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U.S. Backs U.N. Program to Teach Respect for All
January 16, 2012


A group of demonstrators
Venezuelan students protested in 2011 to defend the human rights of political prisoners. Their demonstrations launched an independent investigation of the prisoners’ status.

The United States, Brazil and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched a new program in Paris January 18 to develop educational materials that help teachers and students around the world learn to overcome ethnic, racial and religious intolerance and develop respect for others.

“All forms of intolerance are an affront to human dignity,” said Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer, who represented the United States at the launch of the program. “As we challenge our youth to respond to these problems and make a difference, we need to offer them every bit of support that we can.”

“Teaching Respect for All” recognizes the key role of schools in combating racial and ethnic discrimination. The program will review existing curriculums, legislation and policies that include components on education for tolerance, and identify best practices in the field, according to a UNESCO announcement. After that process, which involves government officials, teachers and students, the second phase will develop teaching materials that will be tested in a few pilot countries and later made available to all.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Brimmer, an African American, said she well knows the difference between high-minded rhetoric and real life.

“The United States has grappled with intolerance, but this struggle is not uniquely American, and America stakes no claim to a magic solution,” Brimmer said. “Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa … all have confronted similar challenges and made significant gains.”

Nations do make progress against racism, bigotry and intolerance, but it is an ongoing struggle, Brimmer said. She cited remarks made in recognition of Human Rights Day December 10 by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton decrying the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals because of “who they are, and whom they love.”

The launch ceremony for “Teaching Respect for All” in Paris was an exercise in inclusion itself. Students from a U.S. secondary school and a Brazilian education center participated via videoconference.