Human Rights in Higher Education: Incorporating practical experience

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Human Rights in Higher Education: Incorporating practical experience

The November New Tactics on-line dialogue features “Human Rights in Higher Education: Incorporating practical experience”. This dialogue specifically features ideas, experiences and methods from human rights higher education programs for incorporating practical experience into human rights curriculums to better prepare human rights advocates for doing “on the ground” and “in the trenches” human rights work.

The featured resource practitioners (biographical information) include:

  • Abigail Booth, Programme Manager, Head of Nairobi Office, Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Kenya
  • Alice Nderitu, Fahamu (Kenya) in coordination with the University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Jadwiga Maczynska, Project Manager, Jagiellonian University Human Rights Centre, Krakow, Poland
  • Mingzhen Ge, Shandong University, Human Rights Center, Law School, China
  • Diane Sisely, Director, Australian Centre for Human Rights Education at RMIT University
  • Barbara Frey, Director, Human Rights Program, University of Minnesota, USA
  • Robin Kirk, Director, Duke University Human Rights Center, North Carolina, USA
  • Nicole Palasz, Center for International Education, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Amy Weismann, Deputy Director, University of Iowa Center for Human Rights
  • Susan Atwood, Instructor, University of Minnesota’s Leadership : Leadership for Global Citizenship.
Be sure to take a look at our new collection of articles, guides, and classroom modules for your curriculum: New Tactics Resources for Educators!

Main themes of this dialogue:

  • Stories of Practice: examples of how practical experience is being incorporated in human rights education programs
  • Challenges: ethical issues with incorporating practical experience in human rights education programs
  • Curriculum Resources: creating and simulating practical experience


In this dialogue, participants shared their practical experiences in integrating human rights education into higher education curriculums. Human rights education has the ability to raise awareness to global and local issues, and can encourage greater understanding of human conditions. It also has the ability to empower and inspire students, and teach them about human rights in relation to their own experiences.

At times, starting with practice of human rights and sharing stories of violations before teaching theory may assist in making some of the materials more tangible and less abstract. In addition, engaging practical experience and conducting confidence-building exercises can bring students closer to the subject, and away from the impression that human rights only happen on an international level. By reaching out to the local community, students can become active rather than passive learners.

Human rights have multidisciplinary nature that can be incorporated into many academic departments. Since it applies to different aspects of life and can be taught with flexibility, it could be included in different discipline curriculums, such as in the curriculums of medicine students. Encouraging cross section of disciplines could take place for example, by creating collaborative projects. Overall, developing dialogue within and outside the class room can enrich the experience of the students. It is also possible for students to introduce human rights into their own discipline, when human rights courses are not available, by facilitating activities such as the "human rights incubator” and “the human rights campaign studio.” These collaborative approaches allow students to research, develop and implement human rights projects within the framework of their work place or their discipline. 

Engaging the class itself is a great place to start when trying to incorporate human rights into the curriculum. There are many activities which can assist in better illustrating some of the principles of human rights. The class could stimulate an NGO, participate in role-play exercises, connect with students from other universities, explore human rights centers, and use in-depth case studies from New Tactics Tactical Notebooks. Curriculum gaps on human rights in universities can also be bridged by distributing scholarships for distance learning courses. More specifically in the law discipline, there are activities which can enhance the curriculum through legal practical experience such as free of charge legal information and assistance  for persons whose rights have been violated, conducting legal research for various practitioners and interning with human rights based groups.

There are also many opportunities outside of class that can enrich the students’ experience with human rights. Resources outside of the university, such as organization that offer human rights training and civic education, could be utilized to further students’ understanding of human rights. Students can participate in human rights focused internships, Interfaith Youth Core and other advocacy work.


Several reoccurring themes were evident throughout the dialogue. Educators expressed a concern that introducing human rights education in societies which associate this kind of education with westernization and imperialism can cause suspicion and hostile reaction. When people fundamentally oppose the notion of human rights education, it is harder to gain access to institutions where human rights education could be taught and to raise money to sustain the programs. It is especially difficult to gain access to these institutions when there is a conflict of interests between education institutions that sponsor and host programs.

Another challenge which was discussed was the risk of burnout and disappointment that students may experience when working with real life cases, especially when the outcome of the situation does not turn out as they anticipate it would. The essentiality of reminding the students about being realistic may in turn create frustration, and dissolution with the process.  Hence, careful planning is needed before introducing human rights courses to higher education programs. It is important to understand in depth the situation in which specific tactic was used, for example, and to put it with respect to the background of the location and of the students themselves. One of the greatest challenges is to create a bridge between the local and the international, in order to illustrate how human rights can solve daily challenges and are not just an abstract theoretical concept. Another challenge is that some institutions are less flexible about course curriculum.  When there is less flexibility, it is harder to utilize more relevant information in the course. 

Finally, human rights education is not accessible to everyone and a further challenge would be to reach under-privileged students. In general, there could be more monitoring of the curriculum of human rights. In addition, there is a need for sustainability in human rights education, through student projects and networks. Many people who work in the human rights area, for example, do not define themselves in that way, which creates distance between them and narrows opportunities for expanding and collaborating.


There are many resources available for educators and students on the internet and outside of it. The important task is to make students aware of the tools available to them, and to utilize the recourses in a way that would be beneficial for the class.

Online tools have the ability to serve as powerful illustrations. Here are some tools mentioned in the dialogue:

There were many examples of the effectiveness of technology in delivering messages about human rights:

Students can also create online group on the New Tactics website, and utilize social networks such as Facebook. There are also curriculum building resources such as  New Tactics Resources for Educators, and the Advocates for Human Rights: Teaching Guides which are available for educators online.

In addition to tools available online, human resources could also be utilized to assist in incorporating human rights. One of the examples discussed was mobilizing alumni to participate in training and academic programs for new students, creating a regional network, conducting follow up seminars to share experience with new students, creating an alumni e-forum and using alumni feedback and experience for future evolution of the curriculum.  


CURRICULUM RESOURCES: creating practical experience

Curriculum Resources: creating and simulating practical experience

Share resources that you have found to be helpful in simulating and/or creating practical experience - through exercises, tools, videos, case studies, articles/books, etc. Think about the following questions:

  • What resources can you share that others can access and incorporate in their own course curriculum?
  • What resources have you found especially helpful in providing practical, real-life experience?

Also reflect and share about the following:

  • What resources do you WISH you had?
  • What resources would you want to become or made more available?
Make use of former students?

We, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, are about to launch our alumni e- forum, and I must say I am really impressed by this community site! In my mind, a place to “meet” is crusial for creating and, foremost, maintaing communication between practioners and theorists. We have been neglecting to make use of the many former students in our activities and trainings/ courses, and I believe, and hope, that the forum could change that. Now, a way of creating a tool for incorporating practical experiences in the curriculas in higher educations could be to “recycle” the knowledge gained by the students, who hopefully would have hands on experience of using their theoretical knowledge. But still, this is not a way to actually creating practical experiences for students, but rather of building on the experience of past students. I am curious to know if anyone has ideas on how to best make use of alumni in trainings and academic programmes?

Mikael Ohlsson

Programme Associate

Raoul Wallenberg Institute


Make use of former students?

Best wishes for your e-forum initiative! As for myself, I found it very useful, both to maintain communication and gain information and support from former colleagues you know and trust.

In the Human Rights Legal Clinic programme I coordinate we have been engaging former alumni in the orientation training sessions for new students. That proved to be a succesful idea, as former participants in the programme could both deliver necessary material and convey the right message, basing on the authority steming from their own personal experience . I think it is the "been there, done that" note that worked very well and was inspiring for new students. 

Otherwise, many of our alumni continue their work in the field of human rights and some of them are currently with major local and global human rights organizations, UN, ECtHR, so they provide an excellent example of making human rights a long-term goal in their work and have a lot of insight. Sometimes, due to people's busy schedules and everyday committments, it might be actually easier to win their presence on a fixed occasion than constant communication. I guess, it might be optimal to combine both ways, whenever possible. 

Jadwiga Maczynska

Make use of former students

Diane Sisely, Director, Australian Centre for Human Rights Education at RMIT University

Hello Mikael,

We are planning to do exactly the same thing, that is  develop an on line alumni e-forum. There is a great deal of interest from our post graduate students and guest presenters in continuing to discuss and learn about on- going developments in the application of human rights for their work and advocacy outside the formal course structure . We see this as a critical way to make an ongoing contribution to building of a culture of human rights and it will also assist in the  joint development of knowledge, resources and practice and spread knowledge of available resources. 

We are also planning to have face-to-face symposiums 2-3 times a year on selected topics. We see these as being run under "Chatham House" rules to enable complex issues to be explored in a "safe space".


Make use of former students - and use of internships

I'm wondering how many of your human rights programs require your students to have an "internship" type of experience with an NGO or other kind of human rights institution to have a hands-on, practical work experience.

New Tactics considers itself very fortunate to be a host site for students doing such internships. It is a great benefit to us - helping us to accomplish far more than we could otherwise - and a benefit to students to have the opportunity to work with us and contribute their time, energy and skills to our work and mission. Quite a number of students continue to volunteer their time with New Tactics after their internship period has been completed. We have also had the good fortune to hire some of them staff members in our organization.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

about use of interships

Mingzhen Ge, Shandong University, Human Rights Center, Law School, China

Maybe different countries and different universities are all different in use of internships, such as , in China, in fact, both our law school and the society seldom have such interships for students to participate.But, indeed, intership is very effevtive for students to better understand human rights. In my class, I have to give suggestion to students to find human rights interships chances from abroad universities or NGOs.

sometimes we invite former students, especially those who are pracitioners,to law shoool to participate seminars or give lectures for undergraduate and graduate studentss.It is really very useful.

engaging former students

Abigail Booth, Programme Manager, Head of Nairobi Office, Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Kenya

RWI has also arranged follow-up seminars for alumni of our Master programmes. As our alumni come from all over the world these have been done on a regional basis. While this has not brought alumni into contact with present students it has allowed alumni from different years to meet and network. It has also given us the opportunity to hear directly from them what use their education at RWI has been in their practical work and how we can make it even more relevant. 

These events are, however, rather costly as they often entail long distance travel to get everyone together. Unfortunately our donors are less and less willing to fund academic education and we are being pushed more towards practical training for specific target groups. I hope that the e-forum can provide some sort of alternative for alumni networking as well as a channel for feed-back on our programmes. 

Feedback from former students

I am especially interested to hear more about what your allumni have said about their educational process and their feedback about how RWI (as well as other educational institutions) can make the education process more relevant. I think this is a tremendous challenge. It comes under "hindsight is always 20/20" - we can look back and see what would have been helpful to learn or know before launching into our careers. At the same time, we may not have been able to grasp or take in the information or experience earlier even if it had been provided.

Were there particular areas of their educational experience where their feedback has resulted in changes or new areas added to RWIs program to answer that feedback or the stated needs? 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Experience with alumni meetings

Abigail Booth, Programme Manager, Head of Nairobi Office, Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Kenya

 Hi Nancy,

I only have first hand experience of one of these alumni meetings. One problem is that the participants tend to be very polite and probably don't voice all of their criticism. The discussions did not touch upon the incorporation of practical issues. This could be because RWI Master programme is legalistic in its approach (only for lawyers) and I don't even think that students expect "human rights practice" to be included. 

As I have mentioned, this is currently changing and we are looking at ways of incorporating the practical experience we have from the programme division with the academic work (a two-way process). I can't tell you the results of this at the moment but if we get back in touch in about a year we should have more information! I would also appreciate the input of my colleagues at RWI more directly involved with this - so if any of you are reading...

re: engaging former students

Amy Weismann, Deputy Director, University of Iowa Center for Human Rights


What a great idea to build regional human rights alumni networks! I can see this as an important way to receive  feedback and undertake evaluation and assessment over time about  human rights education.  I also see the creation of alumni networks as a concrete way for academic programs to help grow human rights culturebuilding through continued faciliation of transnational networking and resource sharing. It can also, in tems of institution building, help establish a donor base for human rights programs over time. Perhaps the e-forums could be a way of engaging current students with these alumni networks, as well as bringing alumni together.


engaging former students

 Robin Kirk, Director, Duke University Human Rights Center, North Carolina, USA


I love the idea of engaging former students. A great way to do this is through social networking sites like Facebook. I have several students across the globe who are doing great human rights work, and now I plan to incorporate them in my Spring 2009 class -- thanks!!!!!

Engaing former students


It would be great to hear more about how you're planning to incorporate them into your Spring 2009 class - in what kinds of capacities?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Hi Diane, Yes, I know

Hi Diane,

Yes, I know there are several forums like this, and as in your case, in the pipe line. I think that there is a point of having separate forums for different universities/ institutes in that sense that the discussions would be sort of narrowed down. The forums then can have their own added value. But, on the other hand, networking could be somewhat limited. I just came to think about that maybe we could have a list of links on our forums? Perhaps under a heading like "Other Human Rights Forums"?


Mikael Ohlsson

Programme Associate

Raoul Wallenberg Institute


Alumni and online forums -- create a group on!

Hi Mikael,

I wanted to share my experience of the University of Essex using former alumni to help share practical experience with human rights students. The Human Rights Centre brought alumni from Essex that are now working in the field, to hold a half-day seminar on their work. One of these seminars was on 'negotiating an international treaty at the UN' and it was very interesting. Alumni could be a GREAT resource for human rights educators to bring experience back into the learning process, and inspire current human rights students to believe that they really can find a job in human rights!

Regarding your interest in an online forum, you are ver welcome to create your own 'group' on our New Tactics website and invite your alumni to become members of this group. It would be a great way for you to keep in contact with them - and also a great resource for them to share their experiences with one another! In these groups, you can start your own 'online dialogues' (just like this one!), share documents, share images and video, and share links. It's very easy to start - just go to and click on 'Create a new group'. If you have any questions about this - let me know!  

This kind of online forum can also be useful for current human rights students. They could either participate in your alumni New Tactics group / online forum, or they could start their own. We have implemented this in Barb Frey's human rights advocacy class at the University of Minnesota and it has been very helpful for students to share resources, discussions, links, etc.  

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

alumni e-forums

Diane Sisely, Director, Australian Centre for Human Rights Education at RMIT University

Hi Amy and Mikael,

I agree with both of you re the possibilities of linking alumni e-forums and the possibilities they offer for building knowledge and practice at all levels, local, regional and global amongst alumni and current students. They could also provide access to internships for students. 

I would be interested to work with you and interested others on the further development of these ideas, or is this something that New Tactics is already doing?



First I'd like thank you for all the feedback on alumni e-forums. It will be very useful when starting up our site. I agree that it is important to include current students in the forums. It would certainly be a way of "recycling" knowledge, creating a place where students could communicate with activists/ practioners. As Abi mentioned we have a number of short trainings anually, and I'm even thinking of making the use of the forum an integrated part of these trainings. It will be a good and transparent way of communicating between the two phases of our trainings. 

As a final note a must apologise for not being so active in the discussion. I´ve had quite a lot to do at the office. This is of course symptomatic with the people we are trying to engage in our forums, so that's a difficulty we face I beleive... It would be great though if we could stay in touch further on. We have this forum to continue the discussion, but if you want you could also write to me directly at:

Again thank you!


Mikael Ohlsson

Programme Associate

Raoul Wallenberg Institute


Alumni e-forms and internships


New Tactics would be very intereseted to offer opportunities to our on-line community members to become involved with students in human rights programs around the world - making connections in e-forums but also in terms of offering internship opportunities in a wide variety of ways that could provide experience to the students as well as work assistance on particular projects or campaigns in NGO or creatively with government and business agencies to infuse human rights and human rights perspectives/applications into their efforts.

We would be very interested to explore this with you and the others further!

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

alumni e-forums and internships

Diane Sisely, Director, Australian Centre for Human Rights Education at RMIT University

Hi Nancy,

Great, I will be in touch! 



i think education system in pakistan is the root cause of terrorism because it is directly and in directly linked with our decadent historical baseless and rotten supra structure.  our universities and schools are producing educated Mullah Umers and osama bin ladens. because the decadent and exploitative ruling classes of pakistan want to preserve decadency and impoverishment for their hegemony. if there would have been healthy, progressive, democratic, critical curriculum , then automatically it will produce genuine intellectual elite for  social change. so thats why they donot allow progressive and emancipatory or critical ideas in curriculum .

Bringing the real world into the classroom

Students, and alumni, are the human rights activists of the future. And
not just those students who take courses that specifically focus on
human rights. Human rights are cross/multi discplinary. The course I
teach at the University of Minnesota is the capstone course in the
undergraduate leadership minor - leadership for global citizenship. The
U of M, as many other academic institutions, is investing heavily in
the concept that students should spend time studying abroad and that
all courses should be taught in the context of a global mindset. The
undergraduates on the leadership minor come from across campus,
business school, liberal arts, medecine..........and they come to the
leadership minor with the specific hope that they can have some
exposure to real world experiences. The framework for the minor is
social change and the students use a public achievement framework for
their work. They work with local high school students on projects such
as making their campus more green, installing a public crossing outside
the school. They learn how to mentor, lead and advocate. With the
advent of a 'community organizer" to the White House, they are excited
and engaged at the possibility of "being the change we want to see".

When they reach the global citizenship semester, they are fired up
and ready to apply their skills but then frustrated at their inability
to implement hands on projects. This is where technology is
increasingly coming to the rescue. Enter New Tactics! The NT database
has proved a wonderful resource for the students' country leadership
development projects. Here they can get a feel for practical, grass
roots tactics that have impacted human rights around the world. For
instance, the business students can relate to the importance of micro
enterprise to impoverished communities that are currently subject to
such abuses as child labor and human trafficking and through that
prism, address the question of corporate social responsiblity. The NT
tactical map
affords them a way to help start designing their projects
by identifying the relationships at the heart of a problem and mapping
their own way to work with others involved locally, nationally and

Soliya: is another innovative project that
was started by a former journalist and conflict resolution expert. It
is a moderated dialogue that puts western students in touch with
students from the Muslim world to discuss cultural and political issues
and work together on putting together videos that document human rights
abuses from varying perspectives.  The Girls International Forum: in Minneapolis is a project that works with young girls in
developing countries and here in Minnesota to put them in touch with
each other to share the issues that concern them and to train them to
advocate for their own rights on issues that they identify such as
education, economic access and health.

My own background is that of a practitioner turned educator. I used to
think that I had done it the 'wrong' way round by doing the practice
first and then the theory. But increasingly we are coming to see on the
leadership minor that practice (and failure) are the entry points to
fire up the students enthusiasm. Once they have carried out some hands
on projects and seen the challenges, they are ready to analyze and
debrief and discuss lessons learned. So for instance, a reading about
the policy change cycle was introduced after their country leadership
project and the students were immediately engaged as they realized
their projects were an EXAMPLE of  policy change. Previously we had
done this same reading before the project and it had very little

There should not be a disconnect between the classroom and the real
world, we do not have time for that. So encourage other human rights
activists that you know to become educators and bring that real life
experience into the classroom.

I would appreciate any and all ideas of other resources that can help
simulate or bring practical experience into the classroom and look
forward to the rest of this fascinating dialogue.


Using videoconference tools to bring practitioners to your class

Amy Weismann, Deputy Director, University of Iowa Center for Human Rights

For those of us in rural communities and small towns, outside large metropollitan areas where NGOS and service providers engage human rights as a framework for their activities, connecting students to "real life experience" in the human rights field, especially to a diverse array of approaches to human rights work, is sometimes a challenge. We all share the insight that teaching about the practice of human rights requires imaginative, cost-effective strategies as well as a network of support. I've found that vidoeconferencing provides an immediacy of experience that is quite impactful, and that it helps build a network of support for teaching about human rights without the need for practitioners to undertake expensive, time consuming (and carbon emission producing!) travel to reach your students. I've had great recent experiences utilizing videoconferencing technologies to bring practitioners from around the world into my undergraduate classroom in Iowa City. From the feedback my students have provided, I believe it has opened opportuntiies for bridging the theory-practice divide. I'll share the nuts and botls with you here.

I've experimented with the use of vidoeconferencing using two systems supported by the University of Iowa. One system requires site-to-site transmission and allows for very high quality, real time video and audio interaction between a class of students and the practitioner, both of whom , however, must be situated in respective rooms at each location equipped with cameras and microphones. The system is internet-based and is called "H.323/IP". Here is the support website for the H.323/IP program at the University of Iowa:>.

Although not yet universally available, many colleges and Universities with this technology are interested in encourgaing its use as a teaching tool and make it available to faculty and staff for use in classroom teaching, with tech support to boot! And in many cases, the viodeconferecne can be recorded for student review and use in teaching at a later date.

Another resource, one that has the potential for much wider usage, is Ellminate Live!. it is particularly well suited for human rights related classrooms because it can be accessed and used by anyone with a computer, including practitioners in living in communities around the world without access to high speed internet. It provides mutliple channels to run at a time so that practitioners can present together from different locations, allows for powerpoint and video to run simulataneously with the live presentations, has a live chat option so that students can pose questions to the practitioner or if multiple practitioners are on line with the class at once, can pose them to one another for the class to see.

Live's training and support web pages:

of Iowa's Elluminate Live service:

In some cases, the convenience of a videoconference, especially from a
home or office computer terminal, has allowed practitioners whose time
constraints would have prevented them from attending a class to share
their expertise nonetheless from the convenience of their home or

Through these two systems, I've been able to connect my class with practitioners from Berkeley, California to Chicago, Illinois, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to The Hague, The Netherlands.

If your school does not support these or other viodeconferecning systems for teaching use, you may wish to ask why, and request that your technology services unit invest in supporting a system. It has the potential to bring the world to your students!





Technology options


Your use of technology to bring practitioners to your class and practical experiences to your students is great! It makes me think that there could be a wide variety of applications of this kind of technology for opening dialogue and building collaborations between human rights practitioners on the ground (from many points at one time) and academic institutions with their students (also from many points at one time) to further human rights efforts.

For example, in two of our previous on-line dialogues the topics covering "Unarmed Accompaniment" and "Training for Nonviolent Action", the practitioners were saying how helpful the on-line dialogue was for bringing people together to discuss common issues and for sharing ideas they could borrow from each other - and yet they also wished there could be more direct face-to-face exchange.

Your teleconferencing tool sounds like it can incorporate more of the "face-to-face" feel of the exchange that certainly creates greater student interest and involvement. I could imagine that a partnership between NGOs and universities that have the technology conferencing capability that you are talking about could host some powerful exchanges among NGOs from different regions of the world to "gather" and address different human rights issues while at the same time directly engage the students at the educational institutions to become invested and involved in the issues.

I would be interested to know how many of you in educational institutions utilize on-line dialogue tools  (or web forums) as part of your courses. If so, do you think it has been an effective tool for student exchange?

New Tactics launched this interactive website to assist human rights practitioners (from students to seasoned advocates) to find community and support for the important work they are doing. We are very interested in buidling more direct ways for New Tactics thinking, tools, resources and especially the broad community of human rights advocates to provide practical experience opportunities to students as they seek to build their human rights awareness and skills within their educational institutions but also with the New Tactics on-line community.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Participation through technology

We made a good experience by using various technology devices provided by human rights organizations and institutions to better explain their role and impact.

For instance, the ECtHR (European Court of Human Rights) offers recordings of the Court sessions on its website (sponsored by Irish Aid)

Providing students with a relevant recording, while explaining to them the role of international court bodies and tribunals in human rights promotion, gives them a better picture and feeling of what is being done.

Apart from that, for daily needs we use a webforum and mailing lists, where students can share their experience, interesting materials and information.  That facilitates discussion whenever we do not meet in person.

Jadwiga Maczynska, Project Manager, Jagiellonian University Human Rights Centre, Krakow, Poland

More technology-based resources

Dear Susan,

thank you for pointing out the Soliya project , I definetely look forward to exploring it on the web.

In addition to my post above, you might be interested to check another technology-based discussion-provoking tool facilitated by Unitar (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) i.e. the Geneva Lecture Series (, launched in April this year and broadcasted online, accompanied by an open forum, background reading suggestions and lot of useful resources. You actually have a chance to pre-register your question for the next lecturer, who might choose to answer it during the lecture, if time permits! 

The next lecture is scheduled for December 10 and shall be presented  jointly by Shirin Ebadi (2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) and Wole Soyinka (1986 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature) on the main question of "Are Human Rights Universal?". In reference to point made by Abigail on learning from human rights activists from other parts of the world, you might consider showing it to your students, to make them feel the global perspective and a region-based approach at the same time.

Jadwiga Maczynska, Project Manager, Jagiellonian University Human Rights Centre, Krakow, Poland

We will keep you posted on

We will keep you posted on how it goes and very much welcome other suggestions about how to use technology to connect our students with the world outside the classroom. Maybe it is particularly in the States and/or in the Mid West, but undergraduates here seem to have a hard time/limited interest in connecting with issues outside their own immediate experience. 

Technology options

Diane Sisely, Director, Australian Centre for Human Rights Education at RMIT University

Hi Nancy,

We are also very interested in using on-line dialogue tools and are currently  developing two courses for on-line provision using social networking tools. We also want to explore the potential of skype so that on-line students can participate in real time presentations by "guests"  and consider the potential for on-line students to interact with students in "face -to-face" classrooms.


Using technology

 Robin Kirk, Director, Duke University Human Rights Center, North Carolina, USA


I think we all have to really make an effort to incorporate technology into teaching, while ensuring that these new ways of communicating are as or more effective than reading and class discussion. Too often in my classes, I have a great subject and issue -- then I notice that the students have that "glued to the coimputer screen" vacant look -- and I realize that they are checking their email, or shopping, or instant messaging.

So early on, I banned all computers and cellphones from the classroom -- except, of course, MY computerm which I use virutally every session, for photos,youtube,websites, etc.

There is a great Doonesbury cartoon on this:

technology and video suggestions

Hi Everyone,

 I was home with the flu yesterday and am impressed at how much useful chatter I missed while I was out.  Especially helpful are these suggestions about technological links to resource people.  We have lots of practitioners in Minnesota, so we get a bit lazy about looking for new and interesting contacts in far flung places.  Great idea.  We are trying to move the U of M into the 21st century in terms of technology and translation services.  Your suggestions have given me new motivation.

 I think video documentaries also provide helpful real life cases to help students grasp human rights issues and mechanisms.   A couple of my favorites are Long Night's Journey into Day (about the South African Truth Commission), and The Family that Does Not Speak Dies (Icarus Films: about Gacaca courts in Rwanda).  Could you share videos you find useful in practical education?

Barbara Frey, Director, Human Rights Program, University of Minnesota, USA

Video resources

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to speak social work classes at the University of Minnesota regarding the issue of "rape as a weapon of war". The professor of the course had used an excellent documentary film called, Calling the Ghosts that brings that issue into stark focus from the perspective of Bosnian women survivors. It also brings an excellent insight into the workings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and what it is like for a victim to testify in that process to hold people in power accountable for their actions and to address the issue of impunity. It highlights the tension between legal processes and the victim's need for justice. 

I would also like to recommend a recently released documentary film that I had the opportunity to view last week when I attended the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies conference in Chicago. I was very impressed with the film titled, Soldiers of Conscience that tackles human rights issues from the perspective of soldiers serving and having served in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Very powerful and thought provoking!

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Video games

 Robin Kirk, Director, Duke University Human Rights Center, North Carolina, USA


Another resource are video games. HASTAC has a "Virtual Peace" game ( and the  World Food Program has a great humanitarian game called "Food Force": I haven't found anything specificly human rights related; instead, I put my students in a classroom with four screens and game consoles and run Food Force, Halo, World of Warcraft and some sports/Wii game and make them rotate. At some point, I stop orcing the rotation -- inevitably, they all gravitate to the most violent game available. This gives us a great window into talking about the attractions of violence and the slow, less invigorating aspects of "peace." This leads into other great discussions about how to reach young people, the uses of violent images to promote peace, "donor fatigue," etc.

Additional video resources

Robin, Thank you for sharing these resources.  I am interested in using more interactive media like this.   We have also used the video game Peacemaker (about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict).  It is more focused on the connection between government actions and peacebuilding, but sparks some great discussion.  It can be downloaded from  It may already have been mentioned but there is also a video game from A Force More Powerful (  I have not used it, but it addresses the use of non-violent action.

A Force More Powerful - computer game & other video resources

This is another great classroom resource - it's an in-depth computer game that teaches strategic and tactical thinking and planning. It was developed and is available from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

I've tested the game - it's a very interesting exercise. I must admit that it's hard for those us already working in the field to take advantage of the game. It takes time to learn and study (something we have in short supply). But for students, it could be a great way to experiment.

They also have a wealth of great videos including "A Force More Powerful" that chronicles examples of nonviolent change from Gandhi's salt march in India; to the Danish civil resistance movement to the Nazi occupation in WWII; to the lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, Tennessee; to the Soweto consumer boycott in South Africa. They also have additional video resources such as "Bringing Down the Dictator" - the story of the Optor! Student Movement in Serbia and "The Orange Revolution" about the civil uprising in the Ukraine. 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

video games

Amy Weismann, Deputy Director, University of Iowa Center for Human Rights

I 've also found Food Force to be a great tool. Breakthough (, a media organization base in New York, has produced some interesting games  about immigration: "ICED" and "Homeland Guantanamo" are the latest. Both attempt to simulate  an experience within the U.S. immigration law enforcement system--"ICED" situates the player as a young, undocumented /unauthorized immigrant; "Homeland Guantanamos" takes the player inside an immigration detention center from the perspective of an investigative journalist.  Students interning at my Center thought these were engaging and a useful way to initiate dialogue on immigration as a human rights issue, and could be played in pairs.




Death Squadrons: the French School

 Robin Kirk, Director, Duke University Human Rights Center, North Carolina, USA

 This is an excellent documentary on the role of France as a teacher of torture to South American and US leaders, out of their experience in Algeria. For students, it is an excellent way of showing how torture is not inevitable, a sign of human brutality, but a technique that is researched, studied, taught and transferred, quite deliberately...

about resources

Mingzhen Ge, Shandong University, Human Rights Center, Law School, China

There are really many kind of resources which I can find in China. But the class hours are limited, so how to select the proper resources is more important. In Shandong University, there have at least three human rights education courses which I teach and participate all. There have two human rights education courses in Law School, one is for undergraduate students, and another is for graduate students. The third human rights courses is for students who are from other departments. These three courses have different motives. Students in different courses also have different knowledge background and have different needs in human rights education.

Another importand thing is that, till now, most of the resoures which is proper to choose for some specific topics human rights teaching are in English, so sometimes it is a bit difficult for students to use such resources.

More resources

Susan Atwood, Instructor, University of Minnesota’s Leadership : Leadership for Global Citizenship.

thanks everyone for sharing concrete suggestions of resources. I have shown students DVDs including Born into Brothels, and Hotel Rwanda. I am also a big fan of Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) Frontline series that you can access thru The next podcast is about Hugo Chavez and they have extensive archives organized by dates and subjects.  Nicholas Krstof from the New York times did a great series of podcasts from his travels in Africa, focussing on the lives of women. YouTube is what the students always turn to to find footage, with the recent project on child labor t he group showed some compelling footage. We are really very fortunate with our current technological resources - what did educators do in earlier days?!

What resources would you want to become or made more available?

In my work, we usually try to plan on a detailed curriculum for the whole year programme, covering some of of the three quarters of the time available, so that we can include extra subjects as suggested by the participants themselves (e.g. presentations on problems they work on or have particular interest for) or current things that come up during the semester and we feel need covering. I was wondering if you do the same and what is the level of flexibility you can use in your curriculum? I know that in some academic settings it is prefered when the students are provided with a detailed curriculum, while making course selection. How do you manage to tailor your course to new issues that come up during the academic year (e.g. current human rights issues?)

In reference to the above and to the question in the subject line: do you use some pre-made curricula available in various fields as inspiration and source of ideas? We have been to some extent incorporating some ideas as provided by the Refugee Law Reader created by the Hungarian Helsinki Commitee and funded under European Refugee Fund available at , providing cases, documents and materials for refugee law practitioners, including a suggestion in a basic curriculum to go through major points. That has been very helpful, in particulat due to the fact that each edition is updated, so that you make sure you do not miss out anything important.

Jadwiga Maczynska, Project Manager, Jagiellonian University Human Rights Centre, Krakow, Poland

What resources would you want?


Thank you for sharing the excellent resource of the Refugee Law Reader and your questions about the issue of flexibility in your own course curriculum and planning to leave space for emerging human rights issues that would connect with your students.

New Tactics would be very interested to get your ideas about how we could better assist educators to utilize the wealth of case study materials that we have collected from around the world. These case studies have been very powerful for eliciting discussion among human rights practitioners and we believe that they can be especially helpful for students to gain insights into both the challenges and successes that people have had in addressing difficult and complex human rights issues around the world.

New Tactics is seeking to make the resources we have and continue to collect more accessible to educators and students, as tools for practical application learning, as well as for human rights activists seeking new ideas and innovations to advance their efforts. 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Developing more resources for educators

Dear Nancy,

I am a self-trained teacher myself and I found that there are a couple of resources that have been very helpful in organizing my class:

  • all kinds of concrete curriculum proposals and suggestions, listing available topics and  suggested reading, case studies etc. Many people refrain from sharing those resources, as they feel it makes other educators become lazy and simply copy stuff they found on the web. I think it is the opposite and as a food for though it has proved to be very useful for me to consult such ready-made materials, to draw inspiration, adjust certain topics and methodology to my needs. In limited time and space, it is a significant assisstance if I can compare my ideas with concrete examples of what to other people do. On most occasions I feel tempted to come up with my one ideas, based on the inspiration provided by others and new material and resouces emerge.
  • making stuff accesible on the web through open licence or educational use only clauses. Foreign language materials (e.g. books) tend to be very expensive and we cannot always afford them, with might leave us outseide the mainstream and most recent development in our fils. I am a strong supporter of online access and grateful to every author, who decides to offer there work this way.
  • I am a great fan of multidisciplinary approach and often I would wish for more information on the historical, cultural, sociological background of the human rights situations in other parts of the world. Often materials available concentrate on the "here and now" issues, without explaining enough of the causes that brought about a certain issue and being not familiar of a given context I am feeling I am losing something. What I like e.g. in the New Tactics series (And I want to emphasis that this concerns not only the Notebboks, but the Workbbok as well!) is the way that background information is provided. I also observed that it made students much more interested in the problem, when they could associate it with its causes and reflect whether a similar situation might occur in their community.      

I hope the above points to something you might want and would able to delevop/continue on in your project.

Jadwiga Maczynska, Project Manager, Jagiellonian University Human Rights Centre, Krakow, Poland

Curriculum flexibility

Susan Atwood, Instructor, University of Minnesota’s Leadership : Leadership for Global Citizenship.

The question of curriculum flexibility is, I think, a crucial one. If we rely on over-structured curriculum we fall into the trap of not being current and relevant to our students. Personally I outline a framework with themes, and broadly worded assignments at the beginning of the semester and then do a detailed lesson plan week by week. This allows me to use contemporary materials from publications and internet sources. I always tell the students that whereas the basis course is the same each semester, the detailled content is very diffierent. For instance the past couple of semestesr we have looked at leadership by studying some of the political party candidates and their views and approaches to issues. The State of the Union address is analyzed by students not for policy, but for leaderhip style.  Of course now we have the global financial crisis which is an unfortunate but excellent case study of the perils of our interconnectedness.

Also, I start each class with five minutes of student input from issues that have caught their attention since the last class. Often these are taken from the U of M student daily newspaper. Sometimes these issues expand to take up much of the class or form the basis for a subsequent class. When New Tactics came in this semester to do the tactical mapping exercise, we started them off by using an issue with which we felt they would have some level of comfort - a landlord evicting a tenant for cultural reasons (cooking, music etc). Once they had tried their hand at this issue, we moved them on to consider their own country projects on child labor and trafficking. Both from the perspective of comfort level and interest, I find it essential to respond to the students in any particular class and try to make the subject have resonance for them in their own lives. Some professors at the Kennedy School of Government (who shall remain unamed!) still teach the Cuban missile crisis case study for conflict resolution and diplomacy classes. Well, I am sure it is compelling but there have been quite some crises since that current undergraduates might feel a little more connected to. It is always great when a student comes into class with additional information on a topic we have discussed and realize that the issues we discuss in class are ones that are currently important in the 'real world". 

Teaching human rights across disciplines

I'm very interested to learn more about your experience regarding the students in your three courses that have "different background and have different needs in human rights education." I may have too many assumptions about the law school course - I'm thinking this content might be more focused on international laws, conventions (e.g., the declaration of human rights, the Geneva Conventions, etc.). Am I seeing this correctly? I'm very curious to know then what is the difference in your course content with those students coming from different disciplines? What academic fields of study are  they coming from and what is there expectation for a  human rights course?

I share you concern about relevant and practical human rights practical application materials being available in languages that are in one's first language to make it possible to truly relate to the issues, content and feel deeply the discussions and debates that surround human rights issues. This is most powerful when conducted in one's first language.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

teaching in law school and teaching human rights across discip.

Mingzhen Ge, Shandong University, Human Rights Center, Law School, China

teachers in different law school teach human rights law differently from each other, some teacher will only teach international human rights law, some teacher will focus on rights-based issues teaching. for my own teaching, generally speaking, I will teach  following contents: theory and history of human rights, basic concepts relating to human rights,  human rights and law, human rights and democracy , human rights and rule of law, human rights evolution in China and around the world, international human rights principles, international human rights treaties, international human rights implementation, domestic implementation of international human rights standards,  other issues relating to some specific rights, and so on. Human rights course for graduate students will choose some particular topics to discuss and translate some materials from English to Chinese.

I also open  one international human rights law courses to students from different disciplines. Last term, students who attened this courses from about fifteen disciplines. For example, philosophy , sociology,medicine, politics, mathmatics, computer, foreign language,law, physics, chemistry, histroy, literature, engineer and so on. Most of these sutudents are fasinating about human rights issues and want to know more about it, some of them want to study this coures in order to look for job in NGOs or other agencies relating to human rights. 


your experience



Hi Mingzhen Ge,

I would love to know more about your experience with your students in
teaching human rights?


about my experience of teaching human rights law courses!

Mingzhen Ge, Shandong University, Human Rights Center, Law School, China

Hi, Irafan

      It is nice to know that you are intreseted in my own experience of teaching human rights. In 2003, I begun to teach intenternational human rights law in our school till now.Under-graduate students could select this courses. Since these students are all senior students, and they all have basic legal knowledge background, so I think it is more easier for me to teach. In the first lecutre of this class, I will do some investigation among students, in this investigation, I will ask many questions about human rights, these questions focus on theoritical and practical human rights issues, throught these questions I will know the background of these students, Then, I will choose some special topics to teach.Certainly, there will have some problems which students can not understand properly, even you try your best to  analyize the problem . I will give some human rights materials in English to students to read and translate, then will make students discuss some particular issues in class. I also often introduce some real cases in China to class to discuss. In my own eyes, education is one process, not one point, its effects maybe can only show in coming days, even in coming years. So we teacher can not expect, all students can really understand what you teach, sometimes, only through some term of time, they can really understand. Such as, one of my students,

he do not understood some topics about human rights, and dto question me both in and out of class, also he really did disagree my opinion about some issues. At that time, I only told him, just remember what I teach and at same time keep his own ideas, years later, he should rethink the same issues again. Then about two to three years later, he told me, he finally understood  what I have taught bout some special topics.

From 2004,I begun to teach this courses bilingually, I used english materials  to teach. It is effective for students to use english texkbook even there have some difficulties.

when we talk about human rights education, we all know, we aim to enlarge the knowledge of students, to improve their skills, to produce their own ideas and to change their attitude. In my own opinions, attitude should be the most important aim which we want to reach.So, we should think of how to use effecient methods to change the attitudes of students after they finish the course.

There have other more opinions about my own teaching exprience, in the coming days, all of us human rights educator can communicate and discuss with each other.

about human rights education for non-legal back ground students

Mingzhen Ge, Shandong University, Human Rights Center, Law School, China

One of most important experience of teaching non-legal back ground students is that, in the process of teaching, it is necessary for teachers to teach students some basic law knowledge, this will be very helpful for these students to understand human rights issues. For teachers, teaching is also one process of studying. Teacher should give enough chances to students to express their own opinions about human rights in class, teachers will also  learn some new ideas about human rights from their opinions, or some of these opinions will be very helpul for teachers to think about some special human rights topics.

Resources for educators

I would like to develop a web resource page for area educators who are interested in incorporating human rights in their classrooms at both the K-12 and university levels.  Do you know of any good websites with engaging, easy-to-use curricular resources that would be helpful for educators that are new to human rights education?  I'd welcome ideas in all areas of human rights education from around the world, including additional web resources that you use to teach about the application of human rights.

Resources for educators

Susan Atwood, Instructor, University of Minnesota’s Leadership : Leadership for Global Citizenship.


I have used in my class, mainly for its focus on the interconnectedness of issues. They focus on K-12 and have suggested class plans, resources, activities etc.


educate human rights educators

Mingzhen Ge, Shandong University, Human Rights Center, Law School, China

It is important to educate human rights educators, especially in developing countries. In China, in the past years, RWI and other Nordic human rights institutions have organized some programmes to educate human rights educators.

Mingzhen Ge, Shandong

Mingzhen Ge, Shandong University, Human Rights Center, Law School, China

it is so nice to participate this dialogue, but for my schedule, I did not have enough time to come to net to discuss. I think different teachers use different resources and teaching methods, .Anyway, as teachers, we should study from each other in order to make human rights education more effective  in different cultures around the world.

Thanks a lot for Nancy's invitation  and other participator's exellent words in the past days.

Mingzhen Ge

Law School, Shandong University

Hongjialou No.5, Jinan , Shandong

China, 250100

Tele: 86-531-86672658

Mobile: 13256788368

Fax: 86-531-88566412




curriculum resources;creating practical experience

i think curriculum resources and practical experience are two different entities, two different phenomenas linked with the socio-historic as well as economic existence of a given society or an individual. as far as pakistani societ is concerned it is going more decadant and conservative the more it pordouce decadant literates, because now a days curriculum resources are totally segregated from practical experience .


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