Unit plan for ages 12-14 in Human Rights and Refugees: Rights, Responsibilities and Refugees


A woman and her son rest in their tent at a makeshift refugee camp at the Canossian Sisters Convent in Dili on Friday, June 9, 2006.  ©  UNHCR/N.Ng, June 2006



  • To understand the nature of human rights and responsibilities
  • To know that:
    - a) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) exists
    - b) that it sets forth the basic civic, economic, political, and social rights and freedoms of every person
    - c) the UDHR is meant to serve "as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations"
  • To understand that refugees flee their countries because their human rights are violated
  • To understand what individuals and governments can do to ensure respect of human rights


  • To articulate the rights, and the corresponding responsibilities, which are needed to secure harmony in and outside the classroom


  • To appreciate the need for reciprocal rights and responsibilities
  • To appreciate the common humanity we share - citizens of our country and refugees

LESSONS 1 and 2: Rights and Responsibilities: The Two Sides of a Coin



Classroom rights and responsibilities: People cannot function in a situation of anarchy. Rules setting out the rights and responsibilities of each individual are required to allow any unit of society to function harmoniously.

Students first are asked to envisage a classroom where everyone can do whatever they want. They are asked to determine the consequences of such a situation.

Working in groups, students are then required to decide upon the basic rights to which each student is entitled, and to devise a set of class rules that would bring about a harmonious learning environment in the classroom, while respecting the students' rights.

Homework: The students are to imagine that they have been given the job of planning the rules to manage the global community.


A child looks out of a giant hole in the wall of his home in Beit Yahoun, southern Lebanon.  ©  UNHCR/A.Branthwaite

Suggested readings for the teacher:

  • Teaching Human Rights (New York, United Nations, 1989), p. 19-27
  • David Selby, Human Rights (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987)
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (external link to UNHCHR)

LESSON 3: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights



The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Review the homework assignment around the class, building up a blackboard summary of the rules suggested by the students for the global community.

Ask the students to explain their understanding of 'rights' and 'responsibilities'.

Introduce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Go through the rights listed there, ensuring the students understand their meaning and importance.


Poverty among the 300 families in Chaman Hozeri means that many depend on what little money their children can earn on the streets.   © UNHCR/T.Irwin

Student Resource Sheet: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (abbreviated)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in full (external link to UNHCHR)

LESSONS 4 and 5: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of Refugees


The Rights of Refugees

Make sure that the students understand who refugees are and why people become refugees. Reference to concepts and materials in the lesson modules in geography for ages 9-11 and 12-14 may be useful.

Discuss the 3 Lego posters and the messages they convey. Help the students to identify the needs and rights of refugees in countries of asylum.

Stress solutions to these problems - the contributions that governments, refugees themselves and we all can make to ensuring the acceptance and wellbeing of refugees.


An Iraqi man and his child stand forlornly in the door of their spartan quarters in Amman, where vast numbers of Iraqis are believed to be sheltering.   © UNHCR/P.Sands

UNHCR Lego posters: Spot the Refugee, How Does It Feel? and What's Wrong Here?

Teachers' Resources:

Lesson module in Geography for ages 9-11 and Lesson module in Geography for ages 12-14

UNHCR, Protecting refugees and the role of UNHCR, 2008-2009 for more background on who is a refugee.