2nd Quarterly, 2006 No.140

Report on the International Conference on Human Rights Education in Taiwan

Professor, Osaka University

The International Conference on Human Rights Education was held from 22-24 May at Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan, under the theme "Human Rights Education in a Diverse and Changing Asia." The conference was organized by IHREC (the International Human Rights Education Consortium) and Soochow University's Chang Fo-Chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights. It was attended by approximately 40 researchers and representatives from NGOs engaged in human rights education from Taiwan and other Asian countries.

The conference was the first that IHREC has organized in the region. IHREC was incorporated by the New York State Department of Education in January 2006 to create initiatives for human rights education. IHREC comprises of universities, NGOs, researchers and activists in the human rights education field.

The Chang Fo-Chuan Center, the other organizer, represents Taiwan's first human rights program. Because Professor Mab Huang, the Center's director, is an IHREC board member, it was decided that the conference would be held at Soochow University.

Soochow University students can take human rights as a minor subject. The school offers a basic course on human rights and elective human rights subjects in the schools of humanities, social sciences, law and technology. Local NGOs are involved in some lectures on human rights, and students are encouraged to undertake internships in these NGOs, especially in fields such as gender equality, labor issues, and the abolition of death penalty. The university also organizes series of lectures on human rights and a program each year for Human Rights Week. The school occasionally organizes international conferences on human rights issues in cooperation with local and international NGOs, and engages in human rights awareness-raising among its students. The school is currently planning the creation of a human rights masters program that will be open to teachers, public employees and NGO activists.

Taiwan was ruled by an authoritarian regime under martial law from 1949 to 1987. In the mid-80s, a social movement emerged advocating for consumer rights, the rights of children of other nationalities, women's rights and other such concerns. The implementation of human rights education later followed on the back of these social changes. In the 90s, researchers and NGOs in Taiwan started to advocate for human rights education in reference to UN human rights instruments and initiatives.

The 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was celebrated in 1998. This provided Taiwan with an opportunity to make a renewed start on its human rights education initiatives. The topic of human rights was added to the Nine-Year-Program for Education, which was developed by Taiwan's Ministry of Education, giving greater freedom to school authorities to exercise discretion with regard to human rights education and placing more importance on fostering each student's unique abilities. The topics of human rights, gender issues, the environment, domestic chores and career selection have been incorporated within the curriculum to make subjects more relevant to students' daily lives and to create links between different subjects.

However, these initiatives are facing a number of problems. The future of human rights education in Taiwan will depend on effective collaboration between the government, especially the Ministry of Education, and NGOs and researchers.

Due to the success of the international conference in May, IHREC is now planning a second regional conference in the Philippines in 2008. Given this, we must now make efforts ourselves to transmit information on the Buraku liberation movement and our own initiatives in the field of human rights education to the world.

| Back | Home |