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Education and human rights culture at Arab universities today

Current situation and future perspectives

Assessing and improving basic human rights education at Arab Law faculties.

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In collaboration with the Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace (LFPCP), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation organized a regional conference on June 20-21 in Beirut to discuss human rights education at Arab universities. Deans and representatives of Law faculties from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Oman and Irak were brought together to discuss the role of national constitutions in legal education and to explore methods to improve human rights education at law faculties in Arab countries.

The conference dealt with 2 major issues:

1. Revisiting the way human rights are taught in Arab universities

The participants highlighted the need to adjust the curriculum taught at law faculties to accompany the sociopolitical changes sweeping the region. The current Middle Eastern state of affairs calls for an expansion of human rights education in the existing curricula, e.g. through creating specialized master courses in human rights. Meanwhile, the introduction of new core concepts (such as contemporary gender issues and the rights of persons with disabilities) will prevent existing law programs from becoming anachronous. Courses which touch upon human rights should also include the analysis of relevant case studies. In addition, it is necessary to establish common teaching criteria which will standardize the quality of human rights education across the Arab region.

2. Building bridges between the disciplines and reconnecting with society and politics

The participants addressed the necessity to favor a trans-disciplinary approach to human rights, i.e. to engage in bridge building between disciplines and departments. It was, for example, suggested to supplement the legal analysis of human rights violations with sociological considerations and concepts commonly used in political science and gender studies.

Finally, universities should not be estranged from society and politics. Considering the transformative impact engaged thinkers can have upon state policies and political institutions, the participants touched upon the political role of universities with regards to human rights. Ways to create links between universities and civil society, as well as political decision-makers, also constituted a prominent subject of discussion.

The contributions of the presenters will be compiled in a collective volume to appear at the end of the year.

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