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 Inaugural Address Prof. Tibbitts

“Human rights education locates itself within struggle, beginning with the personal but often linking up to wider social change processes.”

This was one of the messages delivered by Prof. dr. Felisa Tibbitts in her Inaugural Lecture as Chair of Human Rights Education at Utrecht University on 23 October 2017. Prof. Tibbitts is based at Utrecht University and is also affiliated with University College Roosevelt, where she will be teaching and engaged in collective research in the years to come. The very first chair in human rights education in the Netherlands is funded by a women’s organization, the Soroptimists. 

In her inaugural lecture, prof. dr Felisa Tibbitts spoke about the importance of human rights education, but also about its nature and objectives. According to Amnesty International, it can be considered a “deliberative, participatory process aimed at empowering individuals, groups and communities…Its goal is to build a culture of respect for and action in the defense and promotion of human rights for all” according to Amnesty International (YR).  Prof. Tibbitts said that through riding “the surf” of the international human rights movement beginning in the 1990s, HRE has “proliferated, experimented, differentiated and has also come to be localized in thoughtful ways.”  HRE is recognized in United Nations policies, is a part of school curriculum in 83 countries. At the same time, there are critiques of a ‘declarationist’ approach to HRE as promoting the values embodied in international human rights standards as absolutist, negating the possibility of genuine “dialogue” with learners about their existing value systems. Here, Tibbits emphasized the critical pedagogy approach—established by Paolo Freire. “The infusion of the critical approach within HRE means not only critically reviewing the social and cultural environments in which learners live and work but also the human rights framework itself.

Through its affiliation with the chair in human rights education UCR strengthens its endeavors in the field of education for global citizenship and in strengthening the Roosevelt legacy. In the years to come, prof. Tibbitts will teach Summer Courses and offer guest lectures at UCR, and strengthen UCRs research in the field of human rights education. She will also contribute to strengthening UCRs own curriculum in this field.  

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