Source: Megan Smith’s Model Lesson Plan and

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Name: Netsanet Tesfay

Lesson Plan: Human Rights

Source: Megan Smith’s Model Lesson Plan and

Time:60 minutes

Homework Assigned before class:

  1. Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Street law book

  2. Have students read the bios of the ten human rights defenders

  1. Goals

    1. Understand what human rights are and why they are important;

    2. Have a better understanding of the United Nations and its mission; and

    3. Understand how interconnected the world is and the importance of promoting and working for peace.

  1. Objectives

    1. Knowledge Objectives: As a result of this lesson students will understand:

      1. The history of the United Nations (UN) and how that guides the UN’s mission; and

      2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and what role it plays in international human rights discourse.

    1. Skills: After this lesson students will be able to:

      1. Distinguish between legal rights and human rights;

      2. Understand why we have the United Nations;

      3. Recognize that international law plays a crucial role in giving human rights global reach; and

      4. Understand that International human rights treaties transform lists of human rights into legally binding state obligations.

    1. Attitude Objectives: As a result of this lesson students will feel that:

      1. Human rights are important; and

      2. States AND citizens are both very important to creating a society that values and respects human rights.

  1. Classroom Methods: Lecture (10-15 minutes)

    1. Define Human Rights

      1. Introduce the subject by asking some rhetorical questions

        1. What are human rights?

        2. Does everyone have them? If so, why?

        3. Are there any constraints to those rights?

      1. Ask the students to define what human rights are:

        1. Have the co-teacher write on the board students’ definition of human rights.

        2. Put on the board or overhead the following definition of human rights:

            1. Human rights are what reason requires and conscience demands. They are us and we are them. Human rights are rights that any person has as a human being. We are all human beings; we are all deserving of human rights. One cannot be true without the other.” - Kofi Annan , Former Secretary General of the United Nations

          1. Explain that human rights are rights that all people have just because they are human; they are basic rights that every individual on this planet has.

        3. A violation of a human right is a violation of a person’s dignity.

          1. Explain that both government and private actors can violate someone’s human rights. Human rights violations occur in our home, our schools, our workplaces, and in interactions between the government and citizens— whenever a person’s dignity has been violated.

      2. Ask students to describe where they think human rights come from. Tell them that there is no right or wrong answer. Then share the following information:

        1. Human rights can come from our shared norms of what we think is right and wrong;

        2. They can also be defined as natural rights that we have because we are human; and/or

        3. As legal rights in which we are given at the national level or by international law.

    1. Introduce the United Nations

      1. Tell the students that the United Nations (UN), an international organization, is responsible for protecting human rights and maintaining peace and security.

        1. Tell the students a bit about the history of the United Nations:

          1. The organization was established in 1945.

            1. The United Nations was created after World War II.

          2. There had been earlier attempts to organize the nations of the world but the United Nations was the first supra-national authority that could direct nations to take specific actions.

            1. What does this mean?

              1. This means that due to its international character the United Nations can take action on a wide range of issues.

              2. It also provides a forum for all 192 Member States to express their views, through the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and other bodies and committees.

            2. Show students the map of the UN system .

              1. UN chart located at

  1. Class Room Activity (25-30 minutes)

    1. Tell the students that they will be working in groups of 3 or 4 people. Each group will be given a biography of a human rights defender. Students should read the bio silently and then as a group, discuss what human rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the human rights defender fighting for. Students should refer to the Declaration of Human Rights in the Street Law book.

  1. Reconvene: Class Room Discussion (20-25 minutes)

    1. Call students back together and ask the spokesperson from each group to tell us:

      1. What human rights is the activist/human rights defender fighting for? Refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Street law book for assistance.

      2. Why are human rights important?

      3. How can citizens help promote human rights?

    2. Ask the class to turn to Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Appendix B, p. 564.

      1. Explain that the UDHR is a statement of basic human rights which has been agreed to by almost every country. Every country that belongs to the United Nations agrees to promote, recognize and observe these rights.

        1. However, the UDHR is not the official law of any country. There are other international documents though that include many of the rights included in the UDHR, and countries have the option of making those documents laws in their country as well.

      1. Explain to the students the difference between legal rights and human rights:

        1. Legal rights (rights laid down that can be defended in a country's courts of law or an international court) and

        1. Human rights (universal moral rights that belong to people because they are human).

    1. End the class session by telling students that both governments AND citizens play an important role in promoting human rights and fighting for social justice.

  1. Evaluation

    1. Class participation in small groups

    2. Debriefing discussion about human rights

  1. Homework

    1. Write a short journal entry on the following:

      1. What is a human right you think is important? Why is it important?

Human rights are what reason requires and conscience demands. They are us and we are them. Human rights are rights that any person has as a human being. We are all human beings; we are all deserving of human rights. One cannot be true without the other.”


Human Rights Defender no. 1: HAFEZ AL SAYED SEADA

Country: Egypt

Instruction: Please read the bio below. Discuss the following questions and have one person report back to the class.

  1. What human rights is Hafez fighting for? Refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Street law book for assistance.

  2. Why are human rights important?

  3. How can citizens help promote human rights?

Bio: Established in 1985, under Hafez Al Sayed Seada’s leadership, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights investigates, monitors, and reports on violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Seada defends victims; strives to create understanding of, and popular support for, the defense of human rights; and works to change laws and government practices that violate international instruments. He has launched numerous campaigns against specific violations, including torture, female genital mutilation, inhumane prison conditions, and religious persecution. Due process in Egypt is hampered by emergency decrees. Military and state security courts where due process rights are suspended, a judiciary beholden to the executive, the routine use of torture by security agents, and the deep divisions and suspicions among the many religious and ethnic minorities in the country. Although there are many news outlets, press self-censorship is common, and dissent from the official party line is dangerous. Sexual discrimination is rampant, and women are at a severe disadvantage in family law and access to legal literacy. Seada’s early life as a student activist landed him in prison, where he was mistreated and thrown through a window in an effort to deter him. Instead the experience transformed a university demonstrator into a man with a lifelong commitment to the protection of human rights. Today EOHR is Egypt’s foremost human rights organization.

Interview with Hafez:
The police first arrested me in 1979, at the university, because I participated in a demonstration against the government, to uphold the rights of students to free association, and to work on political issues. They beat me, gave me electric shocks, and tortured me for one month. They kept telling me to reveal who was supporting me, what country or leader was backing me. These scars across my face are from when they pushed me through a window. I was hurt so badly they had to take me to the hospital, where I was operated on and remained for nineteen days. That was the end of the torture, but they kept me in jail for another four months.

A decade later, I decided to work as a human rights lawyer. I joined the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, working without pay, from 1990 until 1993, documenting cases of abuse throughout Egypt and helping to build the organization. In 1997 the board appointed me general director. My country had been suffering since the Emergency Law had been declared in 1981. The Emergency Law annuls all constitutional rights—any rights—under international conventions. The press is restricted, independent newspapers and television are banned, and all other newspapers are owned by the government. The police, security, and intelligence forces enforce this by regularly employing all kinds of torture. We had a very narrow space in which to operate. You can’t even talk about corruption. You can’t talk about the transition to democracy in Egypt, or the rigging of elections: not in a place where the government chooses not only the candidates running from the state party, but those of the opposition party as well!

There are now twenty thousand detainees in prison. They had no trial, and no charges have been pressed. Recurrent detention is widely resorted to. The emergency law gives the authorities (upon the approval of the minister of the interior) the right to detain someone without charge or trial for thirty days. But this often extends to six months or more, because the authorities have the right to reject the appeal of the detained person twice. Then, when the duration is over, another ministerial order is issued, keeping the detainee as long as the authorities wish. This amounts to endless detention.

Even when trials do take place, civilians are often referred to the military courts (and you can imagine the military courts). The latest case, involving over one hundred people from Albania, included four thousand pages of documents, and the defense was given only one week to prepare for the hearing. In most cases the outcome is predetermined. Military trials continue to be a source of serious concern for the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights due to the absence of any constitutional or international guarantees for a fair and a just trial. These trials demonstrate the lack of independence of the judiciary system in Egypt. There is another issue that represents an enormous challenge: securing respect for women’s rights. Fewer than 2 percent of parliamentarians are women, and those are ap-pointed by the state. Our group works with the UN Commission for Human Rights, which condemns the abuses in Egypt. Their support helps, though we know that we will have to pay the cost of this struggle. Look at what happened to me: I went to prison for writing about the torture of the Copts. The government didn’t accept our report documenting the abuses so they targeted our organization. But what I wrote are facts. Hundreds of people were arrested. Hundreds were tortured at the police stations. We couldn’t remain silent and call ourselves human rights defenders. So we published this report and then the government accused me of spying for a foreign country, Britain. They accused me of receiving money from the British Embassy to make the report. This indictment is still pending—I am out on five hundred dollars bail.

While I was under investigation, they asked me if I was responsible for managing everything here at the Human Rights Organization. I told them I was. The investigators didn’t believe me, saying, "No, the president shares responsibility with you." I told them that publishing the report was my decision alone. I was responsible for everything. I wrote the report, I read it, I reviewed it, and I decided to publish it and issue it in a newspaper—to uphold human rights. I personally sent it to all news agents. Sure, if I had told the investigators that I was not responsible, they might not have arrested me. But this is not my moral code. I felt I should take my responsibility and bear the consequences.

It may never come to trial but they have made it clear that if I write any more reports, they will restart the investigation and prosecute. But this is our job, as human rights advocates, to point the finger at government errors. If we don’t do this, who will? These are our rights; we should fight for them. No government recognizes rights without a struggle. Look at America’s Civil War, and the agony of Europe’s battles for democracy. We, too, must demand our rights. Winning a democracy will involve sacrifice. So far we haven’t paid heavily, or sacrificed ultimately. But we know that at some point, we’ll either pay or be forced to accept this corrupt regime. If we are not willing to sacrifice, then we cannot complain when we are thrown in jail without reason, without any charge, and without any due process. We can expect no better. Because the fact is that this government doesn’t respect the UN Conventions on Human Rights. They don’t respect the democratic system either. They want only to continue retaining sole political power.

I am not frightened. I think of the future, of my son. I face this challenge for him, for all our children, and for their future. If we don’t start now, the next generation will inherit our failure to bring about change.

My father and my mother always said, "Look at the facts and then make things right." When my father came to visit me in jail, he said: "Good or bad, your destiny is in the hands of God. God has planned whether you stay in prison or are released back to us. No one can change that." This encouraged me to always confront what I knew was wrong.

I know that the future will see an Egypt becoming more democratic, with respect for human rights. But this is a future if only the people demand their rights and they struggle. With mass communications, satellite dishes, and the internet, people cannot be kept in the dark any longer. And with the prosecution of Pinochet in Spain and Milosevic in Serbia before the International Criminal Court, those in power now know they will, someday, be held accountable for their wrongdoing. Things are in a state of change—there is no looking back.

My country has tremendous potential. It is rich in resources. We have the infrastructure of industrialization and a vast host of Egyptians abroad who work in the field of technology. If my countrymen believe that Egypt now respects human rights and that corruption is limited, they will invest. If we create a systems for transparency, for democratization, for accountability, and for tolerance, this will protect our country from any threat, fundamentalist or terrorist, domestic or foreign. I believe in our future—and I know it will be better than what it is now.

Human Rights Defender no. 2: Oscar Arias Sanchez

Country: Costa Rica

Instruction: Please read the bio below. Discuss the following questions and have one person report back to the class.

  1. What human rights is Hafez fighting for? Refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for assistance.

  2. Why are human rights important?

  3. How can citizens help promote human rights?


War raged throughout Central America. The Sandinistas ruled Nicaragua with Soviet backing, and right-wing military governments fought guerrilla insurgencies in El Salvador and Guatemala, while tensions in Honduras were fueled by millions in military aid from the United States and the USSR. Oscar Arias dared to advocate for peace against these powerful Cold War interests and to broker the Arias Peace Plan, which brought a cessation of fighting to his neighbors and prosperity to his own peaceful country of Costa Rica. Born in 1940, Arias studied law and economics at the University of Costa Rica and received a doctoral degree at the University of Essex, England. Appointed minister of planning and economic policy in Costa Rica in 1972, he was elected to congress in 1978 and to the presidency in 1986. On the day he was inaugurated, Arias called for an alliance for democracy and social and economic liberty throughout Latin America. In 1987, he drafted the peace plan, which led to the Esquipulus II accords, signed by all the Central American presidents on August 7. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending conflict in the region. Since then, Arias has used his considerable moral authority to embark on a worldwide campaign for human development, democracy, and demilitarization, applying the lessons from the Central American peace process to conflicts across the globe.

Interview with Kerry Kennedy

Three billion people live in tragic poverty, and forty thousand children die each day from diseases that could be prevented. In a world that presents such a dramatic struggle between life and death, the decisions we make about how to conduct our lives, about the kind of people we want to be, have important consequences. In this context, I think it is clear that one must stand on the side of life. The fact that working for human security is difficult, or that we might face occasional setbacks, in no way affects this existential decision. One works for justice not for the big victories, but simply because engaging in the struggle is itself worth doing. Globalization is a Janus-faced beast, offering unimaginable prosperity to the most well educated and well born, while doling out only misery and despair to the world’s poor. For some, the new economic system means minimizing labor costs and maximizing profits; for many others, it means facing the end of job security, and at the same time witnessing the reappearance of "sweatshops." The most vulnerable and economically insecure populations bear the miserable brunt of the impact of an economic system based on greed and speculation, rather than on human need. While the world as a whole consumes twenty-four trillion dollars worth of goods and services each year, the planet holds 1.3 billion people who live on incomes of less than one dollar a day. The three richest countries in the world have assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the poorest forty-eight countries.

The question is not whether you will be involved in the ethical challenges of globalization, but what your contribution will be. Will you, in your apathy, be complicit in the injustices I have described? Or will you, with your action and your example, bolster the ranks of those fighting for human security? Today we must accept the fact that the evils of environmental destruction and human deprivation, of disease and malnutrition, of conspicuous consumption and military buildup, are global problems—problems that affect us all.

Military spending is not merely a consumer excess; instead, it represents a huge perversion in the priorities of our civilization. We’re talking about enormous sums of money that could be spent on human development. But also, we’re talking about vast investment in instruments of death, in guns and fighters designed to kill people. The creation and proliferation of arms bolsters the power of the military, impedes the process of democratization, destroys economic advances, perpetuates ethnic and territorial conflicts, and creates situations in which even the most basic human rights are endangered. Moreover, we increasingly find that women and children are forced to endure a disproportionate share of the hardships of armed conflict and the poverty it worsens.

Since the end of the Cold War, many industrialized nations have reduced their defense budgets. As a result, those countries’ arms merchants have turned to new clients in the developing world, where the majority of today’s conflicts take place. The United States stands out as an extreme case. Currently, the United States is responsible for 44 percent of all weapons sales in the world. And, in the past four years, 85 percent of U.S. arms sales have gone to nondemocratic governments in the developing world.

At the end of 1997, weapons manufactured in the United States were being used in thirty-nine of the world’s forty-two ethnic and territorial conflicts. It is unconscionable for a country that believes in democracy and justice to continue allowing arms merchants to reap profits stained in blood. But ironically, vast amounts of taxpayer money goes to support this immoral trade. In 1995 the arms industry received 7.6 billion dollars in federal subsidies—this amounts to a huge welfare payment to wealthy profiteers.

War, and the preparation for war, are the two greatest obstacles to human progress, fostering a vicious cycle of arms buildups, violence, and poverty. In order to understand the true human cost of militarism, as well as the true impact of unregulated arms sales in the world today, we must understand that war is not just an evil act of destruction, it is a missed opportunity for humanitarian investment. It is a crime against every child who calls out for food rather than for guns, and against every mother who demands simple vaccinations rather than million-dollar fighters. Without a doubt, military spending represents the single most significant perversion of global priorities known today, claiming 780 billion dollars in 1997. If we channeled just 5 percent of that figure over the next ten years into antipoverty programs, all of the world’s population would enjoy basic social services. Another 5 percent, or forty billion dollars, over ten years would provide all people on this planet with an income above the poverty line for their country.

Military officials simply try to marginalize and downplay disarmament proposals as much as possible. They call these ideas "impractical" and "idealistic." They use backroom political tricks to impede disarmament legislation. And they have a whole array of arguments to rationalize the production and sale of arms. I have worked to advocate an International Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers, a comprehensive international effort to regulate and monitor weapons sales. This agreement demands that any decision to export arms should take into account several characteristics pertaining to the country of final destination. The recipient country must endorse democracy, defined in terms of free and fair elections, the rule of law, and civilian control over the military and security forces. Its government must not engage in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. The International Code of Conduct would not permit arms sales to any country engaged in armed aggression in violation of international law.

Many say that such a code is impractical—impractical because it puts concern for human life before a free-market drive for profits; impractical because it listens to the poor who are crying out for schools and doctors, rather than the dictators who demand guns and fighters. Yes, in an age of cynicism and greed, all just ideas are considered impractical. You are discouraged if you say that we can live in peace. You are mocked for insisting that we can be more humane. I often question the relationship between the International Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers and the free-market concept of supply and demand. If a country’s leaders want arms, some might ask, who are we to say that they shouldn’t have them?

This question merits two responses. First, since the end of the Cold War, arms manufacturers have been aggressively promoting sales to the developing world, in order to compensate for the drastic reduction in arms purchases by most industrialized countries. Furthermore, when we assert that a "nation" desires arms, to whom exactly are we referring? Is the single mother in Indonesia or the street orphan in Egypt pressuring government leaders to buy tanks and missiles? Or is it a dictator—who sees arms purchases as the only way to maintain power? The poor of the world are crying out for schools and doctors, not guns and generals. Another argument to justify the sale of arms is that if one country does not sell arms to a nation that wishes to buy them, someone else will. That is precisely why all arms-selling nations must agree to certain common restrictions. We can no longer say business is business and turn a blind eye to the poverty and oppression caused by arms transfers. Just like slavery and the drug trade, the arms trade reaps profits tainted with blood.

Demilitarization is the goal—and it has proven to be an attainable one. Truly the progress made in Panama and Haiti, to name two countries, give us much reason to hope. The U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 dissolved that country’s armed forces. Subsequently, the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress pushed for the constitutional abolition of Panama’s military. We commissioned an opinion poll to gauge the Panamanian people’s support for a demobilization process; not surprisingly, the poll found substantial support for such a measure. We also began a public education campaign to promote the value of demilitarization. These efforts, and the resolve of the millions of Panamanians who stood for disarmament, came to fruition in October 1994 when Panama’s legislature amended the Constitution to abolish their armed forces.

Similarly, the army of Haiti was in considerable disarray following the U.S.-led interventions in 1994. At this time I encouraged President Aristide to consider demobilizing his armed forces. Meanwhile, many civil society groups held meetings to promote demobilization. The Arias Foundation launched a public opinion poll campaign akin to that of Panama’s and documented similar support among the Haitian public for the abolition of their armed forces. In April 1995, Aristide publicly announced his intention to seek the elimination and constitutional abolition of Haiti’s armed forces. Then in February 1996, the Haitian Senate presented a resolution stating their intent to pursue the constitutional abolition of Haiti’s armed forces.

Courage begins with one voice—look at all the people who have come forward, as individuals and groups, to support the Code of Conduct. Clearly, much work remains to be done. People must continue to organize, so that their voices will be heard. Political leaders must be convinced that demilitarization is a practical and desirable goal. And if they cannot be convinced, then people must elect new representatives. Conviction itself is only talk, but it is important talk, because it motivates action. So while I recognize the hard work of bringing people together in democratic movements, of policy formation, and of diplomacy, I think it is important to affirm that change in consciousness is a crucial first step in making social change—the step from which action grows.

Courage means standing with your values, principles, convictions, and ideals under all circumstances—no matter what. If you stick to your principles, you will often have to confront powerful interests. Having courage means doing this without fear. It means having the courage to change things. I often say that Costa Rica is not now an economic power, but that we want to be some day. Costa Rica is not a military power, and we do not ever want to be. But Costa Rica is already a moral power. This is why we must always be sure to have the courage to do what is right.

Human Rights Defender no. 3: Dalai Lama

Country: Tibet

Instruction: Please read the bio below. Discuss the following questions and have one person report back to the class.

  1. What human rights is Hafez fighting for? Refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for assistance.

  2. Why are human rights important?

  3. How can citizens help promote human rights?

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