about human rights and about a wide variety of human rights issues, as well as over 60 activities for delivering HRE with young people. These activities do not stand alone; there is an extensive section about the methodology of HRE and how to use the activities in different situations and how to adapt or develop them. There is also information and guidance about helping young people to get involved in issues that concern them and to "take action" (Chapter 3).

The pedagogical basis of HRE in Compass

In HRE, method and content are interrelated and interdependent.

Knowing about human rights is not enough; people must also develop skills and attitudes to act together to defend human rights, and they must use their heads, hearts and hands to bring about the personal and social changes necessary for the creation of a global culture of human rights.

Holistic learning

Human rights issues concern the whole of a person (body, mind and soul) and all dimensions of life from cradle to grave. The whole person lives in the whole world where everything is interrelated; human rights education necessarily involves a holistic learning approach. Holistic learning promotes the development of the whole person, their intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative and spiritual potentials. Holistic learning also implies that learning takes place in a social context that encompasses all everyday experiences; it is therefore interdisciplinary and cuts across the traditional subjects in school curricula.

A holistic approach also means that we seek to address and involve the cognitive, practical and attitudinal dimensions of learning, that is, not only what people learn, but also how to apply their learning in their attitudes or behaviour and how to apply it in action for human rights, alone or with others.

Related to holistic learning, is also differentiated learning. The learning activities in Compass are designed to address a range of learning styles and different intelligences and teach to both cognitive and affective domains.

Open-ended learning

Open-ended learning is structured so that multiple / complex answers to problems are not only possible, but expected. Participants are not steered towards one "right" answer which makes sense, because life is not black and white and ambiguity is a fact of the world we live in. Open-ended learning encourages self-confidence to express opinions and critical thinking. This is essential in human rights education because human rights issues are bound to result in different opinions and understandings; it is therefore important for the learners to learn together but still be free to disagree or come to opposite conclusions or points of view.

Values clarification

Participants are given opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs and values and to confront them with others in a safe framework based on the dignity of every human being, freedom of thought and expression, and the respect for others' opinions.


Participation requires a supportive environment which encourages learners to take responsibility for the activities they are involved in.

Participation in HRE means that young people take part in making decisions about what and how they are going to learn about human rights. Through participation young people develop various competences including those of decision making, listening, empathy with and respect for others, and taking responsibility for their own decisions and actions.

Thus HRE must let young people decide when, how and what topics they wish to work on. It means that the leader or teacher's role is one of a facilitator, guide, friend or mentor, not one of an instructor who imparts knowledge or decides and controls what is to be learned and how.

The activities in this manual demand active involvement; one should be active and engaged; one cannot sit back and be a passive observer. In this respect the methodology owes much to the work of Augusto Boal and other pioneers in social education, awareness-raising and conscientisation. If the learners / participants are not taking full part in the activity it may be better to postpone it or to stop it and ask them about their reasons for non-participation. This, too, is part of human rights education.

Participation requires a supportive environment which encourages learners / participants to take responsibility for the activities and processes they are involved in. It is important to be transparent and honest with participants – also about the limits of participation. It is preferable to announce limits to participation than to manipulate  the situation or simulate participation.

Co-operative learning

Learning to respect others and to work together is one aim of HRE. In co-operative learning people learn through working together to seek outcomes that are beneficial both to themselves and to all members of the group. Co-operative learning promotes higher achievement and greater productivity, more caring, supportive, and committed relationships and greater social competence and self-esteem. This is in contrast to what happens when learning is structured in a competitive way. Competitive learning often tends to promote self-interest, disrespect for others and arrogance in the winners, while the losers often become demotivated and lose self-respect.

Experiential learning (learning through experience)

Learning through experience or discovery learning is the corner stone of HRE because core human rights skills and values such as communication, critical thinking, advocacy, tolerance and respect cannot be taught; they have to be learned through experience and practised.

Knowing about human rights is important, but not enough in itself. It is necessary that young people have a far deeper understanding about how human rights evolve out of people's needs and why they have to be protected. For instance, young people with no direct experience of racial discrimination may think that the issue is of no concern to them. From a human rights perspective this position is not acceptable; people everywhere have a responsibility to protect the human rights of others.

Experience in itself is not enough to learn

In Compass we provide experiences through activities such as role plays and case studies to pose questions and present problems for the participants to wrestle with. However, experience in itself is not enough. To gain from an experience, it is important to reflect on what happened, draw conclusions and practise what you have learned: without reinforcement, the learning will be lost.

David Kolb's cycle of experiential learning

In 1984 David Kolb published Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. His theory suggests that there are four phases in the learning process.

All the activities in Compass are built on this model. There is some experience (a planned event / stimulus / activity such as a role play) followed by a debriefing (phase 2) and evaluation (phase 3). Each activity description includes suggestions for questions to guide the debriefing and discussion to help people reflect on what happened, how they felt about the experience and how the experience compares with what they already know and relates to the wider world. Finally people move on to phase 4, that of applying, of putting their learning into practice. In Compass we make suggestions for follow-up activities including how young people can put what they have learned into actions that benefit their community. It is important to understand that the four stages are essential parts of the whole learning process; people will not understand without reflection, and what is the use of learning if they do not put it to use? Just doing a Compass activity (phase 1) without the other phases is like committing a violation of human rights education!

Some people may be alarmed by these aspirations of social change and feel that promoting activism is going too far. They should not be. As human rights educators we aim to inspire young people to be concerned about human rights and to give them the tools to act when and where they feel that this is necessary.

At this point it is maybe necessary to clarify how we use the term "activity" in Compass. We use it both in the sense of the stimulus, method or event that takes place in phase 1 of the learning cycle and in the sense of the "whole activity", that is, to encompass all four stages of the learning cycle. In practice the context in which the term is used should make it clear whether we are talking about a method or the method together with debriefing and evaluation, taking action and follow-up stage.

The cycle of experiential learning

Image: The cycle of experimental learning


HRE has a very clear purpose: enabling learning about, for and through human rights. Although knowledge about human rights and competences for human rights are fully part of HRE, the learner, or the participant, is at its centre. What matters is not so much what the facilitator or teacher delivers or conveys, nor the contents ("Today we're going to learn about the death penalty"). It is the learner / participant who is at the centre because what they learn or make out of what is being taught or experienced is what really matters because in this way it is more relevant for the participant (or not relevant at all, which is also important to notice) and it is more likely to be given a practical meaning. Learner-centredness has many other assertions and consequences, including the openness from the side of the facilitator to adjust the content and level of the work to the participants' realities, something which in the Compass production process we labelled "start from where people are".

HRE, process and outcome

The key educational approaches used in Compass, co-operative learning, participation and learning through experience, are brought together in the activities and ensuing discussions and follow-up activities to create a process that:

  • starts from what people already know, their opinions and experiences, and from this base enables them to search for, and discover together, new ideas and experiences (learning about human rights)
  • encourages young people to participate and to contribute to discussions and to learn from each other as much as possible (learning through human rights)
  • supports people in translating their learning into simple but effective actions that demonstrate their rejection of injustice, inequality and violations of human rights (learning for human rights).

To be effective educators, HRE practitioners need to keep their eye on the goal: human rights literate young people, even if young people decide to remain inactive. In practice there is no distinction between HRE as a process and an outcome; through the activities they become a unified whole in which process and contents, method and results are interdependent, as in "there is no way to peace, peace is the way", attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.

Just as when we tried to list the features of a human rights culture, so we – the authors of the manual – also tried to list the knowledge, skills and attitudes of a human rights literate person. These competences then served as a basis for developing our objectives for the activities.

In general terms we describe the outcome of HRE in terms of knowledge and understanding, skills and attitudes:

  • Awareness and understanding of human rights issues, in order that people recognise violations of human rights: learning what human rights are, how they may be safeguarded in the country, what bodies are responsible for protecting them; which international instruments apply, what rights the participants / young people can claim (learning about human rights); 
  • Skills and abilities to fight for and defend your own and others' human rights such as awareness-raising, advocacy and campaigning, feeling able to contact the relevant authorities or the press (learning for human rights), and so on;
  • Attitudes of respect for human rights, so that people do not willingly violate the rights of others and that participants live according to human rights values; the so-called "horizontal dimension" of human rights that applies to the relations between people, and not only to the relations between people and state institutions (the so-called "vertical dimension"). These attitudes can reflect themselves in the family environment, among peers, at school or in their youth organisation or youth club (learning through and learning in human rights).

Competence-based objectives

General goal statements are useful, but to be effective human rights educators we need to be much more precise about our objectives and state clearly which competences we want the young people we work with to develop. We need to ask ourselves: What type of knowledge is necessary for young people to gain a deeper understanding of human rights issues? Which skills and attitudes will be required for them to help in the defence of human rights? The answers help us to describe our aims more precisely. The following attributes are those that have been identified during the process of producing Compass and in the practice of HRE with young people across Europe. They form the basis for the activities in the manual.

Knowledge and understanding

In practice there should be no distinction between HRE as a process and an outcome.

  • Key concepts such as: freedom, justice, equality, human dignity, non-discrimination, democracy, universality, rights, responsibilities, interdependence and solidarity;
  • The idea that human rights provide a framework for negotiating and agreeing modes of behaviour in the family, at school, in the community, and in the wider world;
  • The role of human rights and their past and future dimension in one's own life, in the life of communities, and in the lives of other people around the world;
  • The distinction and co-relations between civil / political and social / economic rights;
  • Local, national, international bodies, non-governmental organisations, individuals working to support and protect human rights;
  • Different ways of viewing and experiencing human rights in different societies, different groups within the same society, and the various sources of legitimacy – including religious, moral and legal sources;
  • Main social changes, historical events and reasons leading to the recognition of human rights;
  • The rights recognised in major international instruments that exist to implement the protection of human rights, such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR);
  • The human rights safeguarded in their national or state constitutions and laws and the bodies responsible for their monitoring at the national level.


  • Active listening and communication: being able to listen to different points of view, to advocate one's own rights and those of other people;
  • Critical thinking: finding relevant information, appraising evidence critically, being aware of preconceptions and biases, recognising forms of manipulation, and making decisions on the basis of reasoned judgement;
  • The ability to work co-operatively and to address conflict positively;
  • The ability to participate in and organise social groups;
  • The ability to recognise human rights violations;
  • Acting to promote and safeguard human rights both locally and globally.

Attitudes and values

  • A sense of responsibility for one's own actions, a commitment to personal development and social change;
  • Curiosity, an open mind and an appreciation of diversity;
  • Empathy and solidarity with others and a commitment to support those whose human rights are under threat;
  • A sense of human dignity, of self-worth and of others' worth, irrespective of social, cultural, linguistic or religious differences;
  • A sense of justice, the desire to work towards the ideals of universal human rights, equality and respect for diversity.

HRE and other educational fields

Almost every problem in the world today involves violations of human rights.

Human rights affect every aspect of our lives locally and globally. If we look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) we can see that almost every problem in the world today – poverty, pollution, climate change, economic inequality, AIDS, poor access to education, racism and wars – involves violations of human rights. 

It can be hard to say which of these injustices is more or less important than another. The perspective changes according to the place where you are and the status you have as a person. Indeed, they are interrelated to such an extent that addressing any one of them involves addressing one or more of the others. Human rights are indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and it is not possible to pick and choose which human rights to accept and respect.

These problems are not exclusively of interest to human rights educators; they are equally relevant to all those who are engaged in promoting a just and peaceful world where respect and equality are the norm. Whether people call their work, for example, development education, peace education, education for sustainability or citizenship education, we are all working with interdependent and interrelated issues and Compass has something to offer. Human rights is indeed varied and is present in more ways than we often think! Often, especially in youth work activities, we call on young people's sense of responsibility and dignity without necessarily calling it human rights education.

Citizenship education / Education for democratic citizenship

Education for democratic citizenship and human rights  education differ in focus and scope rather than in goals and practices

According to the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education, "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 curriculum for citizenship education includes topics about politics and government, the legal system, the media, multiculturalism and equal opportunities. Compass offers a wealth of relevant activities under the themes of "Democracy" and "Citizenship and Participation", "Media", "General Human Rights", "Discrimination and Intolerance" and "Gender".

These Compass themes are also useful to those governmental and non-governmental organisations delivering citizenship education to immigrants and refugees who need preparation to become legally and socially accepted citizens of a country. 

Personal and social education

Many countries have some form of education that considers the role of the individual in society and helps to prepare young people for the personal challenges that they will meet. This may overlap with citizenship issues but may also include aspects of the individual's life related to leisure – including sport, clubs and associations, music, art, or other forms of culture. Such education may also be concerned with personal relationships. Human rights enter into these questions in two central ways: firstly, because personal development and personal relations possess moral and social aspects that need to be guided by human rights values; secondly, because the right to take part in cultural and social life is recognised in the UDHR as well as in other international treaties. Even if the young people with whom you work are able to claim this right, there are young people around the globe who are not.

Compass contains several activities under the themes of "Participation" and "Culture and Sport" that are relevant to teachers of personal and social education.

Values education / Moral education

No-one should be criticised for teaching human rights values.

Values education is also a common part of the school curriculum in many countries, but it often gives rise to two fundamental concerns in people's minds: which values such education should aim to teach, and how to make sure that these values are not imposed on people, or are perceived as the values of the majority? Taking a human rights perspective is a valid, justifiable and fruitful means of addressing these problems because human rights are based on values that are common to every major religion and culture and are recognised by – but not necessarily practised in – almost every country in the world. The values underlying human rights are thus universal in nature, even if the way they are expressed may vary greatly from one society to another. Human rights are also the result of negotiations and consensus among governments from all over the world. Thus no-one should be criticised for teaching human rights values!

Global education

Global education practitioners recognise the importance of taking a holistic approach to the subject because they appreciate the interdependency of the social, economic, environmental, and political aspects of our world and affirm that as citizens of the world we have responsibilities towards our global community.

The Maastricht Global Education Declaration (2002)9 states that global education is education that opens people's eyes and minds to the realities of the globalised world and awakens them to bringing about a world of greater justice, equality and human rights for all. It encompasses development education, human rights education, education for sustainability, education for peace and conflict prevention and intercultural education.

Taking human rights as the starting point for their work on the social, economic, environmental and political aspects of our world enables global education practitioners to enrich their teaching.

By encouraging learners and educators to work co-operatively on global issues through innovative pedagogy, global education activities allow for the understanding of the complex realities and processes of today's world: they seek to develop values, attitudes, knowledge and skills that enable people to face, understand and tackle the challenges of a growing interconnected world, cultivating a spirit of "global responsibility of the citizens of the world".

In Compass there are numerous activities under the theme of "Globalisation" because many human rights issues have nowadays a very important global dimension. For instance, in the activity "Can I come in", participants have a simulated experience of being an asylum seeker.

Intercultural education

Intercultural education aims to develop understanding between cultures through exploring similarities and differences between cultures and peoples. Lack of intercultural understanding often leads to racial discrimination, intolerance, denigration and violence locally and globally. Sad illustrations of the problems that can arise from people's inability to respect and live with those of other cultures are the experiences of racism, discrimination and violence that can be found in all societies.
 The reasons for conflicts are never simple but unequal sharing of resources and unequal political and social rights are usually among the root causes from which intolerance and discrimination stem. Thus, a rights perspective is a logical approach for intercultural education practitioners to take, and they will find plenty in Compass and other Council of Europe publications to support their work.

The youth sector of the Council of Europe, especially through the European Youth Centres and the European Youth Foundation, has devoted much effort to the field of intercultural education. The All Different – All Equal campaign against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance was set up in 1995 to address the growth of racist hostility and intolerance towards minority groups10. The Education Pack All Different - All Equal produced for the campaign and which is the forerunner of Compass, has many useful activities which complement those in Compass on the theme on "Discrimination and Intolerance".

Anti-racist education

Anti-racist education aims to undo the legacy of centuries of racial attitudes and ideology and takes as its starting point the assertion that we live in a multicultural and democratic society, in which all citizens have a right to equality and justice. In other words, it takes a rights-based approach and has close links with intercultural education. 

Good starting points for practitioners of anti-racist education are the chapter and activities under the Compass theme of "Discrimination and Intolerance". If you are interested in using a peer education approach, then you will find more ideas in another Council of Europe publication, DOmino

In the Council of Europe human rights and education and action against anti-racism are brought together under the umbrella of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). ECRI's task is to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in greater Europe from the perspective of the protection of human rights. Its work is founded in the European Convention on Human Rights, its additional protocols and related case-law.

Development education

Human rights are an important dimension in development education.

The UDHR and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contain a number of Articles that are central to people's understanding of the right to development. For instance, the promotion of social progress and better standards of life, the right to non-discrimination, the right to participate in public affairs, the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to self determination. It also contains people's entitlement to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realised.

An actual right to development was proclaimed by the UN in 1986 in the "Declaration on the Right to Development", and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 41/128. The right to development, reaffirmed by the 1993 Vienna Declaration, is a group right held by peoples in common and, as such, is distinct from those rights that are held by individuals. 

Development education practitioners already recognise human rights as an important element of their work. However, they do not necessarily work from a rights perspective.  The traditional approach to development education is to explore the links between people living in the "developed" countries of the North with those of the "developing" South, and to understand the economic, social, political and environmental forces which shape people's lives. We suggest that starting from a human rights perspective will offer additional stimulus to the work.  A further advantage is that the activities we offer in Compass develop the skills, attitudes and values which enable people to work together to take action to bring about change, an important aim of development education. 

The Compass themes of "Work", "Poverty", "Health", "Globalisation" and "Environ-
" make the most obvious connections with development education.

Education for sustainable development / Environmental education

If we want to take a human rights perspective to environmental issues, one starting point could be Article 25 of the UDHR, namely the right to an adequate standard of living including adequate food, clothing and housing. Since the life of mankind is dependent on a healthy and sustainable environment, consideration for the human rights of people throughout the globe, and of future generations, brings environmental issues to the forefront. Today, some people even speak of the need for official recognition of a separate environmental human right.

The environment provides us with goods and services that maintain our lives and lifestyles. However, it has long been clear that we live on a finite planet and that mankind's actions are having grave consequences for the health of the environment and well-being of humanity. From this perspective, questions concerning further economic development need to be balanced against their cost to mankind and the natural world as a whole. Environmental education aims to bring these questions to public attention, and to encourage greater care and respect for the natural resources of the world.

Often related to environmental education, education for sustainable development also emphasises the need to take a holistic view on environmental and development issues. The term "sustainable development" has come into common usage since the Rio Earth summit in 1992; it means development that seeks to meet the needs of the present without compromising those of future generations. In other words, sustainability is about looking after the world and leaving it fit for future generations to live in. Thus, human rights values of justice and equality are at the core of the idea of sustainability.

Education for sustainable development, according to UNESCO, aims to help people to develop the attitudes, skills and knowledge to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others, now and in the future, and to act upon those decisions.

The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), for which UNESCO is the lead agency, seeks to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning, in order to address the social, economic, cultural and environmental problems we face in the 21st century.

There are very close links between education for sustainable development, development education, global education and HRE, especially with respect to developing the attitudes, skills and knowledge to make informed decisions for the benefit of ourselves and our planet, and to act upon those decisions. Apart from the themes mentioned above in relation to global and development education, Compass has a separate theme on the environment in which sustainability issues are explored from a human rights perspective.

Peace education

The conceptual core of peace education as practised in many schools and university programmes is violence, and its control, reduction, and elimination. Peace education finds a place in the curriculum of conflict resolution studies, multicultural education, development education, world order studies, and environmental education. Most often the approach is to respond to a particular set of problems that are perceived to be the causes of social injustice, conflict and war.

On the other hand, peace education that starts from a human rights perspective with its conceptual core of human dignity and universality can lead more easily to a deeper concept of peace, peace not only as in the sense of cessation of violence but in the sense of the restoration of relationships and the creation of social, economic and political systems most likely to produce long-term peaceful environments.

Peace education that starts from a human rights perspective can lead more easily to a deeper concept of peace.

Peace education recognises many different forms of violence. For instance, physical or behavioural violence, including war; structural violence, that is, the poverty and deprivation that results from unjust and inequitable social and economic structures; political violence of oppressive systems that enslave, intimidate, and abuse dissenters as well as the poor, powerless and marginalised; cultural violence, the devaluing and destruction of particular human identities and ways of life; and the violence of racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, colonial ideology, and other forms of moral exclusion that rationalise aggression, domination, inequity, and oppression.
Analysing all these forms of violence as violations of particular human rights standards provides a constructive way forward. The HRE methodology of critical thinking and experiential learning brings not only the element of concrete experience but also normative and descriptive dimensions. In Compass, the themes "Peace and Violence" and "War and Terrorism" provide plenty of material for practitioners.

FAQs about incorporating HRE in the work with young people

Regardless of whether you are a youth worker, a school teacher or a member of an NGO working with young people and regardless of whether or not you are already engaged in one of the forms of "education" just mentioned, human rights are relevant to your work. However, you may feel a little hesitant about doing HRE for any number of reasons. Here we present some frequently asked questions about human rights education and try to answer some of the worries people have about HRE and incorporating it into their work.

Question: Don't young people need to learn about responsibility, rather than rights?

Answer: Both rights and responsibility are at the core of human rights and this manual places emphasis on both rights and responsibilities. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They ….. should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood". Article 30 states, ".. [no] State, group or person [has] any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of the rights and freedoms set forth herein". The Compass activities are designed to show that no right can be used to abuse other people's rights and that everyone has a responsibility to respect the rights of others.

Question: Won't parents, school head teachers and community leaders oppose the teaching of human rights as political indoctrination which will incite rebellious behaviour?

Answer: Human rights education empowers children, young people and adults to participate fully in society and its development. It is important to distinguish between the development of participation competences and party politics. Human rights education through discussion and participation encourages young people to develop critical and enquiring minds and to make informed decisions and behave accordingly. In this respect, human rights education is also related to civic and political education and it also allows young people to make the connections between human rights, social issues, education and policies. As a result, it may happen that young people do engage in – or disengage from – local or national political parties as a result of their right to political participation and freedom of thought, association and expression. But that should remain their own choice.
It is also important to bear in mind that, in addition to the skills directly related to human rights learning, HRE as exemplified in Compass supports the development of social and communication skills, such as co-operation, group work, active listening and speaking.

Question: Isn't it the government's responsibility to ensure that people have the opportunity to learn about human rights?

Answer: Member countries of the United Nations have an obligation to promote human rights education in all forms of learning. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "(1) Everyone has the right to education […] and (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms".  The right to education and human rights education is also laid down in Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Despite this, many governments have done very little towards the promotion of human rights education and the incorporation of human rights in the curricula. Individual educators and non-governmental organisations can do a lot to encourage the development of human rights education through their own or collaborative efforts in schools and other educational programmes and also by lobbying and putting pressure on their governments to fulfil their obligations in this regard.

Question: What if there are no human rights violations in my country?

Answer: There is virtually no country in the world where all human rights of all people are always respected, although it is correct to say that in some countries human rights are more frequently and openly violated than in others.
However, human rights education is not only about violations. It is first of all about understanding human rights as a universal asset common to all human beings and about realising the need to protect them. In addition to this, no country can claim that there are no violations of rights. For example, virtually all the Council of Europe member states have been condemned for human rights violations by the European Court of Human Rights. One easy way to address reality is to look at the immediate social environment or community. Who is excluded? Who lives in poverty? Which children do not enjoy their rights? Another way is to look at how your government and companies operating from your country violate human rights in other countries, for instance, through arms sales to undemocratic regimes, trade agreements that exploit the actual producers, protectionist regulations and claims to property rights, patents on medicaments to stop the production of cheaper, generic drugs.


7 Eurostat figures for December 2009 – Eurostat newsrelease 16/2010 of 29 January 2010
8 See for example, Backman, E. & Trafford, B. (2006) Democratic governance of schools. Strasbourg: Council of Europe
9 Global Education Guidelines – Concepts and Methodologies on Global Education for Educators and Policy Makers, North-South Centre of the Council of Europe, 2008.
10 A second All Different – All Equal European Youth campaign for Diversity, Human Rights and Participation was run in 2007-2008.