The effective protection of human rights is dependent on knowledge and awareness of the status of these rights both in the population and also among state decision-makers such as public authorities, police or the judiciary.
In December 2004 the UN therefore established the World Programme for Human Rights Education. In Austria numerous human rights education initiatives have been launched: all prospective judges and police officers receive human rights education; Austrian school syllabuses include this subject; Zentrum polis, the Centre for Citizenship Education in Schools, in Vienna offers teaching material.
Human rights education is also a focus of Austrian foreign policy. Austria plays an active role within the framework of the UN and the Human Security Network. During the Austrian chairmanship of the Human Security Network in 2002 and 2003 a manual on human rights education Understanding Human Rights was elaborated by an international team of authors under the leadership of the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Graz (ETC Graz). The manual was published by ETC Graz with the support of the Foreign Ministry and has been translated to date into 15 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish. It is designed as a tool for teachers and students and offers a useful starting point for an understanding of human rights and violations of them. It is now available to a wider public through online training material on the ETC Graz website. Since its publication the manual has been utilised throughout the world in human rights education measures. In 2012 the 3rd, revised and extended edition („Understanding Human Rights“) has been published in English. Furthermore, a brochure called “Good practices in human rights education worldwide” has been published in 2013, which presents projects in which the manual has been successfully used.
As a member of the UNESCO Executive Committee (2011-2015) Austria made human rights education to one of its priorities and supports initiatives that raise awareness about human rights and the protection mechanisms in this field.