The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally challenged our world. It has fostered acts of solidarity and a common sense of humanity, and simultaneously led to a frightening rise in human rights violations, including discrimination, racism and hate speech.
With 1.8 billion youth globally affected by the pandemic, there is a pressing need to ensure that human rights education builds more equal, sustainable, inclusive societies and economies that are resilient in the face of crisis, so that all countries can build back better. Equally, there is a need to move away from the stereotypical notions of young people as mere beneficiaries and see them as the “actors of change” they are. Engaging, supporting and working with young people towards a just, equitable and peaceful future is of the utmost importance.
Human rights education for youth, in both formal and non-formal settings, promotes a shared sense of humanity and fosters a common understanding that all human beings are equally deserving of dignity, respect and justice. It empowers youth to fulfil their role as active citizens, to take action and uphold their human rights and those of others, and to participate meaningfully in public affairs and democratic decisionmaking processes.
In recognition of this, the United Nations Member States launched the fourth phase (2020–2024) of the World Programme for Human Rights Education to advance human rights education programming for youth at the national level. This focus also contributes to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Goal 4 on Education and target 4.7, which touches upon the aims of education.
In adopting the Plan of Action for the fourth phase, Member States have committed to engage youth and youth-led and youth-focused organizations as key partners at all stages. Young people must be the architects of human rights education efforts for their peers, within an enabling environment that supports their participation and leadership. And, in the spirit of leaving no one behind, human rights education policies and programmes must prioritize young people in situations of exclusion or vulnerability.
The United Nations Youth Strategy, Youth 2030: working with and for young people, commits the United Nations to increase its efforts to promote human rights education for youth, as well as global citizenship and education for sustainable development, with a view to foster civic awareness and participation, volunteerism and a culture of peace and non-violence among young people. Our organizations are committed to strengthening our work and assisting Member States in all their efforts towards achieving these goals.