Abdelbasset Ben Hassen

© Mohamed Ahmed ZareeAbdelbasset Ben Hassen; Foto: private Abdelbasset Ben Hassen is the President of the Arab Institute for Human Rights. Abdelbasset is also the chairman of the Tunisian national committee for the support of refugees and served as member of the high committee for the realization of the objectives of the revolution, political reform and democratic transition. Ben Hassen held the position of Human Rights Programs Director at Ford Foundation (2005-2011). He has taught Human Rights at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences in Tunisia, the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Tunis, and the International Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg – France. He has written on human rights, human rights education and culture. He was a member of the drafting committee of the United Nations World Program on Human Rights Education.

Interview with Dr. Abdelbasset Ben Hassen

Dr. Ben Hassen, what are your expectations for the second Civic Education Conference taking place in May in Tunisia?

I think the Civic Education Conference is a great opportunity to discuss the new challenges that emerged in our society but also to discuss the relationship between civic education, democracy and human rights. We will develop recommendations on the four subjects that are addressed during the conference, namely Arts & Culture, Equality & Diversity, Rule of Law, and Education for Engagement.
The conference also offers the space to revisit the topic of civic education under the current societal circumstances to answer the question: How can we use civic education to respond to the new situation in the MENA region?

What is the importance of civic education – both in general terms but also in particular for Tunisia’s society?

Generally, civic education reflects the degree of freedom in a society. It helps organizing a society and supports the development of democracy, social justice, tolerance, equality within the society. Civic education is a key part of human rights and it counteracts the developments in the society we currently witness, such as social, political or economic exclusion as well as violence and terrorism. For Tunisia, we have to develop a common responsibility to reflect on our society – in the government but likewise in civil society and in the private sector. Common responsibility and the development towards civic education shall become our common approach.

In your opinion, what are the main factors necessary for a vivid civil society and what are the challenges that actors of civil society are currently facing the most?

I believe that now we have a new area for civil society in the MENA region. We left behind the legacy of just reacting to the government towards active engagement. The people are now empowered and they are an active part of public policy. The introduction of human rights and political, cultural and social inclusion has been a major achievement. Nevertheless, at the same time, society has a major task to tackle the main challenges it is currently facing: violence, war and terrorism, and civic education is definitely a key to this.

With regard to the conference - what are you personally looking forward?

Personally, I look forward to the potential exchanges during the conference. For example, currently the Ministry of Education in Tunisia is reforming the educational system under the slogan “citizenship school”. I will present some examples about this reform and I am curious about the reactions and opinions about it.


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