Basic course 1
Up Basic course 1 Overview Contents Chronology Link list


Basic course 2
Basic course 3
Basic course 4
Basic course 5
Teachers' section



Human Rights

An overview of the basic course sequences

In addition to this, the main subject group of Human Rights encompasses a didactic section for teachers, which addresses the fundamental aspects of human rights education (teachers' section). You will also find concrete ideas and stimuli for lessons on human rights issues in schools (tips).

Basic course 1: What does "human rights" mean?

"We are born free and equal in dignity and rights” – this is how article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins. This means that we all possess certain rights that have been with us since our birth; these rights are called human rights. Every person is entitled to these rights purely because they are human and they may not be forfeited. This means that they cannot be taken away. The texts that follow are taken from different dictionaries and provide two typical definitions of human rights.

Dictionary definitions

1) "The term human rights is used to describe an individual’s rights to protection against encroachment by the state. These rights are given purely because an individual is human; they remain intact and cannot be restricted by the state. Referral to them as rights “acquired at birth” and “inalienable” rights stems from the period during the fight against absolutism.
(...) Among the core rights are the rights to human dignity; to freedom of personality; to equality before the law and to equal rights; to freedom of religion, conscience, and opinion; to freedom of the press; to information and education; to association and peaceful assembly; to freedom of movement, to career and job freedom; to freedom from interference with the privacy of one’s home, to ownership of property and the right of succession; to freedom to seek asylum and the right to petition, as well as legal rights especially that of freedom from arbitrary arrest (...)."

[Taken and translated from: Wichard Woyke (Hrsg.), Handwörterbuch Internationale Politik, Bonn 1994]

2) "The term ‘human rights’ is used in everyday political speech to describe those freedoms to which each and every individual is entitled purely because he/she is human. They must be secured within a community’s legal system for ethical reasons. To this end, these rights are also described as being ‘natural’, ‘inherent’, ‘inalienable’ or ‘absolute’ and when respected and secured legitimise a political community (...)."

[Taken and translated from: Bertelsmann Discovery Lexikon]


In the sections that follow, we will be addressing the question as to where the idea of human rights comes from and how it has developed. We will learn that the notion of human rights has been discussed for over 2000 years, and that many important documents stand as milestones along the road to human rights endorsement (Basic course 2: How have human rights developed?). We will also have the opportunity to read extracts from the most important documents. Within the scope of the advanced subjects on world ethics and the term human dignity, we will learn that the idea of unrestricted human rights is not accepted everywhere. The universality of these inalienable rights is constantly being questioned.


Following this, we will be taking a closer look at the rights which we all possess. What are the individual rights? What exactly is being talked about when human rights are referred to? Here we will be addressing the question as to the difference between human rights and basic rights (Basic course 3: Which human rights exist?). Within the scope of comprehensive advanced subjects, we will be considering children’s rights in detail: What are children's rights and why do we need them?


If we are robbed on the streets, we turn to the police for help. The police find the thief and place him/her before the courts, where he/she is punished for committing the crime. We are given our property back. Yet who is responsible for offences committed against our human rights? And who is responsible for monitoring my rights? These are tricky questions indeed. In answering these questions we will come up against the United Nations, a union made up of almost all the world’s nations (Basic course 4), and the so-called INGOs (international non-governmental organizations) who work globally for the protection of human rights. 


[Sculpture in front of the United Nations building in New York]

The need for arbitrators such as the United Nations will become clear during the last section of this basic course, as we take a closer look at some selected examples of human rights violations (Basic course 5). Violations against human rights occur across the world. This demonstrates that while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has served in formulating the rights of each and every person, this was just a beginning. Now the emphasis is on implementation – everywhere and permanently.

You will find ideas for lessons in the teachers' section!

[Back to top of page]


SubjectsHuman Rights  I  Democracy  I  Parties  I  Examples  I  Europe  I  Globalisation  I  United Nations  I  Sustainability

Methods:    Teaching Politics    II    Peace Education    II    Methods



This online service on the subject of political education was developed by agora-wissen, the Stuttgart-based Gesellschaft für Wissensvermittlung über neue Medien und politische Bildung (GbR) (Partnership for the Exchange of Information Using New Media and Political Education). Please contact us with your questions or comments. Translation from German into English by twigg's Übersetzung deutsch-englisch.