Compass has become a reference manual for many people involved in value-based youth work and non-formal education. It is currently available in more than 30 languages, ranging from Arabic and Japanese to Icelandic and Basque. In some countries it has become part  of the  resources for   rights education in schools and in some  others it is not possible to use it in schools. The adventures of Compass across Europe often mirror the contrasted reality of human rights education: promoted here and combated there, praised by some and despised by others.

The success of Compass has been followed by that of its younger sibling, Compasito – the manual for human rights education with children. Both publications support the implementation of the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.

Compass and its publication in various language versions has been the medium through which human rights education has been brought onto the agenda of youth work and into the curricula of many schools. National networks for human rights education have been created in several countries where they reinforce the work done by human rights organisations and educational professionals in making the right to human rights education a reality for more children and young people across Europe. The forum on human rights education with young people, Living, Learning, Acting for Human Rights, held in Budapest n 2009, stressed the importance of human rights education today[i]:

Human rights cannot be defended and promoted by legal instruments alone. Human rights education – learning about, learning through and learning for human rights – is essential to make sure that they are understood, upheld and promoted by everyone.

The work undertaken by and for young people through Compass – a manual for human rights education with young people, clearly shows that the Council of Europe can rely on the generosity, passion and competence of young people to make human rights education a reality for many other young people.  […] The experiences from youth work and non-formal learning have been successfully placed at the service of human rights education projects for all, including the complementarity of formal and non-formal learning.

Human rights education cannot be the responsibility of NGOs and youth organisations alone. Neither can it be carried out solely by volunteers. States have a major responsibility to implement human rights education. It needs to be embraced, supported and sustained by them in ways that foresee a role for the formal and non-formal education sectors.

For many occasional practitioners of human rights education, Compass has become a synonym for human rights education. However, human rights education is much more than Compass. Compass indicates routes and suggests ways of experiencing human rights education, but it leaves the choice of route and the method to the facilitator and ultimately to the learners.

Compass is not a human right; human rights education is.

Ensuring Compass is relevant for the second decade of the 21st century

In the first ten years of its life, Compass was confronted with a rapid development of issues and challenges to human rights and human rights education. Among these were the acceleration of the globalisation processes, an increase in terrorism and the response of a global war on terrorism, the global financial crisis, the effects of human-induced climate change, the various flower revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and several Arab countries, the expansion of the Internet, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Fukushima, and more. Compass was now desperately pointing from one crisis to another, and was also outdated in some areas. As a result, a revised and updated version - the 2012 edition - was published.

Our primary concern was to make Compass 2012 relevant for the second decade of the 21st century. We took into account the evaluations of users – online and off-line – and also the “acceleration of history”; not all that had been important in 2002 was still equally important ten years later and many other issues were gaining prominence. The resulting 2012 edition of Compass was a development out of what had gone before, a mixture of the old and the new. Readers and human rights practitioners found information and activities that embraced current concerns and that discussion of controversial issues was still foreseen, learner-centredness was still there and taking action still expected.

What's different in this reprint?

In this 2015 reprint you will find chapters 1-4 exactly as they are in the 2012 edition. What is different is that the extensive background information of chapter 5 is missing. This is not to imply that the background information is unimportant; it is indeed very important! The detailed information about the nineteen themes is available online at where it can more easily be kept updated. In this 2015 reprint you will find a shorter chapter 5 containing summaries of the themes and an invitation to help keep the background material up to date and relevant through providing feedback.

Our intention is that this 2015 reprint will fulfil practitioners' needs for a hands-on manual for human rights education that is sufficient and practical. Having the background information on the Council of Europe website ensures that the information can be kept up to date. Furthermore, by not printing the 160 pages of background information we have produced a manual that is lighter in weight, cheaper and helps protect the environment by saving on paper.

The core values and approaches underlying Compass remain fully valid. Compass should be:

Sufficient: Users will find everything they need to introduce and explore human rights education with young people.

Ready to use: The proposed activities do not require additional resources or lengthy preparation.

Up-to-date with young people: The activities and human rights issues are easy to connect to the concerns and points of view of adolescents and young adults.

Practical and experiential: All the activities include suggestions for putting what has been learned into action, thus involving the participants in more than simply cognitive processes.

Suitable for formal and non-formal education: Although the activities have been developed for non-formal educational settings almost all can be run in school classrooms with some adaptation, for instance in relation to duration.

Adaptable: All the activities can be adapted to the context, group and society in which they are “played”. Suggestions for variations help the facilitator to create their own adaptations.

A starting point: Interested facilitators and educators will find plenty of suggestions and resources for going deeper into specific issues or learning more about human rights.

Generic and holistic: Compass can be used for any human rights issue and any level of learner knowledge. It is based on an inclusive and holistic approach to learning that integrates values, attitudes, skills and knowledge.

Get started!

Compass is written for everybody with an interest in human rights who wishes to engage in HRE. First-time users of Compass should know that we have made no assumptions about prior knowledge about human rights and human rights education nor about the themes we have chosen to work with. Neither have we made any assumptions about people's prior experience of teaching or leading activities. Extensive support is given on how to run the activities and on how to adapt and develop them according to the needs of the learners and the practical circumstances. There is a special section on tips for teachers. For some, 'taking action' may at first sight be problematical which is why we deal extensively with the concept and explain its role in the educational process in chapter 3.

Compass is a resource of information, tools and tips for HRE. Consequently it can be used in many different ways and there is no particular starting point. However, we suggest you begin by looking at the table of contents on the previous pages, dip into the manual and familiarise yourself with its general structure and content. Many people are initially most interested in the activities. This is fine, but we do recommend that you at least read chapter 1.3, 'Using Compass for Human Rights Education' before running any of the activities.

We hope you enjoy using this 2015 edition of Compass. Let us know if we have succeeded in giving you the information and tools you need, and help us to improve through posting your feedback at

[i] Message of the forum participants, in Living, Learning, Acting for Human Rights, report by Gavan Titley, Council of Europe 2010.