Human Rights in Higher Education: Incorporating practical experience

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internships v. in-class projects

I use both models of practical education in my human rights classes -- internships with outside organizations, as well as in-class projects.  Each, of course, has its advantages and disadvantages.  Placing students in NGOs for the semester requires a lot of management and administrative support.  I have worked to build relationships with NGOs over the years, but it is a constantly changing environment that requires new contacts each year, even if the host organizations stay relatively the same.  Students learn a lot just by being in the offices of an NGO where they witness the pressures and challenges of everything from client intake to fundraising.   I require 100 hours a semester on site in the NGO, in addition to a 2 hour class each week.  We use our class time to build up the students' knowledge about the philosophies, missions, strategies and tactics of NGOs.  I require students to write brief weekly memos that are copied to me and their site supervisor, summarizing work on site and work in the classroom, and registering their hours.  This helps us all stay on the same page, so I know if there are problems at the site, and if the student is keeping up with her hours.

In-class projects have different challenges.  In my grad seminar I offer two or three topics students can select for group work -- the topics are always current issues that I know enough about so that I can supervise the work.  Students, as you probably know, generally hate group work, but I remind them that it is the only way to do real human rights activism.  Learning the skills and reliability of co-workers is part of the process. I grade students separately based on what I assess to be their contributions and leadership on the group projects.  The project work culminates with a written funding proposal and presentation to a guest foundation program officer.  Overall, students have responded really well to these projects, usually resulting in actual work on the project, not just a simulated effort.  This semester, the two student groups have designed tactics that will carry their work beyond the classroom.  One group is holding a conference on Minnesota's  refugee communities from the Horn of Africa, the other group has proposed legislation they are taking to the Minnesota legislature regarding meatpacking workers rights.  It is inspiring to see their efforts.

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

RE internships v. in-class projects

Dear Barbara,

Thank you for your very informative summary of your experience with internships vs. in-class activities. I actually smiled broadely while reading your remark on students hating group work – it sounded so familiar! I was wondering how many students you can take into your programme annually? We usually cannot accommodate more then 12-13 in the Human Rights Section, since otherwise we would need too much supervisory and technical coordination effort than we can manage.

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

class size


I take too many students, but it's hard to turn down eager future human rights advocates.  I take up to 30 in my human rights internship class and cross my fingers I can find that many placements.  We have to interpret human rights broadly in order to accommodate placements.  Each student is limited to a 5-minute report on their internship over the semester so that all of us get to learn about the placement.  I try to set the bar high on these reports, so that students come prepared to give lots of information in a short amount of time.  That's a good life skill. 

 I have between 20-25 students in my human rights advocacy class, also too many, but at least I don't have to find placements for them.  I assign lots of role play exercises so that students have the responsibility to engage in the class in a meaningful way.  

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

RE class size

Dear Barbara,

thank you for this comments, somehow it seems the problems we face both in Minnesota and in Poland are much the same, I have to say that that is in fact kind of encouraging to see that other collegues are working their way so succesfully!

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

collaborative approaches

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

Hi Amy,

I guess the key, as always, is identifying getting the interested parties, both across the discipline areas inside the University  as well as the agencies outside the University, together and "on the same page" with respect to what is being developed so there are no surprises and no regrets down half way into the project. This takes time and effort and "project management". However it is worth it and the idea really excites students.

Another form of collaboration we are developing is the establishment of a "human rights incubator" inside a large organization. The organization  will provide scholarships for  25 employees to undertake a Graduate Certificate in Applied Human Rights at our Centre and as part of this course and with the express support of their line managers, students  will research, develop and implement a project in their workplace to introduce a human rights based approach to the work that they do. The idea is to involve the workplace in the project to spread understanding and "buy-in" . We will run several workshops throughout the course to bring people together, and not only the students, to develop ideas and spread practice lessons.


human rights projects

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

RWI include something similar in our short courses on human rights. Each participant is asked to provide a brief description of a small human rights based project they plan to implement after the first phase of the course. As all of our participants are working in human rights related fields it is also essential that they have the commitment of the director of their organisation. During the course they will be provided with both lecutres and discussions on  human rights theory as well as information about project planning, M&E, results based management, human rights based programming, etc. The idea is that they will be equipped with tools and knowledge to enable them to implement and evaluate their programmes from a human rights based approach.   A lot of emphasis is put on exchange between participants at all stages enabling them to critique each other projects and share experiences and ideas. 

We usually hold a second phase of the course after about six months during which participants are asked to report on their experience of implementing their project and to share lessons learnt.

Our biggest challenge in this course component is to  provide adequate support and follow-up to the participants. We have still not found an ideal solution but are working on it. It would be great to be able to provide more support during the implementation phase but as our participants often come from different countries this has proven to be too costly and time consuming. This is another area in which the planned e-forum could be helpful as it could provide an way for participants to support each other rather than all support coming from RWI. This will, of course, depend on the particpants taking the initiative to use the forum in this manner. 

I think this kind of approach is quite common within human rights training programmes for adult learners and I am not sure how it would translate into the academic setting but I thought it was worth sharing. 

RE: Campaign studio

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


Just wanted to say that I LOVE the isea of a campaign studio -- I do something similar as the final exam, getting students to work as a team on some contemporary issue. But I think I'll revise that idea a bit to model some of what you are describing...

Human Rights Education in Law School

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

Law School  undergraduate students nearly all have some basic theories about  human rights, so to encourage students to organize or participate some human rights based programms will be one better method of education, such as social investigation programmes about some special social human rights issues. For graduate students, human rights education is one process of researching about human rights, seminars or critical discuss will be very effective, comparative studying is nice way for them to deeply think about special human rights topics.

Access to human rights education

I would like to raise another challenge that I have found in terms of human rights education.  This is actually a problem I have seen in the area of global education more broadly in our community.  There is a disparity in access to human rights education.  The students participating in our programs at the high school level as well as at the university level are often more affluent students from high-quality schools who have had more opportunities to travel or to connect with students from other parts of the country or the world.  Many of these students have not experienced or witnessed human rights violations first-hand.  I think the use of simulations and practical experiences discussed in this dialogue help bring human rights to life, but I would like to also find ways to reach under-privileged students in our area with human rights education, and bring in their perspectives and experiences.

Have others had this experience?  I'd be interested in hearing from you about ways to encourage broader access to human rights education.

STORIES OF PRACTICE: examples of practical application

Stories of Practice: examples of how practical experience is being incorporated in human rights education programs

Share information of how you are incorporating practical experience into your human rights education programs. Consider the following questions:

  • What steps did you need to take in order to incorporate practical experience in your academic program and make it a reality?
  • In what ways are your students engaging in real life practical experiences that prepare them for incorporating human rights in their future work?
  • What feedback are you receiving from students about the usefulness of practical experiences for their work and human rights efforts in the real world?
  • What practical experiences have you found especially helpful in providing practical, real-life experience
Legal Clinics as a way to incorporate HR practical experience

Welcome to everyone!

I have been engaged in clinical education for 5 years now, currently as the Coordinator of the Human Rights Section of the Legal Clinic. I would like to share my experience on how it is a valuable method and how I believe it can be expanded beyond traditional use.

Legal Clinics as a concept have been first introduced in US academic education. The idea behind the concept is that students of law (primarily, but as you will see there are many possibilities to expand the concept beyond traditional application) offer free of charge legal information and assisstance to persons whose rights have been violated and  who due to various reasons, such as lack of financial means e.g., cannot afford a hired representative. The Clinics usually operate within the University system, with designated members of the teaching body guiding and supervising students' work. Moreover, students participate in the programme as a part of their curriculum and their work is awarded a note/credit at the end. To this end the Legal Clinic concept bring together voluntarism and gaining practical training.

There are various organization schemed used in Legal Clinics around the world, but usually the following solutions are applied: 

  • the work is usually organized in thematic sections to allow participants select the area, in which they have a particular interest (e.g. criminal law) or where they can make use of their skills (e.g. fluent foreign language speakers may found it inspiring to work in an immigration law clinic)
  • students  undergo a training session of some kind upon starting their work and their practical work is combined with deep research on legal and other questions on merits of the case they are working on
  • students are usually assigned to specific cases, which they work on and are responsible for. That is meant to enhance student's responsibility and engagement in "his" or "her" case. Sometimes students work in pairs.
  • there are frequent meetings, where students share their experience and receive feedback from the supervisiors and the whole group during discussion. 

As stated above the clinical education concept evolved with regard to legal academic education, but there are certain features of the concept, which make it,  believe, useful for incorporating human rights practical experience in other educational setting and levels. 

Below are some ideas:

  • organization of a discussion group, where students/pupils work on a specific human rights case and attempt to come up with a suitable solution - for a variety of issues the New Tactics Tactical Notebooks can be used to present the problem to participants (without giving the original solution), gather their ideas and confront them in a discussion with the solution adopted in the case to discuss.
  • engage students in a brainstorming session on a current human rights issue in the local/regional area to aks them how their competencies/knowledge/skills might be used to work out a solution to this problem and how it can be made into a practical real-life campaign. This involves examination of the problems, establising what is its nature and, critical assessment of own competencies and the scope of influence they may have on the problem. Usually various techniques would appear (e.g. information campaign prepared by journalism students, legal counselling by law/administration students, artwork display by art students etc). The idea is to make students think of their skills as assets in responding to direct comunity needs and additionally empower them to see themselves as active participants and not passive observers)
  •  various variation on the Moot Court concept, widely used in law schools as mock court proceedings on a ficional case, where students provide arguments to both sides of the dispute and plead their case. The added value of providing a similar concept for real practical human rights cases  and asking students/pupils to provide argumentation to both sides of the dispute is that in cases involving concurring interests, the students are made aware of the complicity of some issues and how succesful solutions often need a good deal of bargaining to coverer justified but concurring interest and rights.

I have been using those ideas in my work and found them very effective both in academic setting and in our programms addressed to pupils. There are however some specific challenges one needs to be aware of to better address them:

  • real-life examples need to be used with addition care, so that the interested parties are not victimized and unintentionally expolited. That might involve anonimization of the vulnerable data.
  • whenever practical assisstance is provided, higher risk of burnout  is present, should the case be not succesful (instantly or at all). All participants need to be realistic about their possible impact on the case and the fact that they do not bear obligation for sucessful results, but for their own effeort and goodwill while attempting to suceed
  • practical involvement in some human rights issues might be difficlult or not welcome to the educational institution you are working with. That involves careful planning and clear educational impact of your initiative, so that it does not conflict with student's other committments and curriculum activities.  

There is a lot of various subjects above and many of them rise several practical questions. I would be eager to know if you have made some similar experience with the clinical model and/or you feel it might work in your context.

Jadwiga Maczynska

Benefits of incporating practical experience


Thank you so much for sharing how you have been incorporating the New Tactics Tactical Notebooks into your curriculum with students.

I want to highlight that you and others (including students) at Jagiellonian University Human Rights Centre took on the task of translating the New Tactics Tactical Notebooks "Familiar Tools, Emerging Issues"  and "Testing for Discrimination" into Polish and Ukranian, as well as the New Tactics workbook, "New Tactics in Human Rights: A Resource for Practitioners". 

I was particularly interested in your idea of how you use the tactical notebook in-depth case studies:

"Organization of a discussion group, where students/pupils work on a
specific human rights case and attempt to come up with a suitable
solution - for a variety of issues the New Tactics Tactical Notebooks
can be used to present the problem to participants (without giving the
original solution), gather their ideas and confront them in a
discussion with the solution adopted in the case to discuss.

This was one of the intended purposes for developing the tactical notebooks. It is also interesting that NGOs have also used this idea to gather their staff and networks to use the tactical notebooks to present new ideas, discuss these different ideas and how they might be used and adapted to confront their own issue and context. 

Although the tactical notebooks are not direct practical experience, the in-depth case study nature of the notebooks provides a unique opportunity for students to consider the issues and dilemmas that the organizations and people in the case studies grappled with and discuss not only the positive solutions found for that context but to experiment together to look for ideas and applicability to other issues and contexts.

New Tactics has been working to develop more concrete ideas for incorporating the tactical notebooks in academic settings. We've recently identified a number of academic disciplines and corresponding tactical  notebooks that could enhance the discussion and experience of course participants. Please see the New Tactics Notebook Discussion Guide for ideas of how to use these in-depth case studines in your academic courses.

We would be very pleased to get feedback, ideas and suggestions for improving this effort and making it most relevant to the needs of instructors and students.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Using New Tactics resources in the classroom

I would just like to add to Nancy's comments above about the use of tactical notebooks in academic settings. I have been involved with the project for many years now, and am very excited about the creation of the newly-launched New Tactics Resources for Educators page. I think New Tactics tools and resources can be very useful for academic settings, both in terms of educating students about human rights issues and advocacy, as well as training students to become effective human rights leaders. The resources on the Educators page are just the beginning of what we hope will become a more comprehensive series of relevant and engaging teaching resources for those who would like to incorporate New Tactics stories and processes into university classrooms. Your input would be much appreciated!

If you are already using any of the New Tactics project tools or resources in the classroom, it would be great to hear from you about your experience. How have you incorporated them into your courses or programs? Do you have any suggestions for other educators?

Also, if you are new to the New Tactics network and are interested in bringing the stories and experiences of human rights practitioners into the classroom, what kinds of classroom materials would you like to see developed to help you take advantage of the New Tactics project resources?

New Tactics case studies in a Legal Clinic

Dear Nancy and Nicole,

from my experience I would say that the main challenge while using case studies in my classroom is to both ensure that students can understand in detail the situation in which a specific tactic was used and at the same time they can put it in the right perspective when thinking of situations they themselves experience e.g. in their community, their region, their country. I believe that that is in general the key issue in incorporating practical examples in a class, so that students learn about the problem, which the tactic tackled and they can make the link to what they can utilize one day.

To illustrate the above with an example, while discussing a specific Tactical Notebook you might take following steps (this is based on a model for a Legal Clinic, but I think it may be adapted to other settings):  

  •  ask the students to read the Workbook beforehand and make sure that there are no language problems in understanding the text;
  • during the class, the most important fragments of the tactic should be recapitulated, it might be interesting to ask all students to reflect on the most important things about the tactic, compare their answers and use this comparison as a starting point for the discussion;
  • depending on the country/region where the tactic was developed, it might be good to briefly cover basic facts on the country political/legal system to make sure that the students can understand the background of the tactic
  • While discussing the tactic the students should cover the way legal provisions were used in the case, what was the innovative part of their application, how is the situation compared to your country, would a similar tactic be needed/possible
  • Depending on the case some situations might need reflection on to what level the situation is governed on international level – how international human rights law apply in the case and is the domestic law in line with international law standards
  • I would recommend to ask students to prepare an informal essay on their perception of the Tactic  after the class, to make them capture what they learned and give them an opportunity to reflect on the material once more from a longer perspective 

Depending on the time you have, you might want to cover the tactic on a single occasion, yet I think it is better to spilt the analysis of the problem underlying the tactic and the situation in the country/region where the tactic was adapted and the legal analysis, to make sure that all students understand the background properly before they move to the legal analysis and comparison to their country. That also facilities students’ grasp on interconnected problems in the case – how other human rights are influenced by the problem, which triggered the tactic. Ideally I think you might use the following scheme

  • break the case analysis over 4 classes (e.g. four consecutive weeks) as described above  

  • organize a follow up seminar a week of two later to cover new ideas that might have come up in the essays and select topics loosely based on the tactic to be covered in students’ own mini projects of their choice (individual or in pairs/groups)

  • organize a seminar some more time later where students might present the results of their own projects   

Since probably you would not have time to cover more than one tactic per semester, given that you are in a one-year programme, I would recommed choosing one tactic based on a situation from your region and one from a totally different setting to provide students with a broader spectrum.        

New Tactics case studies in course curriculum


Thank you for this really great break down of a course curriculum outline utilizing one or two New Tactics Tactical Notebooks for in-depth analysis that could work for a semester or year-long timeline to bring in the practical experience aspect in a human rights course. 

You have outlined this so well based on your Legal Clinic model. It provides us with a wonderful base to think about how the non-legal tactics could be adapted to other academic disciplines as well. This is very exciting to think about the possibilities!

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Personal experience in a legal clinic

In response to this great discussion on legal education, I must add my own experiences in the past six months (although this post is over a year later than the dialogue...sorry). Working in the Utrecht University School of Law Clinical Programme on Conflict, Human Rights and International Justice has been a great way to experience, understand and appreciate the methods of legal education, and the benefits they can have for students. In this legal clinic, students are split into working teams of 2-5 students that conduct legal research for various practitioners at the Inter American Court of Human Rights, as well as numerous international courts and tribunals in the Hague (sorry for the vagueness of the statement, but we are bound by confidentiality agreements). Students are able to produce legal memorandums for their partners on a regular basis, which really immerses them into the current discussions before these institutions. Not only is it an excellent way to prepare students for future careers in these institutions, it is also a great way for students heading into the NGO sector, academia, or other fields to become well versed in the most recent human rights legal developments which can in turn be utilized to enhance their success in their work (for instance, see the discussion on New Tactics about using shadow reports in advocacy).

re: using new tactics resources in the classroom

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

I've utilized  the Tactical Notebooks for the first time this semester in my undergraduate class, primarily as a resource for my student sto expand their concept of what constitutes human rights advocacy and human rights work generally. I asked each student to explore the Notebooks as a homework assignment for one week and to select one Notebook as a case study. Each student prepared a brief report  to share what they learned about the case with the rest of the class in the next class session. We then as a large group, after hearing from everyone, brainstormed about modes of advocacy and venues of advocacy adopted by the different groups discussed, and I wrote their responses on the board. Students expressed prior to this exercise a lack of understanding about "what people do" to challenge human rights abuses. By the time we completed the exercise, the blackboard was full of descriptions of "what people do", without any prompting from me! This was exciting as an instructor to see.

re: Benefits of incorporating practical experience

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

I've used New Tactics Tactical Notebooks as a way of introducing  undergraduates to the variety, depth and breadth of advocacy  work being undertaken by real people all around the world. It has been wonderful to see their enthusiatic responses, and their natural affinity for  practical and  outcome driven approaches. They've also used the Notebooks to help them prepare for a group exercise in which they develop their own advocacy strategy, building from the Noebooks, to address a human rights abuse. I'll know more how that will go at the end of the semester!

Incorporating New Tactics case studies


Thanks so much for sharing this with us - we'll be looking forward to hearing the results. We would like to incorporate your experience into the development of more ideas that we can share with educators about ways in which the New Tactics resources can be utilized to provide practical experience ideas and experimentation.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

clinics need not be just legal

Thanks, Jadwiga, for your excellent explanation of your practical legal clinic.  I use a similar approach but have broadened beyond a legal approach.  My seminars are interdisciplinary in nature and students first determine what assets they have and then use their different knowledge bases and practical skills to address the cases we take on.  Last year my students spent the whole semester (and beyond) addressing the issue of inter-tribal child abduction in Sudan, growing out of a real case brought to us by one of their classmates.  Students were amazed to see what assets they collectively brought to this experience, from writing and research skills, IT, press contacts, language skills, facebooking with expat communities, political lobbying, event organizing, photography -- you name it!  The law students in the group helped especially with the analysis of international legal standards and mechanisms, but we could not have done nearly as much if we hadn't had such a diverse student group.

I encourage interdisciplinary clinical approaches to human rights.

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

empowering human rights students

Hi Barb and Jadwiga,

I just wanted to point out, as a former student of human rights at two different universities, that asking students to recognize and utilize their own assets can be incredibly empowering. I think that is it not difficult for students of human rights to feel overwhelmed and powerless when learning about the ever-increasing number of human rights issues. The need seems impossible to address. But the way that the two of you have been able to encourage students to recognize what they each bring to the table (and what they collectively bring, together) and that these assets really can make a difference - is so powerful! So thanks for your innovative approach to human rights education!

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

RE empowering human rights students

Dear Kristin,
thank you for your kind words. What you tell about encouraging students reminds me of a sort of a game we used to present to our students. At the beginning of the programme (somwehere around the end of the training session
i.e. in the first month), we asked our students to think about what they were most afraid of in terms of their work in the Legal Clinic, what they perceived as the greatest challenge and where they were anxious about failing. We asked them to put their answers in sealed envelopes and mark them with their names. We never asked what the individual persons put in their answer.
Then we put the envelopes in a safe place and at the end of the academic year we asked the students to collect back their envelopes and open them to remind themselves what their biggest fear used to be. You know what happened? Most of them felt really suprised about what they perceived as a challenge and they could not believe they were anxious about something they finally did so well in. That encompassed all kind of issues, from making successful contact with the walk-in clients to drafting legal opinions, teamwork in the group, managing to effectively organize their work. What this game teaches us, I believe, in the first place, is that we tend to underestimate our skills and capacity. Once you get to work, you have to face your fear and the best way to do it is to attempt to succeed where you fear to fail.

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

Overcoming fear tool


I really like this simple but profound way of helping students to get a concrete grasp of their biggest fear. The exercise you shared gives a wonderful opportunity for each person to face and externalize their fear (by actually expressing it - writing their fear down on a piece of paper). I especially like the step where they seal it away (and away from themselves) in an envelope and most importantly have that opportunity to open the fear at the end of a process to see and evaluate the reality of their fear - after having faced many more difficult challenges than they could have imagined and done so well in facing them. What a beautiful affirmation and confidence building exercise. Thank you for sharing it with us. 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Stories of Practice

Alice Nderitu, Fahamu (Kenya) 

Sorry everyone for coming in late below are my few comments.

As Abigail said here in Kenya and also for me in South Africa, Rwanda , Uganda and many other African countries that I have worked as a trainer, the students always have a human rights experience, usually a violation. It then becomes necessary to begin by starting with their experience as the basis of the training ( to deal with the anger and also to establish to the student that HRE is about all of us, we are not studying history and what others have done only, because we are all human it begins with us). We then through a process of sharing identify parallels in the stories of violation or experiences of standing up for or advocacy for human rights. The third step is usually to introduce the theory concepts  and instruments ( usually human rights are protected by legislation but abused anyway and students get shocked in Kenya for example to know that torture is explicitly forbidden in our Constitution) Linking all three - experiences, parallels and theory results in the basis of a strategy on what we need to do ? what plan of action must we take ?

This process is boosted by introducing a rights based approach to studying human rights by linking human rights principles - equality, non discrimination, participation, accountability to values that make us human - love , respect e.t.c  which we then agree as a class have to be upheld; in our treatment of each other in class including respect for diversity, tolerance and listening to other peoples opinions whatever they are. 

In this way, we already begin to see students treat each other better, look out for those with disabilities and not discriminate against each other especially on the basis of gender. ( And they are kinder and more polite to the facilitator too! ) This forms a basis for a plan of action for a bigger role e.g working with communities on a conflict prevention plan. Even so we factor in these values  and principles into the content of the learning process  as well as part of human rights approaches to learning ( E.g what human rights principles  and values are reflected in the UDHR ? ) 

We have a distance learning course prepared by my organization Fahamu and  the University of Oxford - Using the Internet for research and advocacy .We are partnering with the University of Pretoria to run it for the LLM class in January. The course will be reflected in the rest of the curriculum so that as the students go for practicals in diffrent parts of the world their assignments can reflect for instance how they have used facebook for advocacy.  This is intended to factor in the real life of the students as they spend so much time on blogs, you tube and face book e.t.c

Still on real life experiences: Fahamu works to strengthen the capacities of civil society organizations. We work with a grassroots organisation, Bunge la Mwananchi - which is people's parliament in Swahili. Bunge is a group of people mainly youth forming a loose organization without structures but  who are usually brought together by issues ( currently they are meeting because of the refusal of our MPs to pay taxes) . Meetings are convened through short text messages and sometimes result in actions such as demonstrations.

Some of the Bunge members are University students. Since human rights is not taught in the Nairobi University except at the faculty of law, we have given a few scholarships to them to take our distance learning course on Investigating, Monitoring and Reporting on Human Rights. In built into the course is a plan of action to put the theory into practise - for instance how to engage a member or parliament or a news editor on an issue. We support them in implementing the plan of action they formulate and that way, they are able to fill in gaps in the curriculums in the Universities on human rights. The new tactics work book is a big hit with Bunge. They love it and we can hardly reach the demand for the photocopies ( cheaper than downloading) They relate instantly with the real life experiences of people in other parts of the world and they are ( aren't we all) amazed by how similar human rights issues are all over the world.

The feedback is that they feel empowered and importantly not only recognize a violation as such ( most people think that the Police are doing their job when they harass them ) but also know what action to take , new ways of doing it and who to approach for enforceability. 

As a trainer my personal experience is that working to link human rights practice and theory means in essence that the term human rights educator becomes increasingly blurred - with research and advocacy playing a very crucial role. 

learning from others

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

I think we have a lot to learn from colleagues in other parts of the world (I have noted that most of the discussion so far has been dominated by western institutions). As I have mentioned, real life experience of human rights violations is often the starting point, at least as far as I have seen here in Kenya. Theory comes later. Thus, most students have a fair understanding of the problems that exist in implementing human rights before they reach university. Linking practice and theory is still an issue but probably in a different way from in the US or Europe. I think there are some really good examples of how this is being done on the African continent and I wish that some of my colleagues from this region were taking part in this discussion. One example is the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria ( ) who use some really innovative methodologies in their programmes. There is also a Centre for Human Rights being set up at the University of Nairobi which is truly multidisciplinary and aims to really link university education to the practical realities of the country. I hope we get some input from them during the week! 

I also think that we have a lot to learn from other forms of human rights education. There is an awful lot of human rights training, civic education, etc going on and organisations working in this field are constantly developing their approaches and methodology and are often freer to do so outside of the academic setting. Although much of this is perhaps oriented towards adult learners and practitioners, I still think they have alot to offer academia.

An example is applying a human rights based approach to training and education. Just because we teach human rights does not mean that we necessarily are human rights based while doing it. A human rightsbased pedagogy would necessitate applying human rights principles in all stages of the teaching and learning process, including in curricula development, examination forms, pedagogical approaches, etc. It would necessitate greater participation of students, applying more participatory learning and building on the ideas and experiences of students rather than the traditional one-way teaching approach of universities. It would force us to reflect about issues of discrimination, accountability, transparency, etc. I believe that many universities include these principles automatically when modernising their programmes, but it would be interesting to develop a specific human rights pedagogy. This is something that is currently ongoing at RWI, but I am not sure exactly how far we have got. I would be very interested to hear any input on this idea, if any of you consciously apply a human rights based approach in the classroom and if so what your experiences have been?

Human rights pedagogy

Hello Abigail,  I think it is an important point you raise about pedagogy and human rights education.  I have been involved in human rights courses or programs where there seemed to be a disconnect between the content of the course and the educational methodologies.  I expect it is an experience many others have shared.  I think it really enhances student learning and engagement to create a space in our human rights courses where the dignity, value and experiences of all students are recognized.  I also think that here in the U.S., where many of our students have had widespread access to information and communication technologies for most of their entire lives, students seek out experiences that allow them to engage actively with information as well as with their peers and instructors (online or in real space). 

In my very limited experience teaching about human rights, I have found that students respond enthusiastically when I ask them to play a leadership role in shaping and facilitating the content.  I would be eager to learn how others have tried to bring human rights principles into their teaching.  I'm inspired by some of the empowering approaches that have already been described in this dialogue.  

I also agree that we have much to learn about the methodologies used by groups outside of universities.  I know the New Tactics project has highlighted numerous examples of participatory
education approaches that are used in both formal and informal
settings.   Some of the New Tactics training tools are great resources as well. 

Re: Human Rights Pedagogy

Hello Abigail and Nicole,

I think this is a very interesting point that you raise, Abigail. After studying  human rights 'theory and practice' in England, I realize now that my most important resource in learning about human rights (both theory and practice) were my classmates! My classmates came from all over the world, with experience in different types of human rights work. As much as I enjoyed learning about human rights law, philosophy, ethical dilemmas, etc - I think that my most useful education came from my conversations with fellow classmates. A more participatory approach to our program may have been a very powerful additional to our formal education. 

Like Abigail and Nicole, I would also be very curious to learn about how educators have taken a human rights approach to their human rights education. is a type of human rights education exchange - it provides a space for human rights practitioners to share their own experiences, challenges, successes and tactics with one another. Do you think it is possible that the incorporation of the participatory nature of could enrich the more structured form of classroom-based education? (see for New Tactics resources developed for educators)

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

right of freedom, respect, expression


I am a new comer in this room. I would like to intorduce myself. I
work in Human Rights Commission for Social Justice and Peace Quetta
Balochistan. As it is obvious from the name of the organization, Human
Rights, Social Justice and Peace" which are the fundamental issues of
human being right from the start of the human history up till now, many great
social reformers like Aristotle, Plato , Socrates and many more
struggled to set human beings free from the bondage of exploitation
caused by social injustice , unfair distribution of resources and
destroying peace in the world just for
commercial reasons. I try to make familiar the community, students ,
teachers and youths about the issues of human rights

Let me share my inputs and draw the picture of the society i am working in, in this gathering of learned people from different areas. I am from Pakistan’s
most backward province called Balochistan, whereas people still die from
drinking unsafe water, whereas animals and human drink from the same water, so
one can imagine how the human rights situation is. I as a human rights and
peace educator think that the society I am part of needs a long journey to go,
because people still suffer from the of
lack the basic facilities of life ,
technology , alumni of human rights are all a new word for them. When I
teach about the principle of human rights that being a human you have the right
of freedom, respect, expression, and democracy they get very surprised because such
ideas are new for them and their rights are determined by tribal and religious
leaders , they have no say in decision
making . Since a lot of students knew that they have right to better life,
respect and expression, they are considered as a westernized and anti religion people.


Perceptions of human rights

Hello Irfan,

Welcome to the New Tactics community and dialogue. You have raised a very important point regarding human rights education. I would like to share with you a wonderful resource that was developed by a national commission in Indonesia that was set up to explore the cultural and religious barriers to human rights education in Indonesia and how they engaged religious and community leaders to develop the educational resources for the national education curriculums.

This in-depth case study that we call a tactical notebook is titled: Human Rights Advocacy Utilizing Religious Perspectives and Opinion Leaders: Promoting National Human Rights Education in Indonesia. The process was engaged specifically to "address human rights values as in the Indonesian
cultural and religious context and designed with the consultation and
[of religious and opinion leaders] in order to overcome the perception that human rights values
are Western concepts that impinge upon Indonesian cultural and
religious values. Instead, the process has lead to a mutual recognition
of basic human values."

Perhaps this experience from Indonesia might provide you with some potential ideas for considering their merit and adapting to your context in Pakistan. I would be very interested to hear your ideas on this.

It is great to have your comments in the dialogue as you bring a very valuable perspective and raise challenges regarding human rights education that confront us in different ways.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

teaching human rights in different cultures


 I am tremendously impressed that you are teaching human rights in this context.  Are you well supported by your academic institution? How do the students and the school administration respond to thes ideas?  I think it would be wonderful for your students to interact with western students so that they can each learn from the other's experience.  

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

peaceful world


My Regards Babara Frey,

I am pleased to read you comments. You have asked “Are you well supported by
your academic
institution” well no there is no support from the academic institution
voluntary. I myself support this academic institution. I work in Sustainable
Development Organization as an officer manager from 9 Am
to 5 Pm and from 5 to 11 Pm in Human Rights Commission for Social Justice and Peace,
whatever I pay I get I spend on the academic institution. Since there is
no human rights organization who can teach, educate and train conceptually and practically , so I established
Human Rights Commission for Social
Justice and Peace and above there is no encouragement from government and community
to have a better system of human rights , because in our society human rights
is considered a Western conspiracy , so they are reluctant to acknowledge it
therefore I am working with youths and students who can now understand that
they should not be fearful of such phobias , when I started my work I was facing
a lot opposition , but now a lot of people understand that when we talk of
human rights it is their human rights not west. The students and school administration now
better feel the need to have better human rights conditions and work for peace,
and today the world is quite unsafe as never before in human history, therefore
my students are very curious to know about other cultures and interact with students
from all parts of the world to have peaceful world


national commission's resource


Hi Nancy Pearson,

Thanks for providing me the resource that was developed by a national commission
in Indonesia. I
studied it and found it really interesting, relevant and useful in cultural and
religious context of Pakistan.
Pakistan being
on the top list of intolerant countries of the world, such resource would be
really beneficial for the intolerant society for their education and measuring
the behaviors. As I am teaching Holocaust and human rights education the
resource would help to know, analyze and understand peace conflict, hatred, and
violations of human rights. The resource is an ideal to the prevailing issues
of extremism and fundamentalism which are serious threat for peace and human
rights and democratic values. Last year when I arranged a Holocaust peace photo
exhibition for students, I had good chance to measure the cultural, historical,
religious, political and geographical factors which play an important role in
shaping up the mind set of the students and youths towards others and the need of human rights education.

Re: [New Tactics Dialogues: Human Rights in Higher Education: In

Dear Nancy Pearsun,

Greetings!.  I have been associated with Human Rights Education in Higher Education Institution through a project organised by International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) Oxford, now shited to Japan. I am acting as a fecilitator.

About 40 to 50 participants selected from varios religious backgrounds are given Human Rights Training for 5sessions mostly speard for two consequtive days.

The material was jointly prepared by PDHRE and IARF.  The three short vedio films depicting the inter religious, intra religious andconflicting faiths and beliefs are being used in the training programmes as a teaser for initiating discussions and arraiving at a working plan.  In the course of training UDHR and Declarationon the Elimination of all forms of intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (DIDRB) are discussed in detail.  Mostly participatory methodology is followed.

Though the programme was planned at South Asia, in India the first phase with the financial support of Netherland Government was completed successfully. The Second phase is to be stated from December 2008.

The feedback of the students is very encouraging. 


Human rights and religious freedom training

Dear G. Rajaram,

Thank you for sharing this information about the International Association for Religious Freedom. Do the participants you select for the training coming from around the world? How do you go about selecting the participants? Are they religious leaders? Students in religious education programs? It would be great to hear more about the encouraging feedback you mentioned. The use of video in educational and training programs can be a very powerful tool.

I'm also wondering if the videos you mentioned and use in your training sessions are available for use by other educational insitutions if they would request them from you?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Interfaith dialogue

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

Maybe some of you have heard of Eboo Patel, a young American Muslim who has written a book called "Acts of Faith". He is co-founder of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago and is becoming a sought after speaker on public radio and a regular panelist ofr hte Wasington Post?Newsweek magazine On Faith blog. He was an Ashoka Fellow and has been cited as "one of a select gorup of social entrepreneurs whose ideas are changing the world".

The Interfaith Youth Core is based on the premise that all religions are failing young people and that the way to reach them is not thru religious services but through active community service in interfaith groups. As the young Jewish, Muslim and Christian activisits work together on public achievement projects in their own neighborhoods, they come naturally to discuss their faith and beliefs but do so on the basis of the mutual trust already formed by working together. Once again, action seems to reach young people rather than talking. There is a place for interfaith conferences, but working together on issues that affect everyone, regardless of religion (insert: gender, nationality etc.) establishes a basis on which much more meaningful discussions ultimately do occur.

learn from others


Hello Abigail Booth,

Yes I agree with you that we have a lot to learn from others,
as for as Pakistan is concerned, there is not any private or government institute
who can work for better human rights education and system. Unfortunately since
1947 up till now the more then 40 years the country was ruled by dictators as a
result democratic institutions could not nourish and people always had worst
system . In such conditions I think to educate the students and people there
should be good institutions networking and cooperation between the human rights
organizations, resources and materials to speed up the process of human rights

Eboo Patel


Hello Susan Atwood,

It is really nice to know about Eboo Patel. I would love to know more about
his work, I feel I can have the opportunity to learn from the Eboo Patel’s
outlook. Yes I agree that religions are falling young people but I would like to
add one thing more and that is nationalism for which people and especially
young minds are affected by it. Last year we arranged Youth Assembly to teach
and listen about 5 thematic areas , Peace , Human Rights , HIV ,
Environment and Millennium Development
Goals in that 3 day Youth Assembly , but I was shocked and surprised to know
about their radical views which is the matter of serious concern ,
if these Youths go untrained about human rights norm they can jeopardize the
rights of other human beings which can change the entire world . How we respond
to those changes will shape further generations. How will classrooms across the
world help students and youths negotiate the challenges that come with the unfamiliar?
Often uncertainty is coupled with change. How can we help our students and youths
live with uncertainty without compromising their values? I am purely talking in
context that to day the students, youth and the society as a whole knows so
little about one another across racial and ethnic groups is truly remarkable. That
we can live so closely together , that our lives can be so intertwined socially
, economically etc, and that we can spend so many years of study in school and
even in higher education and yet still manage to be ignorant f one another is
clear testimony to the deep-seated roots of this human ad national tragedy .
What we do learn along the way is to place heavy reliance on stereotypes,
gossip, rumor, and fear to shape our lack of knowledge.

The success of that “reliance on stereotypes , gossip , rumor , and fear,
can be see and heard in the classrooms across the world. Students express a
universal knowledge of negative words and hostile images of “the other”. When
asked what they know about “them”, the answers too often reveal virulent
stereotypes: “Asians are …,” Blacks are …,” “Jews are …” “Muslims are…” Even
very young children have managed to acquire a store of racial a religious
epithets. Although children are thought that “sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words can never hurt me,” they know a different reality. They are well
aware that words of hate degrade, dehumanize, and eventually destroy. Indeed,
much of the violence that threatens our society has its roots in bigotry and
hate and this we as a human rights educator to change.


Human rights education - overcoming stereotypes, hatred, etc


You have raised a foundational aspect and challenge of human rights education - opening our human consciousness and understanding regarding our profound human commonalities while developing an equally profound acceptance and willingness to grapple nonviolently with the unique ways in which we express those commonalities (via faith, culture, language, etc) that are so often viewed as impingements or threats.

I would like to share another New Tactics resource that was developed to overcome stereotypes, racism and fear between refugee and immigrant populations in Austria and the police titled Tandem©: Cross-cultural exchange between police and migrants.  The process they used was built from a method of language learning called "Tadem". It involved\s a pairing of two people - and in the way they adapted the method for human rights learning - was to pair a migrant (refugee or immigrant) with a police officer. They took a series of human rights education courses together that incorporated a practical experience component. Each pair discussed and decided on their own what kind of joint project they would do together. This joint project gave them an opportunity to learn more about each other as people with a common interest or at least a common goal they were working on together for the duration of the course. It has had profound affects on both the police and the migrants who have participated.

An adaptation of this kind of model might be useful for youth to build cross-cultural understanding in the communities where you are working in Pakistan. I'm interested to learn your reaction to such an application of this kind of education model. 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Austria and the police



Hello Nancy Pearson,


Let me thank you for
giving me the New Tactics resource about populations in Austria and the police
titled Tandem©:
Cross-cultural exchange between police and migrants
. I also
found the other resources of New Tactics very helpful for my for work. I am so
sorry I could attend the other discussions of the forum, but it is never too
late. I am really learning by enjoyment from this learned forum

New Tactics on-line resources

Dear Irfan,

It's great that you have become part of the New Tactics on-line community. I will be looking forward to your participation in upcoming dialogues now that you know they exist. 

I will also be looking forward to hearing about the ways in which the New Tactics resources might assist you in your efforts, especially given the conditions and challenges you face in your country.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Overcoming stereotypes

Hello Irfan, you raise a very important point about addressing the underlying causes of stereotypes.  I organize interactive programs for high school students on various global topics.  I am often inspired by the openness of the students, even among who have rarely interacted with anyone from a different racial, ethnic or religious background.  However, I have also been very concerned about the level of ignorance about other cultures and societies among students.  Occasionally I have been shocked by misinformation that some of the students bring to the discussions.  I am sometimes very disheartened by the magnitude of the problem, and have to hope that the work we do as educators can help in some small way.  Did you find that the youth assembly helped to change the perspectives of the students who participated?

Overcoming stereotypes

A colleague just sent me a very interesting article that was published in the New York Times, Tolerance Over Race Can Spread, Studies Find By Benedict Carey, Published: November 6, 2008. I"ll provide just this brief quote from the article to entice you to go read the full article:

"In some new studies, psychologists have been able to establish a close relationship between diverse pairs — black and white, Latino and Asian, black and Latino — in a matter of hours. That relationship immediately reduces conscious and unconscious bias in both people, and also significantly reduces prejudice toward the other group in each individual’s close friends.

This extended-contact effect, as it is called, travels like a benign virus through an entire peer group, counteracting subtle or not so subtle mistrust."

The article is quite interesting and was connected to the election of Senator Barrack Obama to the US Presidency.  However, more importantly for me, it pointed to some interesting and potential educational adjustments in teaching methods that might be significant in helping to reduce steotypes, racial, religious and ethic biases.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Youth assembly


Hi Nicole Palasz

Thanks for your post. I am glad to hear about your experience
of human rights teaching with your students, may you can tell me more about
your methodology of teaching and work experience. Well the youth assembly did
not help because that was an introductory program about Hiv , human rights ,
peace , environment and Millennium Development Goals , such issues need to be
thought with a systematic program, but after that program I started a project
for youths and student about teaching universal
declaration of human rights and constitution
of Pakistan which are the mechanisms of human . As I quoted earlier that due to dictatorial
rules in Pakistan
a cultural of intolerance behavior prevailed and the cultural of human rights
and democracy could not nurture. I have been reading the experiences of the participants
about the pedagogies and universities with good human rights exposure, I learned
a lot from them, but unfortunately here in Pakistan
in general and practically the province I am living is quite different form the
environment found in there. I have to do all the work alone , find out the material
of human rights , translate them and then go school to school to first take permission from
the principal , if he does not allow I can not teach then all the work go waste
, the government does not do anything to protect , respect and fulfill what she
is to do , therefore I have to do everything , especially for the youths and students
because their soft hearts and minds are rapidly poisoned by becoming extremists
and fundamentalists and the final stage is terrorists. I am working to conceptually
and practically trying to teach them the norms of human rights. I am so glad
that I found a great treasure of resources from New Tactics and great ideas
from the participants in this forum which will help me to better teach the

Changing mindsets

Dear Irfan,  Thank you so much for your comments.    I really sympathize with you because even under the best of circumstances, it is so difficult to change mindsets if students are immersed in an environment that supports extremism, intolerance or human rights abuses.  So much education takes place in the home or in the broader community, and it can take a lot of courage to take a different path, especially in the difficult context you are working in.   I commend you for your dedication and for the incredibly challenging work you are doing to create peace and tolerance in your community.

role of a bystander



Nicole Palasz Thanks for your sympathy. I am 100 times responsible, if I just play
the role of a bystander and could not do what I must do to contribute to mend the
social injures caused by human rights abuses and violations . It is therefore very
much necessary to struggle, as you may heard the news of women buried alive in Balochistan,
such incidents make us feel the need to work for the better human rights achievements
, even the mindsets are not changed , but there would be no regret in ones life
that one did not play his role, and I am very satisfied with the job I am doing


Too many bystanders

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

The tendency to play bystander is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome as activists. And it really does require a change of mindset There was a horrible piece in today;s US media about a 19 year old who committed suicede on the internet, egged on by those who he considered his internet "family". Only once he was in a coma did someone call the police and by then it was too late. Our priest on Sunday talked about how as a young man in India he had stepped over an unconcious homeless man on the street because everyone else was doing the same and he did not know what to do........he, at least,  is haunted by that.

On a more positive note, discussing the recent US election with my undergraduates, they refuted the premise of the Tom Friedman article we were reviewing - he saw this election as historic, finally the end to the Civil War........they saw it quite differently. First, they know and care very little about the Civil War (a whole other discussion there.......!), and they do not see Obama's election as a statement about how far we have come in terms of racism. They simply saw him as the best and YOUNG candidate. Generation seemed much more imporotant to them than race. And this is a good thing - in this instance, lack of a sense of history, means that they are truly unburdened by issues of the past.

Here in Minnesota, diversity is slowly coming to even the suburbs. Whereas older people struggle with it, my 12 year old daughter and her friends take it as simply normal. When a new student comes to the school they do not describe him/her by color but simply by name, personality etc. I have even tried, as an experiment, asking what the student looks like and what I get is hair and eye color.........It is truly refreshing.  It is not that they do not notice differences, they simply do not give them much weight. They are more focussed on interests they have in common.  This is more than mere tolerance, it is an embrace of difference. And with that I believe comes a mindset that sees what is fair and not fair and a tendency to social activism. So, as educators we are truly amazingly lucky to have the chance to work with this generation and help ultimately counter the bystander syndrome by sheer weight of numbers.


Lessons of Hate


Susan Atwood

Thank you for your comments. I think if we want to win the struggle for the
world’s conscience and future, we must counter lessons of hate with lessons
that promote understanding and caring. We must help students examine their
thoughts and feelings and then confront not only their own potential for
passivity and complicity but also for their courage and reliance. And we must
teach them to value their rights as citizens and take responsibility for their actions.
To do so, they must know not only the triumphs of history but also the
failures, the tragedies , and the


rachid I am performing an


I am performing an inquiry in a medicine faculty, regarding the opportunity to integrate HR in the curricula. the problem is that for students, this theme seems so far from their technical medical learning. Its lost of time, and must be rather proposed to students in law schools. Have you any experience in this field, particularly educational material that can attract students through interesting cases (abortion, right to life, AIDS and HR...). Thank you

Human Rights in medical professional education

Dear Rachid,

Thank you so much for your inquiry. Human rights in the medical field is an especially important profession to instill this line of thinking. The "first do no harm" directive for those in the medical, psychological and social service professions is one of the core foundations of human rights work. The use of torture can continue to exist because medical professionals are still used (and too often coercered) into providing their medical expertise to determine if a prisoner is still capable of surviving torture; or where the medical professional is asked (or required - again by coercive means) to provide a death certificate that fasifies the real foresic evidence regarding how a person died. So you are quite right, that students need to see how crucial their medical expertise is to not only stopping, deterring and also healing the wounds of human rights violations.

At a less direct level, because moving right to tortue prevention can be quite intimidating for students just coming in to a profession, I would like to direct you to a wonderful in-depth case example that you could use in your course that highlights HIV/AIDS prevention - Engaging Key Stakeholders: Ensuring the right to HIV/AIDS education and health care services - as a great introduction for medical students to look at human rights issues coming from Bangladesh.

If you'd like to look at the issue of the torture and how the medical profession intervened in Romania - I'd highly recommend our tactical notebook (in-depth case study) called, Making the State Pay, that highlights the provision of medical care services to survivors of torture. Another excellent example concerning the work of forensic anthopologists is found in a tactical notebook titled, Uncovering the Evidence. Each of these in-depth case studies offers some unique insights into the special role of different field of medical expertise and professionals and human rights.

Let me know if these resources are the kinds of resources you had in mind for introducing to your students and if you find them useful.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager


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