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The “Our Rights” project - human rights education

The empowerment of children, notably through education about their rights and guaranteed access to justice, remains a key priority of Slovenian foreign policy in the area of human rights.

Since 2005, with the Our Rights project and teaching materials, Slovenia has enabled education on children’s rights for more than 200,000 children in 26 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.

Thus far, the teaching material is available in 22 languages: Albanian, Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Croatian, Dutch, English, French, Georgian, German, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Portuguese, Romanian, Romani, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish, Turkish and Ukrainian.

Education about universal human rights enhances understanding of the diversity of human society, including religious, ethnic, cultural and national minority aspects. Inter-cultural and inter-faith respect should be promoted in conjunction with this type of education. Learning about human rights and respect for others helps us build societies that value tolerance, respect and non-discrimination. Joint and proactive engagement by states and non-governmental and international organisations on human rights education can help further advance universal values and respect for human rights.

It is essential to enable young people, particularly children, who are still developing their identities, to learn about human rights, i.e. their rights and respecting the rights of others. Human rights education and training is a lifelong process. If effective, it can prevent human rights violations by promoting a culture of peace, non-discrimination and tolerance anchored in respect for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. And this is what the project seeks to achieve.

The launch of the project Our Rights coincided with the launch of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 2004 with the aim of promoting a common understanding of basic principles and methodologies of human rights education, providing a concrete framework for action and strengthening partnerships and cooperation from the international level down to the grass roots.

Experience with the “Our rights” project

During its OSCE Chairmanship in 2005, Slovenia launched a pilot project on human rights education entitled 'Our Rights' , based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Slovenian experts designed, initiated and led the realisation of the pilot project, which involved a number of OSCE participating states, NGOs, individual experts, human rights ombudsman’s offices, local offices of international organisations and other stakeholders. The OSCE participating states showed great interest, so the Slovenian teaching tool was translated into 17 languages. The project was carried out for 66,000 children in Albania, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Ireland, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. It also involved children from minority groups, including Roma children in several countries in South-Eastern Europe. The Expert Assessment of the OSCE Pilot Project clearly shows that it has helped raise awareness of the significance of teaching and learning about human and children’s rights in all OSCE participating states. 
Kosovo, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Russian Federation (North Ossetia-Alania) continued the project independently from 2006 to 2008. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 children participated. After a few years of independently implementing the project, partners in post-conflict areas asked for further expert assistance, especially in the form of teaching materials and training courses for teachers. Following the success of the pilot project, human rights education was integrated into Kosovo’s school curricula, which is a great strategic step forward in children’s education.
In preparation for the Slovenian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 2009 – which coincided with the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Council of Europe – Slovenia decided to offer further support to its partners in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and North Ossetia-Alania (Russian Federation) in continuing the project. The project was launched in all three places in September 2009 for 52,000 children, namely the entire generation of 12-year-old pupils in Kosovo, children of the three main national communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the entire generation of 11- and 12 year-olds in North Ossetia-Alania. This was Slovenia’s concrete contribution to the development of these areas, especially to promoting respect for values and tolerance through children’s rights education.
In 2010, the project was continued in North Ossetia-Alania (Russian Federation), including a further 15,000 children, the entire generation of 10–12-year-olds. In autumn 2010, 16 children from the Gaza Strip who were undergoing medical rehabilitation at the Soča University Rehabilitation Institute provided by the ITF Enhancing Human Security under the auspices of the Slovenian president participated in the project on a trial basis. In Kosovo, the project was certified in 2010 by the Ministry of Education.

Since 2012, it has been implemented primarily in the context of international development cooperation projects funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is carried out by Slovenian non-governmental organisations working with local partners. In 2012, the project was implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Moldova, and in three republics of the Russian Federation (North Ossetia-Alania, Chechnya and Ingushetia), and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Moldova and North Ossetia (Russian Federation) in 2013 and 2014.

In 2014 and 2015, the project was implemented in Jordan. Since 2015, it is also being carried out in Morocco and Egypt. In Jordan, it was aimed at increasing the role of education professionals in the empowerment of children, the promotion of children’s rights, and enhancing respect for, and the implementation of, children’s rights. In Morocco, the project is focused on promoting the empowerment of children and adolescents by making local schools aware of their role as protectors in children’s lives, by developing civic education and educating about human rights. In Egypt, the project is focused on increasing the role of education professionals and group home employees as regards the empowerment of children and education about children’s rights.

In Moldova, the project was launched in 2014 and will conclude in 2016. It aims to improve the psychosocial well-being of children, reduce dropout rates and alleviate the effects of poverty on children in Calarasi District. These objectives will be achieved by building capacity of local experts, schools and education professionals through training courses and workshops on the empowerment of children. The project also includes training courses on the Our Rights project.

In 2014, the project was presented in Brazil as part of the project Future at Stake: For Human Rights, for Children, for the Future, which was jointly conducted by the local EU Delegation and Brazil. In the year of the 20th FIFA World Cup, state school pupils in low-income satellite towns of the Brazilian capital were educated about human rights and the fight against all forms of discrimination through various activities and sports. The same year, the project was also presented in Argentina on the occasion of the Slovenian national football team’s away match.

In addition, in cooperation with the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), a German version of Our Rights flashcards intended for instruction in Austrian schools were presented in Vienna at a teacher-training seminar. UNIS will continue to promote the project at various opportunities. 

In 2015, in Georgia, the Visegrad Group, with Slovakia at the forefront and in collaboration with local partners, organised a similar project on the basis of the Our Rights materials in the Georgian language. The project is being implemented for 3000 children in Tbilisi and also includes refugee children from Abkhazia enrolled in Georgian schools in the border area.

In spring 2016, on the basis of the experience gained during the Our Rights project, a worksheet entitled Children-Refugees was drawn up for children in the Slovenian education system as an additional tool for raising awareness of the universal rights of child refugees under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. By providing education on the rights of the child, schools make an important contribution to creating an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance and inclusion of children from abroad, as nobody should be left out. The worksheet was published in 40,000 copies by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in agreement with the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, and has been used during class meetings in primary schools.

In cooperation with the non-governmental organisation BBA in India, which was founded by the 2014 Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Our Rights was implemented as a pilot project for 1000 children in New Delhi in the summer of 2016. In August 2016, it was presented to a group of children from Ukraine (more specifically, from Donbass and Luhansk) participating in the rehabilitation programme in Debeli Rtič in Slovenia in the framework of development assistance programmes implemented by ITF.  Within an ITF project, the Our Rights materials are also being tried out in the psycho-social rehabilitation of the children in the Gaza Strip. In the 2016/2017 school year, the Our Rights project is being implemented in Kosovo for over 4600 children.

In February 2017, Slovenia presented the Our Rights project at the Multicultural Festival in Canberra, Australia. The team at the Slovenian stall organised an interactive workshop where children were invited to express in drawing their understanding of particular rights of the child, and numerous adults wrote down their thoughts on children's rights.

In the 2017–2019 period, the Our Rights project will again be carried out in Morocco, in the areas of Al Hoceima and Tangier, as part of education for children's rights. The project will focus on the empowerment of children, and include teachers and parents in the training course aimed at fostering the culture of respect for human and children's rights and active citizenship. In the 2017/18 school year, the Our Rights project is being implemented again in Kosovo, in the area of Skenderaj, with several thousand children participating.

In Gaza (Palestine), where the Our Rights material has been used for the requirements of the ITF psychosocial programme since 2015, which will continue in the 2017/18 school year, more than 700 children took part in the project. The teachers assess that, with certain adaptations, efforts to empower the younger generation on the topic of human rights need to be continued through Our Rights workshops, despite the harsh conditions in Gaza, which prevent most children from exercising their basic rights.

Experience with the Our Rights project shows that different environments present both great opportunities and exhibit pressing needs in this regard. We believe that such projects and other efforts by international organisations, NGOs and government institutions are extremely valuable. Children in every environment must be given an opportunity to learn about human rights and be guaranteed their own rights.