The first conference on human rights education in the Baltic states took place in Riga on 27 November 2015. The conference was organized by the non-governmental organization Baltic Human Rights Society in cooperation with Riga Graduate School of Law and with the support of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Latvia. The conference was the first of its kind in the Baltics, which brought together representatives from the state, non-governmental and academic sectors with the aim to raise awareness about the importance of human rights education in the protection of human rights and to promote the cooperation between those different stakeholders in the Baltic region.
In order to emphasise the role of the state sector in human rights education, the conference opening speech was delivered by the Minister of Education of Latvia Ms Mārīte Seile. The Minister noted that education is crucial not only in developing a strong legal basis for human rights protection, but also in enabling individuals to think about and recognize human rights, and to understand what difference human rights make in their daily lives.
The keynote speech was delivered by Dr Reinhild Otte, Former Chair of the Council of Europe Ad-hoc Advisory Group on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights. Ms Otte emphasized the growing importance of human rights education in changing environment and prevention of radicalisation and extremism. She also highlighted the crucial role of different stakeholders in human rights education and their cooperation through partnerships and networking in regional, european and global levels.
Discussing the importance of human rights education, the rector of Riga Graduate School of Law Mr George Ulrich outlined that human rights education must be oriented towards diverse target groups and the wider society. He also emphasised the necessity to contemplate innovative teaching methods. In this regard, also the judge of the Latvian Constitutional Court Ms Ineta Ziemele stressed that human rights education cannot be attributed only to lawyers, but the opportunities to provide such education to the public sector employees as well as journalists must be actively sought. Ms Eva Pastrana, a representative of the Council of Europe, introduced the audience with the ‘HELP in the 28’ programme, which provides training and online study materials to the legal professionals.
Public sector representatives from all three Baltic countries shared their experiences on the value of human rights education from the perspective of their respective positions. The representatives jointly emphasised that educating both the wider society and the public sector employees is pivotal in diminishing human rights violations. Representative of the Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia before International Human Rights Organisations Ms Kristīne Līce explained how education allows recognising the risk of violation, helps preventing it as well as enables generalising conclusions for a more successful application of human rights in the future cases.
Non-governmental sector representatives from the Baltic and international non-governmental organisations were invited to introduce the audience with their projects and their views on human rights education. They particularly noted that a joint strategy and thus sustainable development in the area of human rights education is possible to achieve only in cooperation with the State sector.
This regional conference can be considered as the first important step towards a better understanding of the role of human rights education and strengthening of the cooperation in this as regard. It is expected that the conference will serve as an encouragement the future initiatives from both the State and the non-governmental sectors.
The conference was organised under the auspices of a multiple stage human rights education programme launched in the three Baltic countries. The programme is financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Nordic Council of Ministers Nordplus programme, and has received patronage of the UNESCO Latvian National Commission.
Please find the conference concept note, programme and materials here:
- Concept note and Programme
- Education for Human Rights and Education - European Experience in a Global Context, Dr. Reinhild Otte
- Taking a strategic approach to HRE, Cecilia Decara
- Estonian and non-governmental perspective, Kelly Grossthal
- Stock-taking and expectations: NGO perspective, Jurate Guzeviciute
- The importance of education in Human Rights Protection, Eva Pastrana