Activity 8:
Comparing Rights Documents


This activity asks participants to compare rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) with those present in the US Bill of Rights and Amendments. It challenges them to explore reasons for the presence or absence of certain rights and to reflect on the role of government in guaranteeing rights. (Note: Some prior knowledge of the UDHR and Bill of Rights is needed).

Time: 45-90 minutes
Materials: Activity 8 Handout, Comparing Rights Documents.
Copies of the UDHR, complete or simplified version and US Bill of Rights and Amendments
Setting: Secondary school - Adult groups
Links: Activity 5, A New Planet offers good preparation. Part I, A Short History of Human Rights, provides background reading.


1. Ask participants to complete Handout 1, Comparing Rights Documents. Have participants refer to the UDHR and to the US Bill of Rights and Amendments to check their answers.

2. Discuss:

  • What did you discover that was a surprise to you?

  • Which rights asserted in the UDHR or US Bill of Rights and Amendments do you believe should or should not be universal? Give reasons.

  • Do you think the Bill of Rights and Amendments cover more issues than the UDHR? Why or why not?|

  • Did the writers of the Bill of Rights and the writers of the UDHR have different conceptions of what "rights" means? If so, how did their understandings of "rights" differ?

  • Do US citizens have any rights besides those included in the Bill of Rights and Amendments, Constitution, and other US law? Explain.

  • Should the Bill of Rights and Amendments be more inclusive? Why or why not? What rights, if any, would you add? For example, should Americans be guaranteed the right to food, shelter, education, and health?

  • How do you explain why some social, economic, and cultural rights found in the UDHR are not guaranteed by the American documents?

  • In your opinion, what should be the limits and responsibilities of government in guaranteeing their citizens certain rights? For example, is hunger or homelessness a government’s responsibility?

Source: Adapted from David Shiman, Teaching Human Rights, (Denver: Center for Teaching International Relations Publications, University of Denver, 1993) 4-16.

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.

-Reinhold Niebur

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