ISHR’s University Human Rights Education in Myanmar projec
t has recently returned from Myanmar after completing its second in-person training at Yangon University from January 6-9, 2016. The 18 month project, supported by Open Society Foundations Higher Education Support Program (OSF/HESP), seeks to build the capacity of junior faculty members from 16 law departments throughout Myanmar to develop and teach an introductory course in international human rights.
Project leaders Kristina Eberbach and Ben Fleming were joined by JoAnn Kamuf Ward, Associate Director of the Human Rights in the U.S. Project and Lecturer-in-Law, from the Law School’s Human Rights Institute, and Rainer Braun, who teaches at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights and the School of International and Public Affairs.
This intensive four-day training built on the foundational knowledge the ISHR project has cultivated over the past year. Through an initial live training, held in March 2015, and a subsequent 9 months of interactive online coursework. participants have developed a foundational understanding of international human rights law, concepts, and methodologies. The live training this January reinforced and built upon the previous trainings while emphasizing critical skills related to curriculum development, research methods, and pedagogy. The junior faculty engaged in a wide-range of hands-on learning exercises and activities that emphasized rights-based approaches to education.
As one of the facilitators, JoAnn Kamuf Ward explains, “My hope is that the in-depth conversations and learning exercises we engaged in will empower the faculty participants to use human rights principles, like participation, equality, and accountability in their human rights courses, as well as in their approach to teaching. One of the most valuable and unique aspects of this project is the focus on collaboration and peer-to-peer learning. That is critical for the relationship building that will support the human rights educators in Myanmar in the long term.”
As part of this training, project participants also met with representatives of local human rights NGOs working throughout the country, who discussed their advocacy efforts and shared their insights regarding the work of human rights in Myanmar. “In a country that has, for the past 30-odd years, deliberately isolated law faculty from law practitioners in order to weaken the legal profession as a whole, the event was a small, but important step towards bridging human rights education and practice,” explains project lead Ben Fleming.
In the next stage of the project, faculty will be working in teams to put their skills into practice and create tailored lesson plans for sessions of the international human rights course that they will begin teaching in the near future. “The goal is to empower faculty and increase their capacity to develop curriculum and connect human rights concepts to issues of particular relevance to Myanmar,” notes project director Kristina Eberbach.”
This summer, ISHR will return to Myanmar for the third phase of the project. During this time, the faculty from law schools across Myanmar will present portions of the curriculum they developed and participate in a human rights symposium featuring both faculty and practitioners, further strengthening the capacity of program participants to hone their human rights skills and knowledge.