This part contains:
What are human rights?
What is Human Rights Education?
Common questions about Human Rights Education
" Maybe we're all born knowing we have rights - we just need to be reminded "
Romanian HRE trainer
Human rights can be defined as those basic standards without which people cannot live in dignity as human beings. Human rights are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace. Their respect allows the individual and the community to fully develop.
The development of human rights has its in the struggle for freedom and equality everywhere in the world. The basis of human rights - such as respect for human life and human dignity - can be found in most religions and philosophies.
They are proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Documents such as the International Covenants of Human Rights set out what governments must do and also what they must not do to respect the rights of their citizens.
Characteristics of Human Rights
Human rights do not have to be bought, earned or inherited, they belong to people simply because they are human - human rights are inherent' to each individual.
Human rights are the same for all human beins regardless of race, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin. We are all born free,and equal in dignity and rights - human rights are universal'.
Human rights cannot be taken away, no one has the right to deprive another person of them for any reason. People still have human rights even when the laws of their countries do not recognize them, or when they violate them - for example, when slavery is practiced, slaves still have rights even though these rights are being violated. Human rights are inalienable.
To live in dignity, all human beings are entitled to freedom, security and decent standards of living concurrently. Human rights are indivible.
Categories of Rights
Rights can be put into three categories:
1. Civil and political rights (also called first generation rights'). These are "liberty-orientated" and include the rights to life, liberty and security of the individual; freedom from torture and slavery; political participation; freedom of opinion, expression, thought, conscience and religion; freedom of association and assembly.
2. Economic and social rights (also called second generation rights'). These are "security-orientated" rights, for example the rights to work; education; a reasonable standard of living; food; shelter and health care.
3. Environmental, cultural and developmental rights (also called third generation rights'). These include the rights to live in an environment that is clean and protected from destruction, and rights to cultural, political and economic development.
When we say that each person has human rights, we are also saying that each person has responsibilities to respect the human rights of others.
The most widely accepted statement of human rights in the world is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Its core message is the inherent value of every human being. The Declaration was unanimously adopted on the 10th December 1948 by the United Nations (although 8 nations did abstain). It sets out a list of basic rights for everyone in the world whatever their race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It states that governments have promised to uphold certain rights, not only for their own citizens, but also for people in other countries. In other words, national borders are no barrier to helping others achieve their rights. Since 1948 the Universal Declaration has been the international standard for human rights. In 1993 a world conference of 171 states representing 99% of the world's population reaffirmed its commitment to human rights.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Even though the UDHR is the inspiration for most international human rights law, it is not itself a legally binding document. However, as a general statement of principles, it does have power in the world of public opinion. Its principles have been translated into legal force in the form of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Countries that have ratified these Covenants commit themselves to making laws in their country to protect these human rights. However, over half the countries of the world have not ratified the ICCPR or the ICESCR.
There are also Regional Human Rights Instruments inspired by the UDHR such as the African Charter on Human and People's Rights; the European Convention of Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights. Many national legal codes also guarantee human rights.
To help you to think about human rights, write down things which you think should be human rights. If you are in a group, do this individually, then share your ideas. Look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Part Five of this manual. Compare your list of human rights with the UDHR. Are the rights you listed included in the Universal Declaration?
First Thoughts about Rights
Human Rights Education is education about, but also for human rights. For example:
Teaching people about international law or about human rights violations such as torture is teaching about human rights.
Teaching people how to respect and protect rights, is teaching for human rights.
Human Rights Education is all about helping people to develop to the point where they understand human rights and where they feel that they are important and should be respected and defended.
This manual can help you to teach about, but also for human rights. The activities give children SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE, and ATTITUDES which they will need to work towards a world free of human rights violations. These aspects are encapsulated in each of the activities by a participative, interactive educational METHODOLOGY. Participative methodology has been found by human rights educators to be the most efficient and most powerful way to develop skills and attitudes, as well as knowledge, in both children and adults. The diagram on page 7 may help you to visualise this relationship of skills, knowledge, attitudes and methodology. (See also page 38 for further explanation of this model and advice on creating and analysing human rights teaching activities.)
SKILLS: Such as listening to others, making moral analysis, cooperating, communicating, problem solving, and questioning the status quo. These skills help children to:
- analyse the world around them
- understand that human rights are a way to improve their lives and the lives of others
- take action to protect human rights
KNOWLEDGE: Such as knowing that human rights documents exist and which rights they contain, and that these rights are universally applicable to all human beings and inalienable. Also knowing the consequences of violating human rights. This knowledge helps children to protect their own rights and the rights of others.
ATTITUDES: Such as that human rights are important, that human dignity is inherent in all people, that rights should be respected, that cooperation is better than conflict, that we are responsible for our actions, and that we can improve our world if we try. These attitudes help children to develop morally and prepare them for positive participation in society.
METHODOLOGY: Participative, interactive methodology involves children fully in learning. Alongside their teacher, they become active explorers of the world around them , rather than passive recipients of the teachers' expertise. This methodology is particularly appropriate when dealing with human rights issues, where there are often many different points of view on an issue, rather than one correct' answer.
The Principles Game:
You might find it useful to do the following activity to help you to think about rights. It works best in a group. Each group should look at ten of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see page 157). For example, one group could study articles 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28. A second group could study articles 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29. And a third group could study articles 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30. Try to identify the principles which underlie them. Share the results of each group. Discuss why these principles are important. In what practical ways would your country change if these principles were respected by everyone? For example, how would participation in local government change? Principles you might be able to identify include:
The following questions are often asked by teachers who are thinking about incorporating human rights into their teaching. The answers given here are short, but may help with some of your worries.
Question: "Children need to be taught responsibility, not rights."
Answer: This manual places equal emphasis on rights and responsibilities. The activities are designed to show that one person's rights end where another person's rights begin, and that everyone has a responsibility to respect the rights of others.
Question: "Won't human rights topics frighten young students?"
Answer: Teaching human rights is positive, not negative, because students learn about their own inherent rights and about the importance of human dignity. Of course, giving students information about human rights violations alone is not enough, and can be distressing for young children. However, teaching human rights is different because, although it is based on the knowledge that bad things happen, it also gives students the skills which they need to be able to do something about these things, and the attitude that it is possible for them to act to change a bad situation.
Question: "What if my students ask a question I can't answer?"
Answer: When teaching human rights, answers are rarely simple. Complex moral questions cannot be answered with yes or no. Raising the questions is more important than finding one "correct" answer. By introducing these complex issues to children and allowing them to think about them, we can equip them to deal with them later in life. Part Two of this manual explains teaching methods which can help you to explore human rights issues with your students, without having to have the "correct" answer to every question.
Question: "What is the purpose of using games?"
Answer: We learn and remember things better by doing them than just by hearing about them. Although the activities in this manual are fun, they have serious aims, usually the explanation of a human rights concept. These aims are explained at the start of each activity. See also page 5.
Question: "We don't have a photocopier, or enough materials."
Answer: Most of the activities in this manual are designed so that they don't need expensive materials or photocopier.
Question: "We do Civics and Law, not Human Rights."
Answer: In practice, the skills, knowledge, and attitudes associated with human rights can be taught in many different subjects. (See page 21)
Question: "I want to teach adults too."
Answer: This manual is aimed at schools. However, many of the activities can also be used with adults. Part Two contains ideas for developing your own activities, and the organizations listed in Part Six can give advice about teaching human rights with adults.
Question: "Parents, teachers, and the Principal say teaching human rights is political indoctrination."
Answer: Human rights make students better able to participate in society and in the politics of their country. However, it is important to distinguish between these political skills and party politics. Teachers have a great responsibility not to push students towards a specific political party or political ideology.
Question: "What is the difference between Civics, Moral education, Citizenship education, Intercultural education, Peace education and Conflict Resolution? Where does Human Rights Education fit in?"
Answer: All these subjects cover slightly different, overlapping subject matter (see Diagram One on page 10). For example, an activity about respecting each other could be used in any of these subjects, but an activity dealing just with human rights documents would only be used in human rights education.
However, the same active, participative educational methodology is used to teach all these subjects. As you can see in Diagram Two on page 10, this methodology overlaps almost completely. The important thing to remember is that these subjects all have the same aim: to help students to develop the skills, attitudes and knowledge which they will need to help them to make informed moral decisions about their world and their place in it.