A Guide to Human Rights Education

Are you thinking about doing some human rights education with others? Or do you want to have a grounding knowledge in human rights to be able to chat – or argue- with friends and colleagues. Here is a human rights guide in a nutshell, contributed by Stephanie Hanlon


Human Rights Education

All humans have the right to education, and the right to an education that informs them of their rights and responsibilities. Knowledge and understanding can give us a common language of respect and dignity and is the first step toward promoting and defending those rights to create a more peaceful and equal society.


What are Human Rights?

- Human rights are rights or entitlements which belong to us all by virtue of being human.

- Human rights are inalienable: You cannot reject, lose or transfer your rights - they exist whether asked for or not.

- Human rights are possessed by humans, whether they know it, whether they demand them, or whether they want them!

- Human rights are possessed equally - they are universal and apply to all people everywhere without exception.


What are my Human Rights?

Your human rights are connected to being human - which means basic physical survival (right to food, right not to be killed), and what is needed to live a decent life. These include:

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:

- equal rights for men and women

- right to fair conditions of work

- right to social security

- right to practice own culture/ religion/ language


Civil and Political Rights:

- A fair trial

- Freedom from torture

- Privacy and respect for your family life

- Freedom to express yourself


3 Characteristics of Human Rights:

(i) Human rights are non-compulsory for the holder - we can choose to exercise our rights or not.

(ii) Your human rights place duty on other humans - they and governments should not violate your human rights.

(iii) Your human rights should be protected and upheld by society.


International Human Rights Law:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

- By the General Assembly of the UN.

- Committee recognised that a legitimate authority is needed to safeguard rights.

- Contains 30 articles detailing the rights of all humans.

The United Nations and Treaties (1966):

- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

The Council of Europe:

- The regional mechanism for human rights in Europe. It's main treaty is:

- European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (ECHR)

- The ECHR was given effect in Ireland through the European Convention on Human Rights Act (2003).

- Through this, individuals who have had their human rights violated, can enforce their ECHR rights in the Irish courts, and may also take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if they have gone through every other option.


Human Rights in Ireland:

The Irish Constitution (1937):

- Contains a number of fundamental rights:

- equality before the law (Article 40.1)

- right to liberty

- right to life

- right to freedom of expression, assembly and association (40.6.1)


The Good Friday Agreement (1998):

- Good Friday Agreement (1998) allowed for the establishment of

(i) Irish Human Rights Commission

(ii) Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

(iii) Human Rights Act (1998)


Equal Status Acts (2000) and (2004):

- Equality legislation that prohibits discrimination and promotes equality on nine grounds:

1) Gender                  

2) Marital Status

3) Family Status

4) Age 

5) Disability

6) Ethnicity

7) Sexual Orientation

8) Religious Belief 

9) Membership of the Traveller Community