Essential: Education in Democracy and Human Rights

Friday, March 30, 2012

From subjects to full citizens. “Educated” citizens, that is, citizens who act upon their own reflections. “Free and responsible”, as defined in Article 1 of the UNESCO Constitution. People capable of fully using the distinctive creative capacity of the human beings, able of inventing their own future, which should never be accepted as inevitable. Fatalism and dogmatisms must be eradicated, enabling them to shake the weights off their wings and to fly high in the infinite space of the spirit.

Citizens who are dedicated and committed, who don’t allow themselves to be intimidated, who know how to overcome the fear that thwarts the free will of so many.

For centuries we have been subjected to the absolute power of men. We have been passive spectators rather than actors; mere recipients of often biased information; witness afraid to act. Silenced, silent.

For that reason “free and responsible” education for citizenship is essential, education that in the words of the first paragraph of the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can “free us from fear”.

Convinced of the essential importance of education in human rights and democracy, as Director General of UNESCO I organized a world congress with thousands of educators to address the best way to implement it, taking advantage of the experience of all of them. It was held in Montreal, Canada in March, 1993. The result was the “Action Plan for Education in Human Rights and Democracy”, and I recommend that it be read by those who for partisan or religious motives support another type of civic education that logically lacks the conceptual and practical rigor of this document, which was prepared taking into account the multiple aspects that it must include.

The Action Plan was so well received at the Universal Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993 that it was included in its final text.

I was perplexed by an article published in ABC’s March 8th Alfa-Omega supplement entitled “Thanks Mom and Dad for encouraging me to reject Education for Citizenship!” Until children reach the age of majority it is the task of their parents and tutors to choose the religious and ideological framework that they consider most appropriate. But prompting them to “reject” education for citizenship, as in the case just described, is exposing them to growing up fearful and dependent.

Read the 1993 World Plan that is intended for all people, families, educators, students, leaders… of the World. And perhaps they will recognize that there are areas that were duly clarified years ago, and with all types of full guarantees…

Stop Confusing Matters with the GDP

Radical changes are on the horizon. Thanks to our capacity for distance participation, in a few years we will have strong and efficient democracies that will give rise to the world that we all desire.

To set the possible scenes for tomorrow (foresight is an essential component of the qualities that characterize human beings) it is necessary to use very clear and accurate criteria for measuring “quality of life” in different parts of the world, so that our future designs may reflect exactly what we intended to build.

And the GDP is one of the most misleading indices of growth and the satisfaction of basic needs, because it reflects economic growth as a whole rather than the actual welfare of citizens.

What we need to know is not a country’s level of “development,” but rather how it is distributed, if it actually reaches each citizen, how it benefits native peoples, what investments are being made…

The World Bank recently underscored that the GDPs for Uganda and Ruanda are increasing notably, but it failed to mention that this is principally due to the mining of coltan in the Kivu region of the Republic of the Congo, which is being exported through Kampala and Kigali without the least benefit for the inhabitants of this region so rich in this superconductor mineral.

A few huge conglomerates and all of the GDP in so few hands…

There are many other examples: there are countries in Latin America that have registered an almost 10% rise in their GDPs… but this has very little impact on ordinary citizens.

Money Spent… Deficit…

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What’s important isn’t only how much is spent, but when and on what.

The total deficit figures are so confusing! Figures for the central government and for the Autonomous Communities…

There’s been much bickering about the “deficit we’ve inherited” when often it’s the “deficit we created”; there were exclamations of surprise when it was discovered how much the city governments owe… when many people were actually well aware of the unpaid invoices that they had accumulated…

Let’s get serious. It’s not a problem of how much was spent, but when and on what. Because some of the expenditures were opportune and fitting, while others were inopportune and unsuitable.

One thing is what was spent for hospitals, healthcare centers, schools, universities, infrastructures… and quite something else what was invested in superfluous and sectarian installations.

Some of these investments warrant applause. Others deserve punishment.


Secularly, dominated by the absolute power of men, we have been subjects, mere spectators and passive recipients of the events transpiring around us.

Now –and I never tire of repeating this, because it is findly possible- the time has come for the great transition to full, educated citizens who, as set forth in Article 1 of the UNESCO Constitution, must be “free and responsible". Educated people are those who “manage their own lives”, in Francisco Giner de los Ríos’ excellent definition, acting upon their own thoughts and not on the dictates of others or anything else.

Educated people are those who refuse to live in fear, rejecting behavioral guidelines imposed by ideologies and creeds, seeking their own answers to essential questions without turning to others for borrowed and frequently imposed answers.

For the forthcoming historical transition –from force to words, from a culture of domination, imposition and war to a culture of dialogue, conciliation and peace- we will need citizens, not subjects.

Dissidents. Always peaceful, but indomitable.

Global Outcry in Support of Judge Garzón

We don’t want a state under the “rule of law,” we want a “state of justice.” If the laws of our nation permit the corrupt to convict one of the world’s most outstanding judges, these laws must be amended.

Those who shield themselves behind the “rule of law” and delight in accusations made by abominable associations against the same judge who discovered their shady machinations, continue to be anchored in antidemocratic principles which we have fought so hard to overcome.

And to those who “are pleased”... no comment!

But in the end, and sooner than they can imagine, they will be hit by a giant boomerang. And in Spain we will have a “state of justice".