“Youth for Human Rights” – Erasmus+ National Agencies and their partners join forces
by Maari Põim
This article sheds some light on the background and reasons for taking up a new initiative “Youth for Human Rights” by altogether 8 Erasmus+ National Agencies partners which focuses on human rights education in the context of field of youth.
When I first heard the notion “human rights education” (HRE) – not that long time ago, at all! – I found myself rather astonished that this had in fact never crossed my path before. Why had I not figured out that there is a roof term for all of these issues that I have been invested in? After working for almost a decade for the equality of rights of various groups in the society – student rights, women’s rights, girls rights, migrant and asylum seekers’ rights, LGBT issues – having mostly been employed by various nongovernmental organisations and universities, I would have expected a little bit more from my own expertise when it comes to terminology.
This is in fact quite precisely what the project “Youth for Human Rights” is about in terms of increasing overall understanding and knowledge on HRE and contributing to making HRE and the best practices in HRE in the field of youth visible, as well as to supporting actors in the field so that there would be more HRE in practice. When linking HRE to the field of youth, one needs to first take into consideration that youth work is based on non-formal and informal education, and youth work should be based on and stem from a culture of human rights. HRE is a way to foster a culture of human rights in youth and has a huge potential and pivotal role is building up a social change towards a more equal society.
The aim of the project “Youth for Human Rights” is to foster social inclusion through making use of the full potential of youth work and of human HRE in the context of youth work and young people’s non-formal learning. We use the definition of Human rights education set out in the Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education (Council of Europe 2010). We firmly believe that reference to international human rights instruments can provide young people with a framework for their understanding of complex societal issues. Human rights education in youth work and non-formal learning can help in clarifying rights and responsibilities, enabling young people to feel confident in applying principles of fairness and mutual respect.
However, when it comes to the everyday practice of non-formal education, especially in the field of youth today in Europe, the existing abundance of practices, approaches and initiatives taken up in the name of, or, as HRE tend to be rather scattered and rarely strategized, despite the efforts of several stakeholders for common coordination. Although most HRE in Europe now circles around the Compass manual and HRE programme of the Council of Europe, and there are also several existing networks and thematical joint initiatives – when it comes to national, regional and local level activities, one might come across more scattered picture where sometimes, actors in the field of youth are not comfortable with even mentioning the term human rights.
However, these are crucial realities and points that need to be taken into account and serious consideration when designing overarching HRE programmes which would also work in the national, regional and local level. Amongst the circle of project partners contributing to the project “Youth for Human Rights”, this HRE initiative is seen as a way to contribute to connecting together multiple, sometimes disconnected practices, initiatives, concepts and approaches to HRE.
To be able to mainstream HRE in the field of youth, to have an impact at European policy level and further develop and ensure the implementation of the current initiatives of the European Union and the Council of Europe in the field of Human Rights, the project aims to make sense of already existing abundance of HRE resources and educational concepts/modules, and benefit from the exchange of HRE actors and networks to develop meaningful and efficient educational modules with a multipliers’ effect.