Fifty years ago the Library of Congress had no catalogue entry for "Human Rights." Today those words can be found in every hometown newspaper. However, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1998, we recognize that most people living in the United States know little about this document, the foundation for all subsequent developments in human rights.

Human Rights Here and Now: Celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is intended to address that lack of knowledge. It provides background information, ideas for taking action, and interactive exercises to help people learn about human rights.

The word HERE in Human Rights Here and Now means the USA. This book is a tool for bringing the UDHR into the lives of people in the United States: kindergartens and unions, Scout troops and senior citizens centers, religious organizations and prison programs. Although obviously useful for educators in schools and colleges, Human Rights Here and Now was also written to serve the needs of community organizers and activists.

The word NOW in the title marks three events. The 50th anniversary year of the UDHR is 1999. Furthermore, the UN has declared 1995-2004 the Decade for Human Rights Education. And the new millennium that begins in 2000 inspires us all with hope for a better world to come. NOW also emphasizes that human rights is a long-cherished idea whose time has come!

Human Rights Here and Now focuses specifically on human rights issues in the USA and addresses two pervasive attitudes:

  1. "Human rights are the same rights as those guaranteed in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights." Although these documents embody precious civil and political liberties and clearly influenced the drafters of the UDHR, they do not contain the full range of human rights. For this reason, Human Rights Here and Now gives equal importance to social, economic, and cultural rights, which few people living in the United States understand to be human rights. These include the right to education, housing, work, food, health care, and an adequate standard of living.

  2. "Human rights problems happen only in other countries." Many individuals in the United States and the US media use the words "human rights" when referring to problems in countries like Bosnia, South Africa, China, Iran, or Argentina. Human Rights Here and Now seeks to bring those words home, celebrating the rights we enjoy in the United States and challenging the denial of other rights.

This material represents the inspiration of many activists, the support of many institutions, and the work of many hands:

Its principal contributors, Sushanna Ellington, Nancy Flowers, Karen Kraco, Patrick Manson, Janet Schmidt, and David Shiman of the Educators’ Network of Amnesty International USA; Marna Anderson, Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, and Sherry Kempf of Partners in Human Rights Education; and Martha Malinski of Human Rights USA

Amnesty International USA, which has long fostered human rights education, and its Human Rights Educators’ Network of dedicated volunteers

Human Rights USA, a project initially funded by the Ford Foundation to educate people in the United States about human rights. Human Rights USA includes the following partners: Edward O’Brien of Street Law, Inc.; Loretta Ross of the Center for Human Rights Education; Kristi Rudelius-Palmer of the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center; and Nancy Flowers and Janet Schmidt of the Educators’ Network of Amnesty International USA

The Stanley Foundation, which collaborated in the creation and publication of this book

Center for World Education, College of Education and Social Services, University of Vermont, which hosted the initial writing and research institute in July 1997

Shulamith Koenig, without whose vision the UN Decade for Human Rights would not have come into being

These individuals also made significant contributions:

  • Ethan Bleifuss
  • Katie Boylan
  • Margot Brown
  • Robin Brown
  • Janice Christensen
  • Vienna Colucci
  • David Conrad
  • David Donahue
  • Ellen Dorsey
  • Bill Fernekes
  • Pilar Garrido
  • Jill Goldesberry
  • Sofia Gruskin
  • Elise Guyette
  • Dan Horowitz
  • Annete Faye Jacobsen
  • Kirsten C. Jones
  • Terri Kinne
  • Sister Claire King, SCC
  • Bert Lockwood
  • Ellen Moore
  • Ed O’Brien
  • Deborah Robbins
  • Mike Sanders
  • John Schumacher
  • Cristina Sganga
  • Mary Eileen Sorensen
  • Karla Stone
  • Barbara Swanson
  • Cosette Thompson
  • Paij Wadley-Bailey
  • David Weissbrodt

In creating this material we have drawn from a variety of inspiring educators and publications from around the world. In particular we acknowledge our appreciation and debt to the following:

    Margot Brown, Our World, Our Rights (Amnesty International-UK, 1996)

    David Donahue and Nancy Flowers, The Uprooted: Refugees and the United States (Hunter House, 1995);

    Susan Fountain, It’s Only Right (UNICEF, 1993)

    First Steps (Amnesty International, International Secretariat)

    Julie Mertus, Mallika Dutt, and Nancy Flowers, Local Action/Global Change: Learning about the Human Rights of Women and Girls (UNIFEM, 1998)

    Ed O’Brien, Eleanor Greene, and David McQuoid-Mason, Human Rights for All (West Publishing Co., 1996);

    Partners in Human Rights Education, Good Things Happen When Students Take Action (Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, 1997);

    Betty Reardon, Educating for Human Dignity (University of Pennsylvania, 1995);

    David Shiman, Teaching Human Rights (Center for Teaching International Relations, University of Denver, 1993);

    Felice Yeban, ed., The Human Rights Education Pack (Asian Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education, 1995).

Above all, the authors wish to acknowledge the inspiration of their students, the future of human rights.

Nancy Flowers
Bolinas, California
December 10, 1997



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