The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, has designated the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria (South Africa) as the laureate of this year’s UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education. The Centre for Human Rights receives the prize in recognition of its outstanding contribution to the cause of human rights in South Africa and to the advancement of a human rights culture by means of education and training of professionals in South Africa, other countries on the continent and beyond. In 2006, the Centre celebrates its 20th anniversary. When it was created, during apartheid, the Centre contributed to the adaptation of a Bill of Rights. Later, it participated in the Constitution-building process. The Centre then broadened its activities in human rights education and training in South Africa and other African countries.
The two flagship programmes of the Centre are the Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa, established in 2000, and the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, launched in 1992. The Master’s Degree in Human Rights – an intensive one-year course – is a joint project of the Centre with seven other African universities. It is the only course of this kind in Africa. The Centre’s African Human Rights Moot Court Competition gives African lawyers the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its implementation. The Moot Court Competition has so far brought together 708 teams from 111 universities representing 43 African countries.
The Centre for Human Rights was chosen on the recommendation of the international jury that met in Paris on 9 and 10 October. Two Honourable Mentions were also awarded.
One is given to the European Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation (E.MA) of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC). E.MA., established in 1997 in Venice, Italy, is run by EIUC, which brings together 39 universities from 25 European countries. The inter-European one-year intensive postgraduate programme in human rights and democracy has so far provided high-level education for 750 graduates. It aims to satisfy the need for competent human rights practitioners through the application of a multidisciplinary educational concept. Graduates include citizens of European Union countries, as well as specialists from other regions. The success of E.MA has served as an example for the creation of similar programmes elsewhere.
The other Honourable Mention goes to the One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival of the Czech Republic. Organized every year since 1999 by the NGO People in Need, the Festival attracted more than 40,000 spectators in 13 Czech cities in 2006. The Festival is an international competition of documentary films, notably educational films for primary and high schools. Workshops, debates, concerts and photographic exhibitions are organized on the fringe of the Festival. The powerful vector of the cinema is thus used to promote human rights and to inculcate respect for human dignity for all without discrimination.
Awarded every two years, the US$ 10,000 UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education, was established in 1978, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It honours institutions, organizations or individuals that have made a particularly significant contribution to human rights education. The laureate is named on December 10, Human Rights Day. The laureate also receives a bronze trophy created by Japanese artist Toshimi Ishii.
Recent laureates include the city of Nuremberg (Germany) in 2000; the Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos (Mexico) in 2002; and legal expert Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand) in 2004.
The Jury considered 49 candidates from 37 countries. Its members were: Abdelfattah Amor (Tunisia), member and Vice-Chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Committee; Kinhide Mushakoji (Japan), Director of the Chubu Institute of Advance Studies, Department of International Relations, University of Chubu; Nasila S. Rembe (South Africa), holder of the UNESCO Oliver Tambo Human Rights Chair at Fort Hare University (Alice); Dina Rodriguez Montero (Peru), Director of the Gender and Peace Studies Department at the United Nations University for Peace (Costa Rica); Rumen Valchev (Bulgaria), holder of the UNESCO Chair for Human Rights and the Culture of Peace at Bourgas Free University (Bulgaria); and Antoine Valéry (France), President of the Committee on Human Rights and Ethical Issues of the French National Commission for UNESCO.
The award ceremony for the Prize will take place in South Africa in 2007.