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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) activities on human rights focus on

  • encouraging and disseminating human rights research;
  • promoting education in human rights;
  • fighting against all forms of discrimination;
  • encouraging cooperation and
  • promoting democracy.

Many of the UNESCO conventions, declarations and recommendations are closely related to human rights - making the rights of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights more specific, more concrete and better adapted to the challenges of modern society. Examples are the Convention against Discrimination in Education of 1960 and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights of 2005.

Since 1978, individuals may file complaints about violations of their human rights to UNESCO’s Committee on Conventions and Recommendations (CR), if the alleged human rights violations fall within the UNESCO mandate (education, science, culture and communication). In the unique CR procedure all cases are treated in strict confidentiality in order to establish a dialogue with the governments concerned towards a friendly solution on behalf of the alleged victims.

UNESCO has taken over a special responsibility for the implementation of the human right to education and the respect for human rights in education. Together with the OHCHR, the organization is responsible for the world programme on human rights education, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2004. Its first phase (2005-2009) focused on schools. The second phase (2010-2014) focuses on higher education and on human rights training programmes for teachers and educators, civil servants, law enforcement officials and military personnel at all levels.

Examples of UNESCO’s recent work on human rights:


In the early 1990ies, UNESCO has started its “chair programme”. There are several UNESCO chairs at African universities on the topic of human rights:

  • UNESCO Chair for teaching, research and human rights education, democracy and peace established in 1995 at the University of Oran-Es Senia (Algeria)
  • UNESCO Chair in Human rights and Democracy, established in 1995 at the Abomey-Calavi University (Benin)
  • UNESCO Chair in Education for Peace and conflicts resolution, established in 1999 at the National University of Burundi (Burundi)
  • UNESCO Chair in Culture of Peace, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance, established in 2000 at the University of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • UNESCO Chair in Human Rights, established in 2002 at the American University in Cairo (Egypt)
  • UNESCO Chair in Education for Human Rights and Democracy, established in 1994 at Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia)
  • UNESCO Chair for the Promotion of Culture of peace and Human Rights, established in 2000 at the University of Mali (Mali)
  • UNESCO Chair in Culture of Peace, established in 1999 at Mohammed 1st University (Morocco)
  • UNESCO Chair on Women’s rights, established in 1999 at Mohamed V Souissi University (Morocco)
  • UNESCO Chair for Teaching, Training, and Research in the field of Human Rights, established in 1996 at Mohammed V University (Morocco)
  • UNESCO-UTRECHT Chair on Democracy and Human Rights, established in 1994 at the University of Namibia within the framework of the UTRECHT/UNITWIN Network for Southern Africa (Namibia)
  • UNESCO "Oliver Tambo" Chair of Human Rights, established in 1996 at the University of Fort Hare (South Africa)
  • Herbert Chitepo UNESCO Chair on Human Rights, Democracy, Peace and Governance, established in 1998 at the University of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)

More information can be found on the UNESCO website.

Last change: 29.11.11 - 14:59