We are proud to announce that we will be cooperating with the Council of Europe Programme for Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP Programme) from now on.
Being an international association run by and for students and recent graduates, we are led by the aim to provide our members a platform to develop their existing legal skills and acquire new ones, to interact with fellow students and experienced practitioners from different states and legal systems around Europe, and to be equipped for a professional life in an international environment. Moreover, human rights have been at the core of what ELSA represents since its founding. Justice, human dignity, cultural diversity, social responsibility, and mutual understanding are just some of the terms that describe the philosophy behind ELSA. Lawyers who are at the forefront of protecting these human rights need to know European human rights standards in order to apply them effectively. Therefore, they deserve high quality training, which the Council of Europe’s HELP Programme (hereinafter: HELP) provides.
HELP is the main educational platform of the Council of Europe (CoE) on human rights topics, for current and future mostly legal professionals such as judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, but also other relevant professionals from the CoE’s 47 member states and beyond. The programme originally derived from the Recommendation CM/Rec(2004)4 on the European Convention on Human Rights in university education and professional training, adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 2004 and since then reinforced by CM/Rec(2019)5, which referred to the HELP Programme and reinforced HELP’s mandate to work with universities.
According to the Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)5, member states are advised to ensure university education on the system of the European Convention on Human Rights in line with the needs and expectations of the different categories of the public, as well as to enhance the effectiveness of such university education by ensuring that each category of the public has access to the necessary tools to comply with the obligations stemming from the Convention. In view of our educational mandate in the field of human rights we, ELSA Germany, are committed to supporting German universities in complying with this recommendation of the CoE. Seeing that there is a lack of education in the field of European human rights law in the German law studies, it is our aim to promote the HELP Programme in Universities to make it a complementary or compulsory academic programme included into the existing curriculum of law professors.
The HELP Programme consists of three main elements. First, the HELP Network of Judiciary schools and Bar associations across the continent, from Russia to Portugal from Ireland to Turkey. Second, the HELP online platform and the HELP courses which are developed “by legal professionals for legal professionals”. Third, the HELP Methodology for development and implementation of the HELP courses.
The CoE is in a unique and privileged position to develop practical training courses because, taking CoE standards as the basis, it can also factor in relevant case-law and the reports of its monitoring bodies. The courses are designed with strong involvement of experts from the CoE, such as lawyers or judges of the Strasbourg Court or thematic experts from relevant CoE entities (Human Rights Commissioner’s Office, Execution Department, Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Units of Data Protection or Bioethics, etc.). This is a guarantee of the high-quality and practical approach of HELP courses.
The courses cover the topics in question in a concise and interactive way with a wide range of visuals, exercises and references to landmark cases. HELP aims to make sure that users will gain a practical understanding of when and how to apply the European system of protection. The objective is not to make every single student or professional an expert in human rights; it is rather to create a “reflex” among them so that they can recognize and react to human rights issues in any case they have to deal with, be it in the presence or in the future. On average, a HELP course requires an investment of 2 to 3 online learning hours every 2 weeks over a period of 2 to 3 months.
Apart from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), HELP covers other instruments like the European Social Charter (ESC) or CoE Conventions in key areas like data protection, violence against women etc. Since 2015, HELP courses also cover the perspective of the European Union (EU), by including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and relevant EU law or the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
In recent years, the interest in the HELP Programme across the European continent has grown exponentially. Its online platform went from some 6.000 users in 2014 to more than 36.000 by June 2019. The current Covid-19 pandemic doubled this number, so that there are now a total number of 79.000 users of the HELP e-learning platform (status as of January 2021).
At this stage, it seems that the German lawyers‘ network, with 728 users, is not yet fully exploiting the potential of the HELP Programme. We want to change this together with you!
Therefore, we only need to follow the example of our European neighbors. HELP’s courses have already been used as additional educational materials at well-known law schools. For example,
- the HELP course on Admissibility criteria in applications submitted to the ECtHR was one of the HELP courses launched for groups of students of the Glasgow University in the UK
- the HELP course on Asylum and the ECtHR was launched for law students and PhD candidates at the Belgrade Law School in Serbia
- the HELP course on Fight Against Racism, Xenophobia, Homophobia and Transphobia was launched at the West University of Timisoara in Romania etc.
Especially in times when our entire learning experience has shifted to the digital sphere – and thus personal exchange, access to libraries and thereby to learning materials, as well as the regulated study process have been taken away – we need to rethink our old structures of university education. Let’s be honest – who can concentrate on learning from books and listening to a professor talk for hours when you’re sitting alone in front of your laptop 24/7 and can’t leave the house because of a lockdown. This new situation calls for new solutions. Let’s make our learning experience more active, through visual and interactive online courses that require us students to engage in our learning process.
The HELP Programme has attracted your interest? You are a student who wants to learn about European human rights standards, or you are a professor who wants to enrich his academic programme? Have a look on the HELP online platform! The HELP courses are all available online and freely accessible for self-learning to anyone who has an account on the HELP platform. The courses are located on the homepage of the Platform, in many different languages.
More than that – thanks to the cooperation CoE HELP – ELSA Germany there is also the possibility for professors to become a HELP tutor and create an individual tutored course based on one of the HELP courses on the online platform. These tutored HELP courses do not only allow us students to learn in peers and to expand our existing knowledge through deeper exchange with the tutor, but they also guide us students to become self-dependent learners and to learn by getting feedback. Contact us if you want to learn more about this possibility!
In either way HELP courses can easily and efficiently supplement (rather than replace) the educational materials in your law schools’ core curricula. Together with your commitment we can increase the awareness on human rights protection on a national level in Germany.
We as students – as future legal professionals – will be at the forefront of human rights’ protection. No matter whether we will practice as a judge in a national court, as an independent lawyer or in a law firm, as a legal counsel for a company or a non-governmental organization. Our potential fields of work are endless, but they all have something in common. They go along with the responsibility to effectively protect fundamental human rights at a national level. Therefore, it will be indispensable for law students to receive an adequate legal training in the field of human rights. Help us to make this education for law students not only available but self-evident!
Create your account on the HELP e-learning platform and share this opportunity with your fellow students!
For further questions please contact:
Sarah I. Pfeiffer
Director for Human Rights & Focus Programmes / HELP Focal Point for ELSA Germany
ELSA-Deutschland e.V. 2020/2021