Never before in history has there been what is now described as such a “universal cultureof human rights” in which the rights of so many men, women, and children are given so much attention in so many diverse places under the watchful eyes of the world and in which the international community refers to human rights as the common language of humanity.

Paul Gordon Lauren
The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen

The Purpose of this Handbook

A “universal culture of human rights” requires that people everywhere must learn this “common language of humanity” and realize it in their daily lives. Eleanor Roosevelt’s appeal for education about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is no less urgent decades later:

Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home. . . . Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

But to uphold their rights, such concerned citizens need first to know them. “Progress in the larger world,” must start with human rights education in just those “small places, close to home.” 1

Conveying this “common language of humanity” is the whole purpose of human rights education. Concerned citizens of the kind imagined by Roosevelt need to understand and embrace the fundamental principles of human dignity and equality and accept the personal responsibility to defend the rights of all people.

Using this Handbook

This manual is intended to help people who care about human rights to become effective educators, able to share both their passion and their knowledge. To further human rights education in all its many forms, The Human Rights Education Handbook lays out the basics: why, for whom, what, where, who, and how. It draws on the experience of many educators and organizations, illustrating their effective practices and distilling their accumulated insights.

Like most manuals, The Human Rights Education Handbook is designed to be used as a ready reference and tool: easy to read, easy to use, easy to photocopy. Each chapter stands alone, able to be read and used independently.

Part I, “An Introduction to Human Rights Education” sets out working definitions of human rights and human rights education, along with a brief historical overview of field, especially in the United States. “Why? The Goals of Human Rights Education” differentiates between the goals of learning about human rights (i.e., cognitive learning) and learning for human rights (i.e., personal responsibility and skills for advocacy). “For Whom? The Need for Human Rights Education” addresses the question “Does human rights education work?” and seeks to identify audiences for whom human rights education is especially important, both because they are vulnerable to human rights abuse or because they are likely to become human rights abusers.

Part II, “The Art of Facilitation,” describes personal challenges facing the human rights educator and discusses the theory and practice of facilitating learning, especially as it applies to human rights.

Part III, “Essential Components of Human Rights Education,” provides the content, context, and process for human rights education. Kristi Rudelius-Palmer encourages the development of Human Rights Learning Communities to connect participants with a common vision, shared language, and unified practice inspiring human and community spirit and growth. Joel Tolman then establishes four essential “Building Blocks for Human Rights Education”—thinking, feeling, equipping, and doing—for workshops with diverse audiences and settings.

Part IV, “The Methodologies of Human Rights Education” is the practical core of this handbook. It provides a lexicon of methods, techniques, and activities, with examples of each from the text and also from on-line sources.

Part V, “Planning Presentations for Human Rights Education,” offers practical suggestions for preparing presentations of any length and includes checklists, evaluation forms, and models for workshops of differing lengths. The section “Encouraging Human Rights Education in Your Community” suggests how to identify and develop audiences and create opportunities to reach them.

In Part VI, “Evaluating Human Rights Programs,” Marcia Bernbaum shows the importance of evaluation and provides practical guides for determining when, how, and by whom to evaluate.

Part VII, “Human Rights Education Resources,” contains a variety of resources: a bibliography of printed, electronic, and multi-media materials; a list of Web sites; and a directory of US organizations engaged in human rights education.


1 Eleanor Roosevelt, "In Our Hands" (Address delivered at the UN on the tenth anniversary or the UDHR, 1958.