By Jel Santos, December 10, 2021; Manila Bulletin

To fortify its mandate on human rights information, education and research, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday, Dec. 10, launched the Human Rights Institute (HRI) at its central offices in Quezon City during the observance of the International Human Rights Day.

The launching was also witnessed by the ambassadors of New Zealand, Netherlands and Canada.

CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia referred to the HRI as a “milestone” in strengthening the conduct of human rights education and promotion in the Philippines. The HRI “is a dream come true not only for the present commission but also to the past commissions which had been wanting it for years.”

De Guia also said:

“The desire to have an instituted has long been in the hearts and minds of the members of the commissions, past and present. An institute will allow the commission to bring forth formal education forces and be recognized and be counted among our peer agencies abroad which have institutes that promote the cause of human rights. This institute will enable us to now better partner with different academic and learning centers and schools.

“Learning human rights is one of the most pressing needs of our country and the world today. We need to know what human rights are and make them know. Human rights education is relevant in solving and addressing modern-day challenges such as impunity, climate change, inequality, and persisting human rights violation.”

Ambassador of New Zealand Peter Kell said: “We are delighted to be part of this initiative. New Zealand stands for a fair, safe, and just road, where diversity is valued, human dignity is respected, and human right is protected.”

Deputy Head of Mission and Counsellor of the Netherlands Embassy Pieter Terpstra pointed out that human rights education is “crucial” so human rights will not remain an abstract to citizens.

Terpastra said:

“To realize a world that fully respects, promotes, and supports human rights, we need citizens that know their value and importance. We need to foster enabling environments for appreciation and application of human rights principles, so they do not remain an abstract or foreign concept.

“We need to link human rights policies and remedies to real-life situations and people. We need to link them the reality to make them all the more real. This is why human rights education is crucial.”

For his part, Ambassador of Canada Peter MacArthur expressed his country’s support to the CHR. He said: “We will continue to support the Philippines along this path, and we count on the support of others, as well.”