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February 2, 2014

Human rights and the Olympics, part 1: Introduction to human rights


Use this lesson from New Global Citizens and NewsHour Extra to introduce human rights to your students. Students will explore and learn why it is necessary to have an agreed-upon framework for human rights recognition. Further, they will analyze the structure and format of the UDHR and identify those protected by its provisions.


Social studies, human rights, geography, politics

Estimated Time

One 60-minute class

Grade Level

Middle and high school


Warm Up Activity

Introduction to Human Rights: 10 min

Watch “The Story of Human Rights” (hosted on Gooru) up to 0:43. At 0:43, pause the video and ask students to answer the question, “How do you define ‘human rights’?” Students can craft an idea in pairs or small groups of 3-4 and then report back to the class after 2-3 minutes. Build an agreed-upon class definition and post somewhere visible.

Start, “The Story of Human Rights” from 0:43 and watch until the end. Gooru clip runs to 7:20. If you’re watching on YouTube, stop the video at 7:20.

Main Activities

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 15 min

Briefly re-cap the historical events in the video with students. Be sure to focus on the role of WWII in garnering widespread support for a universal definition and provision for human rights. At this point, if your class is not familiar with the process behind UN declarations, you might consider adding a mini lesson on this information.
As a class, read the UDHR and then ask students their reactions, using the following guiding questions:

  • Who is covered by the UDHR?
  • What groups aren’t listed? Do you think those groups are included in the protection of the Declaration?
  • Are UN Declarations binding? I.e., are they law? What implications does this have for enforcement?
UDHR Analysis: 25 min

Divide students into small groups of 3 – 4. Give students the 30 articles in the UDHR, cut up individually, and explain to them that the UDHR is typically divided into three sections. Task students with choosing their own divisions of the UDHR to explain to the whole group what kinds of rights are covered under the UDHR. Students can divide the rights into any three groups they like, but the groups must be developed to draw on the commonalities of the rights within the groups that students develop.

After students determine the three groupings of rights in their groups, ask students to briefly share their reasoning with the entire class. Once groups have shared, explain to students that there are three basic categories of rights agreed upon by the international community: 1st Generation or Individual Rights (Articles 1—15), 2nd Generation (Articles 16—29), or Group Rights, and 3rd Generation (Article 30), or Solidarity Rights. 1st Generation Rights are those rights that apply to ever individual equally. This includes the rights to equal treatment under laws, regardless of age, sex, etc. 2nd Generation Rights are those rights that apply to each group equally, typically within the context of a governmental group. Finally, 3rd Generation Rights are those rights that ensure that each individual or group’s rights extends only so far as to not infringe upon the rights of another group. In other words, these rights ensure that we can all coexist peacefully.

Have a brief class discussion about why it would be important to set out rights for individuals, groups, and between individuals and groups.

Exit Ticket: 10 min

As an assessment, ask students to respond to the question, “Why did the UN need to develop an agreed-upon framework for human rights?”

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