OBESSU Study Session 2016

Budapest, Hungary

Jane M. Hayes Nally

On the 24th of April, President Rob and I travelled to Hungary to take part in the OBESSU Study Session “Bringing Human Rights Education School”.We spent a week in the culturally and historically rich backdrop of the city of Budapest, our session taking place European Youth Centre, an amazing venue with a stunning conference room overlooking the beautiful city. The view, over the duration of the week, provided an outlet for me. I used to gaze at the cityscape when we had our coffee breaks and energizers. It was an opportunity to contemplate the new information I had learned, the concepts I had developed, and the ideas I had been inspired by.


The aim of the session, from an OBESSU perspective, we were told, was to empower school students to be HR advocates by bringing HRE to schools.
The objectives were to
Create awareness of HRE and to explore it in practice.
To explore current Human Right issues in Europe by linking local, national, European and global levels.
To familiarise participants with the COE instruments in Human Rights, (The Charter on EDC/HRE) and how to work with them.
Investigate and share participants organizational realities in relation to HR/hre.
Analyse the role of SSUs and other stakeholders in formal education in fostering common action regarding HRE.
To create a link between Student Rights and HR.
To get to know the work and resources of the Youth Department of the COE and how to use the in practice.
To provide a space and support participants in planning and implementing HRE actions.

On Monday morning we were introduced to our agenda, which was illustrated so well by the “Human Rights Island”. I thought this was such a good idea. The poster hung at the end of the conference room for the entire week, reminding us how much we had learned and how far we had come.

We were introduced to human rights, and what the term really meant, but not before we were asked to define it ourselves (also a great idea; asking participants to look at their own understanding before acquiring outside information).
The exercise was challenging for sure. My definition is below
The most basic standards for human beings to achieve physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing and health, and to ensure basic safety and security.

During the second day of the Study Session, through a simulation game, we were treated to a very insightful experience on Human Rights and Human Rights. I thought this was such an interactive idea and something we should incorporate into ISSU events if the opportunity presented itself.. The afternoon was dedicated to brainstorming on current violations of Human Rights in our closer communities, in Europe and in the world. We all became “journalists” and shared the stories from different perspectives to raise awareness on the different issues affecting people from all over the world. Groups such as Romas and Refugees came up. I believe myself and Rob used the example of the travelling community in Ireland. During the final session of the day, we explored the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.
Here are the posters which the prep-team members used to present on the structures in place to protect human rights. Me and Rob both thought this was amazing! It made a huge difference to not have to sit and watch a powerpoint for 20 minutes, but to listen to a presentation with these really cool stickers and symbols. It personally made me understand the structures a lot more and I can still retain what I learnt on that day!

I remember having some reservations about an aspect of this day. I thought the UN Declaration on Human Rights was very open to interpretation. The vast majority of countries have signed it but it isn’t actually implemented in half of those countries. For me this makes the document a little tokenistic. I wondered about how this could be addressed, and have trying to find a resolution ever since.
The third day of the conference served to further explore the instruments and mechanisms available to protect and defend Human rights.
We were given a document about a clothing factory in Bangladesh which was structurally unfit for purpose. The factory eventually collapsed killing many people. This tragic case led to discussions on where our clothes were produced, and why sweat factories infringed on the human rights of so many people. This was so interesting to me. It shocks me that we are okay with buying our clothes from places like Pennies and completely disregard the conditions of the people who made these clothes.
We simulated a case from the European Court on Human Rights and further explored other documents available to them like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. During the afternoon participants were introduced to the concept of Human Rights Education and they reflected on the competences it tries to promote. At the end of the day, we watched Path to Dignity, an inspiring documentary on the power of HRE to change people’s’ lives. It served as food for thought to reflect on the importance of providing HRE. This was an amazing exercise! I have attached the links to the video as I really enjoyed them and couldn’t stop thinking about them after dinner.

“I’m partial to a bit of the Iron Curtain myself”-Rob at the Millennium monument, Heroes Square. Turns out it wasn’t actually a Communist monument. Nice one Rob.

The fourth day started with a sharing of experiences from each of the organisations and countries represented at the event, when it comes to HRE. We reflected on our activities as school student unions and discussed how our national curricula include Human Rights Education.
Myself and Rob presented mostly on CSPE.
I found this session sooooooo interesting. It was for sure one of my favourite parts of the week. I just found it fascinating to listen to how other european SUs go about promoting Human Rights Education. Here are some examples;

The fourth day of session ended with a midterm evaluation in which participants reflected on their own learning process and expectations. We spent the rest of the afternoon discovering the beautiful city of Budapest.

With recovered energies, the fifth day was dedicated to imagining how educational systems could incorporate Human Rights Education and what were the are obstacles and opportunities on the road to achieving this goal . During the afternoon, Domagoj Moric from the GOOD Initiative from Croatia joined the study session to facilitate the discussion on what are the main stakeholders when trying to bring HRE into Formal Education and to share the experience of an initiative in Croatia. He was a very interesting speaker and myself and Rob soon learned that his proposed initiative was very similar to CSPE in Ireland, but much better The last session of the day was dedicated to introduce different resources available to implement and promote HRE in different settings and environments.
This was also a huge favourite of mine. It was at this session that Laufey Maria told us about the Manual for School Students, which is an amazing piece of literature. I am currently in the middle of my study of it and I would recommend it to every Irish student. It can be found here; http://www.obessu.org/publications

Saturday was the last day of the entire event and it focused on the future.We were asked to reflect on how the week changed us personally, and how we would bring everything we learnt home

A final evaluation was carried out, and the conference came to an end.

I can say, at the end of the most amazing week in Budapest, that I am so so inspired by everything I have experienced. Firstly, the Prep-Team. I cannot even imagine the amount of work that went into organizing the topics and mechanisms used during the session. I know it would have been so stressful and very tough going, but they did it fantastically. It was completely unlike any event I have ever been at, and by far the best.They were so inspirational, and I will be taking a leaf out of their book when we organize different events this year. Secondly, the subject matter. This conference completely informed me on the European and global human rights structures. It opened my eyes up to the violations of human rights and why bringing education like this to schools was just so important.
One aspect of the week really influenced me however. Speaking to the representatives from SUs all over Europe made me remember why ISSU was so vital in Ireland. I came home to Cork on Sunday evening, my head was spinning it was so full of ideas for the year ahead. The ISSU have such an important purpose and we have amazing potential. I am so grateful that I got to attend this OBESSU event and remind myself of all of these things.