The Language of Human Rights

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

This lesson focuses on the language of human rights. Learners examine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and analyze the rights from a personal perspective. They discuss how well they perceive that the rights are enforced.

PrintTwo 45-Minute Sessions

The learner will:

  • categorize information and analyze meaning of text in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • define vocabulary related to human rights.
  • relate the work of UNHCR and the UN with human rights.
  • respond in writing and through discussion to videos viewed as homework.
  • describe why and how an organization in the civil society, such as UNHCR, acts as a mediator between individuals and the government.
  • Video: Universal Declaration of Human Rights - overview of the development of the UN document
  • Printed copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights activity (see handouts below)
  • See PDF below of the UNHCR Faces of Refugees Slideshow

See the vocabulary handout below The Language of Human Rights


Learning to Give paper about Refugees


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Watch the video overview of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and discuss how it formed and why. Discuss the value of a universal document like this. 

  2. Have participants work in small groups to complete the Universal Declaration of Human Rights activity (see handout below). 20-30 minutes

    Discuss the groups’ responses, clarify some of the unfamiliar language (see handout below) surrounding human rights, and identify ways in which these rights are often violated around the world.

  3. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) feels mandated to act as a mediator between individuals and governments around the world. Discuss:

    • Why would they want to assume that responsibility? 
    • How does their work benefit the common good?
    • What type of organization is the UNHCR (corporation, government, non-governmental, political, international, nonprofit, etc.)
  4. Working in small groups, participants are given a picture and short biography of a refugee from the Faces of Refugees PDF below. They look up the refugee's country of origin and identify the conflict and human rights violations. They write a short, compelling statement and make a poster about what they learned paired with the image. 30 minutes

    The groups view the posters of the other groups with a gallery walk. Discuss what they learned and the differences and similarities between the different refugee stories. 20 minutes

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.7 Describe how the civil society sector provides mediation for individuals and governments.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Describe civil society advocacy organizations and their relationship to human rights.