UNESCO Bangkok - Standing up for human rights in Asia-Pacific
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December, celebrating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in 1948. This year, special focus is put on standing up for other people’s rights – something UNESCO is doing every day. UNESCO promotes human rights and freedoms in Asia-Pacific across our broad mandate of education, culture, communication and information, natural sciences and social and human sciences.
This year we've created a special exhibition that outlines how our organization's work is fueled by the principles celebrated on Human Rights Day, which is on display at our Bangkok office and online on our Facebook page.
Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Article 2: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
UNESCO Bangkok coordinates the Coalition of Cities Against Discrimination in Asia and the Pacific(CADAP), which brings cities together to combat discrimination through concrete action plans. The long-term objective is to provide local authorities with an operational programme that facilitates the efficient implementation of policies that promote social inclusion and fully respect people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in all arenas of public life.
Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
Freedom of information, or the right to know, is an integral part of the fundamental right of freedom of expression. The UNESCO Memory of the World programme aims to identify, preserve and provide access to the world’s documentary heritage, raising awareness on the important role it plays in people’s right to know.
Promoting the safety of journalists and combating impunity for those who seek to silence them are also core elements of UNESCO’s work to support freedom of expression. UNESCO is committed to advancing such freedom both offline and online, through the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists.
Article 25 (1): Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.”
UNESCO Bangkok coordinates efforts in Asia-Pacific around HIV, adolescent reproductive and school health. Our office takes a rights-based approach to ensuring that young people have the knowledge they need to make informed decisions to maintain optimal health and form positive relationships.
Article 25 (2): “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.”
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) concerns children from birth to age 8, from prenatal care to promoting a smooth transition to primary school. It includes both in-home and out-of-home settings, and can target either parents or children. The role of families in ECCE is paramount: parents are children’s first caregivers and educators.
Article 26 (1): “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.”
Asia-Pacific is home to 53% of the world’s out-of-school lower secondary age children. The information gathered by UNESCO Bangkok's AIMS (Assessment, Information systems, Monitoring and Statistics) Unit assesses gaps in education and identifies priority areas to ensure that all children access education.
Twenty-first century challenges also require education to go beyond the basics and empower learners to become proactive members of society, contributing to more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure societies, which is why UNESCO Bangkok actively promotes Global Citizenship Education.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can play a critical role in addressing barriers to inclusive quality education – opening up new pathways to learning in previously underserved areas. UNESCO Bangkok promotes the use of ICTs to enhance education in these ways, while also recognizing that not all countries in the region have equal access to the benefits of ICT.
Article 26 (2): “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups.”
The Asia-Pacific region enjoys tremendous diversity and is home to hundreds of unique ethnolinguistic groups. Many of these groups do not have access to education in their mother tongue and end up marginalized in education, and later in wider society. UNESCO promotes mother-tongue-based multilingual education for all ethnolinguistic minority communities to address this disparity.
Gender inequality remains a pervasive threat to the fundamental right to education. Women and girls’ participation in and benefits from education are threatened by many factors such as poverty, geographical isolation, minority status, gender-based violence, disability, early marriage, pregnancy and traditional attitudes about women’s role and status in society. UNESCO Bangkok’s advocacy efforts are aimed at raising awareness around this major challenge.
Millions of young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) learners in Asia-Pacific also face violence, discrimination, bullying and other forms of exclusion. For these young people, schools are often places of torment rather than learning and growth. As the world embarks on a new education agenda centered on Sustainable Development Goal 4’s vision of “inclusive and equitable quality education for all”, it is the duty of UNESCO and all education stakeholders to recognize and address the challenges facing our region’s young LGBTI learners.
Article 27 (1): “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancements and its benefits.”
UNESCO Bangkok is located in the heart of one of the most culturally diverse regions on the planet and the office’s Culture Unit is active to promote and preserve the region’s vast cultural legacy. This includes advocating on behalf of and providing technical support for the safeguarding and preservation of physical heritage, promoting diversity in cultural expressions and also ensuring that knowledge is passed down through generations. The office recognizes the tremendous value of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in addressing the most pressing challenges facing Asia-Pacific. Experience based on centuries’ worth of wisdom in areas such as how to deal with natural disasters and climate challenges, for instance, is part of this region’s ICH.