Re-examining the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Dr Ben Cislaghi, new member of the SaME group and Lecturer in Social Norms, is part of a team of researchers that contributed to a report on human rights by the Global Citizenship Commission of the United Nations. 

This major new report sets out ways to ensure the sustainability of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Dr Cislaghi and the team of researchers contributed to another of the report’s key recommendations: ‘all governments, international organisations and NGOs should encourage and support human rights education.’

I am very pleased to see that our work has been integrated within the report presented to the UN Secretary General. There is increasing evidence that Transformative Human Rights Education can help people identify and change together social practices that are harmful to themselves and others such as corporal punishment, child marriage, reckless driving, or female genital cutting. Our work builds on that evidence and on existing studies, uncovering how it works in the field. – Dr Ben Cislaghi

Drafted in 1948, the UDHR was endorsed and adopted by most member states of the United Nations and set out fundamental human rights to be universally protected. The Commission, led by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has announced a number of proposals to make certain the UDHR remains relevant and inspirational in order to protect people’s human rights across the globe.

These include establishing an international children’s court and permanent members of the UN Security Council voluntarily suspending their veto in situations involving mass atrocities.

The education approach of Transformative Human Rights Education uses human rights to engage adults and children in democratic discussions about problems that matter to them, and to help them identify the culturally-appropriate socio-political solutions. In particular we looked at how this has successfully worked in India, Senegal and Bogota, through school activities, non-formal classes with illiterate children and adults living in rural villages, and urban awareness raising campaigns respectively. – Dr Ben Cislaghi

Dr Cislaghi emphasised that these and similar practical tools can have great success in improving people’s quality of life and should be integrated more widely within existing multi-sectorial interventions that address the prevention of harmful behaviours.

We need more examples of similar innovative culturally-sensitive solutions to seemingly intractable problems, including how to help people collaborate and change harmful social norms and practice. – Dr Ben Cislaghi

Image credit: Gerry Mackie, UCSD

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