Activity 5:
A New Planet


This activity starts with participants’ personal ideas about rights as expressed in an imaginary bill of rights. They then find correspondences between their ideas and specific articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Time: 1 hour
Materials: Blackboard and chalk
Chart paper and marking pens for each group
Copies of the UDHR, complete or simplified version
Setting: Middle school - Adult groups
Links: Fits well with Activity 6, Human Rights in the News.
See Part IV, Taking Action for Human Rights, for action ideas.


PART A: Human Rights for a New Planet

1. Read the following scenario:

    A small new planet has been discovered that has everything needed to sustain human life. No one has ever lived there. There are no laws, no rules, and no history. You will all be settlers here and in preparation your group has been appointed to draw up the bill of rights for this all-new planet. You do not know what position you will have in this country.

2. Instruct participants, working in small groups, to do the following:

a. Give this new planet a name.

b. Decide on ten rights that the whole group can agree upon and list them on the blackboard or chart paper.

3. Each group presents its list to the class. As they do so, make a "master list" that includes all the rights the groups mention, combining similar rights.

4. When all the groups have reported their lists, examine the master list:

  • Do some of the rights overlap? Can they be combined?

  • Is any right listed on only one list? Should it be included or eliminated?

5. Discussion questions:

  • Did your ideas about which rights were most important change during the activity?

  • How would life be on this planet if some of these rights were excluded?

  • Are there any rights you would still like to add to the final list?

  • Why is making a list like this useful?

PART B: Linking Rights to the UDHR

1. When the master list is complete, participants return to their small group and try to match the rights listed with articles of the UDHR. Some rights may include several articles. Others may not be in the UDHR at all. Alternative: To save time, assign each group specific rights from the master list to investigate.

2. As a group finishes, ask a representative to write down the numbers of the articles they have identified next to the right on the master list. You may need to add an extra chart sheet next to the master list.

3. Review each right on the list.

  • As participants identify a right with a particular UDHR article, ask that they read the simplified version of the article aloud.

  • Resolve any contradictions about which right matches which article.

4. Discuss

  • Were some of the rights on the list not included in the UDHR? How can you explain this omission?

  • Were some rights in the UDHR not included on the group’s list? How can you explain this omission?

Going Further

1. Personal Preferences – At this point, especially if a natural break occurs, ask participants to mark on the list the three rights that mean the most to them personally. The facilitator can then tally up the marks to see how many each right received. When the group continues, remind participants about the interdependency and indivisibility of rights. See Part V, Appendices.


  • Why do you think certain rights received so many marks from this group?

  • Are there special circumstances in this community or country that make some rights more important than others?

2. Categories of Rights – Explain the distinction between civil/political rights and social/economic/cultural rights. See Part V, A Human Rights Glossary, for definitions. Ask participants to determine which rights on their list are civil and political and which are social, economic, and cultural. Did any one kind of right predominate? Why?


1. A New School – This activity can be adapted to imagine the creation of a totally new school. This version could lead into an examination of the human rights climate of the current school and the creation of a list of "school rights," which would improve the school or classroom environment. These might be written as both rights and responsibilities (e.g., "Everyone has the right to be treated with respect" and "Everyone has the responsibility to treat others with respect"). This analysis of school problems could lead directly to action projects. See Part IV, Taking Action for Human Rights.

2. What If? – To emphasize the universal application of rights, the activity might be varied by assigning some groups specific roles in the society on the new planet (e.g., you are disabled, a member of an ethnic minority, a millionaire) while other groups have no roles. Did having a particular position in society influence ideas about necessary rights? These differences could also be included through discussion or having each participant draw a role, for example, "What if on the new planet you were a disabled person? Would this fact affect your ideas about necessary rights?".

Sources: Adapted from First Steps, 96-98; Edward O’Brien et al., Human Rights for All, (St. Paul, MN: West, 1996).


The immediate task of human rights teaching and research should be to prevent or substantially decrease human rights violations by discovering and applying inexpensive, practical, and effective methods of awakening in individuals, groups, peoples, and governments an awareness of the meaning, content, and value of human rights; how human rights are violated; how violations may be prevented or redressed; how human rights may be enhanced; and the will to respect and vindicate human rights. In short, to internalize reverence for human rights

-Dr. Josť W. Diokno, Chairman
Phillipine Presidential Committee on Human Rights



copyright information


  Human Rights Fundamentals The Right to Know Your Rights Activities Taking Action for Human Rights Appendices