A Conceptual Historical Analysis of Human Rights Education

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The Formalization of Human Rights Education (1948-1994)

This section and section 3.3.4 will draw heavily on international provisions and recommendations to analyse the definitional structure of HRE. Direct references to declarations, covenants and conventions will be made to illustrate the salient features of the concept of HRE. In addition renditions on HRE within reputable texts will be employed to develop further analytical points.
The period between 1948 and 1994 witnessed a number of defining events in relation to the development of HRE. First, the concept of HRE became formalised as a linguistic expression with particular reference points in a number of important international human rights instruments as opposed to the ‘loose’ educational configurations preceding it.
Second, some of its articulations were captured as legally binding imperatives on nation states. Third, the United Nations, especially through the work of UNESCO, began structuring HRE as a pedagogical formation in its own right. Fourth, the development of the concept of HRE took place in the context of the aftermath of the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War. Fifth, HRE spectated on the paradigm debates in the methodology of the sciences and the subsequent paradigm and policy shifts in the social sciences and education. Sixth, apart from massive and systemic human rights violations, HRE also observed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain; the phenomenon of emerging democracies; the beginning and end of formal Apartheid in South Africa; the inequitable tendencies of globalisation; a number of unjustifiable wars; and the entrenchment of global inequality and poverty, and so on. More than ninety percent of the more than ninety-two international and regional formulations of HRE as a human right (UN: 1999) were constructed during this period.
These formulations were to a large extent also inhabited by an emerging definitional structure for HRE, which, for many HRE practitioners, represents a distinct category of pedagogical activities that warrants serious consideration and deserves elevated standing within education circles. Establishing the legitimacy and currency of HRE has been a central preoccupation for those who either genuinely believe in the pedagogical value of HRE and those who view the field as a wealth-generating space; an economic and entrepreneurial endeavour; and a mechanism for ideological, cultural, political and economic expediency.

The Proliferation of HRE (1995)

Since 1995 the framework for HRE has been embodied in the proclamation of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (UNDHRE), 1995-2004 (UN General Assembly: Res. 49/184). This framework and guidelines (1997: GA/A/52/469/Add1) include recommendations on definitional issues relating to HRE; principles of HRE; and refer to (article 16 [I]) pedagogies that include “critical analysis” and the “participatory method”. However, the guidelines (article 10 and 16 [f]) reaffirm the tendency to constrain HRE to human rights provisions and direct HRE to analyse human rights problems in congruence with “human rights standards” as is evident in the following passages from the international plan of action for UNDHRE.


This chapter dealt with the historical conceptual development and analysis of HRE with reference to a number of related educational formulations. These formulations and the relationships among them have not been explored to the fullest. The purpose of this chapter was solely aimed at tracing the roots of HRE and to consider and reflect upon its changing definitional and conceptual frameworks. The precursors to HRE and its foundations vary from region to region and though it started off as a multitude of forms, one particular formulation certainly gained hegemonic status through the structures and processes of the United Nations. There is within the current WPHRE a clear definitional structure that is undoubtedly declarationist and uncritical and also acts as the benchmark for other related educational activities.
This chapter also relates to section 2.4 of the research process presented in Chapter 2 which relate to the literature review and conceptual historical analysis. The literature that has been consulted provided the necessary data for this phase of the study and the object of the descriptive, comparative and interpretive analysis referred to in section 2.5.
Though these strategies, within the ambit of conceptual historical analysis, have been useful to explore the historical trajectory of the concept of HRE, much more needs to be done to complete the cycle of concept analysis. Educational formulations were presented in this chapter which require further analysis as intrinsic to a concept analysis of HRE. This will be done in later chapters.
The next chapter sets off the process of conceptual mapping for HRE which is taken further in all of the ensuing chapters. Conceptual mapping is a method of presenting various conceptual frameworks and narratives on a social space as a way of elucidating the meaning-making influences of meta- and mini-narratives on the concept of HRE. A concept analysis of HRE must be informed by the denotations of HRE that are carried by and employed within the definitional structures of the narratives and paradigms.


Chapter 1: General Orientation
Chapter 2: Research Design and Methodology
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Analytical Research
2.3 Concept Analysis and Development
2.4 Literature Review/ Conceptual Historical Analysis
2.5 Descriptive, Comparative and Interpretive Analysis
2.6 Conceptual Cartography
2.7 Research Process
2.8 Validity and Reliability
2.9 Conceptual Framework
Chapter 3: A Conceptual Historical Analysis of Human Rights Education
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Human Rights Standards Generation and Human Rights Education
3.3 The Development of Human Rights Education
3.4 Conclusion
Chapter 4: A Conceptual Cartography of Human Rights Education: Paradigms and Philosophical Orientations
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Knowledge and Interest
4.3 Positivism: The Empirical-Analytical Framework
4.4 Interpretivism: The Historical-Hermeneutical Framework
4.5 Critical Theory
4.6 Postmodernism
4.7 General Paradigmatic Implications for Human Rights Education
4.8 Conclusion
Chapter 5: A Conceptual Cartography of Human Rights Education: Discourses and Narratives
5.1 Introduction
5.2 The Natural Law and Natural Rights Discourse
5.3 Legal Positivism and the Utilitarian Discourse
5.4 Dworkin’s Liberal Narrative
5.5 The Critical Legal Studies Discourse
5.6 The Postmodern and Postcolonial Legal Narrative
5.7 The International Law Narrative
5.8 The Political Narrative
5.9 The Justification of Human Rights
5.10 Conclusion
Chapter 6: Human Rights Education: Conceptual Eclecticism, Definitional Issues And Typological Considerations
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Definitional Trends and Conceptual Historical Shifts
6.3 Conceptual Mapping and the Meanings of Human Rights Education
6.4 A Typology of Human Rights Education and Associated Forms
6.5 Models and Approaches to HRE
Chapter 7: Alternative Conceptual Possibilities, Further Implications and Conclusion
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Alternative Conceptual Principles for Human Rights Education
7.3 HRE: A Critical Postmodern Pedagogy
7.4 Further Implications and Conclusion


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