Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour, and are regularly protected as legal rights in national and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights "to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being," and which are "inherent in all human beings" regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status. They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal, and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone. They require empathy and the rule of law and impose an obligation on persons to respect the human rights of others. They should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances, and require freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution.

The doctrine of human rights has been highly influential within international law, global and regional institutions. Actions by states and non-governmental organizations form a basis of public policy worldwide. The idea of human rights suggests that "if the public discourse of peacetime global society can be said to have a common moral language, it is that of human rights." The strong claims made by the doctrine of human rights continue to provoke considerable skepticism and debates about the content, nature and justifications of human rights to this day. The precise meaning of the term right is controversial and is the subject of continued philosophical debate; while there is consensus that human rights encompasses a wide variety of rights such as the right to a fair trial, protection against enslavement, prohibition of genocide, free speech, or a right to education, there is disagreement about which of these particular rights should be included within the general framework of human rights; some thinkers suggest that human rights should be a minimum requirement to avoid the worst-case abuses, while others see it as a higher standard.

Many of the basic ideas that animated the human rights movement developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the atrocities of The Holocaust, culminating in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Ancient peoples did not have the same modern-day conception of universal human rights. The true forerunner of human rights discourse was the concept of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval natural law tradition that became prominent during the Enlightenment with such philosophers as John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, and which featured prominently in the political discourse of the American Revolution and the French Revolution. From this foundation, the modern human rights arguments emerged over the latter half of the twentieth century, possibly as a reaction to slavery, torture, genocide, and war crimes, as a realization of inherent human vulnerability and as being a precondition for the possibility of a just society

A history lesson on the women's suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, or the Holocaust can be a human rights lesson if the teacher encourages students to see universal principles of dignity and equality at stake in these events. An advocacy group's efforts to address hunger in the community through outreach and legislation can become human rights lessons. A shelter's provision of protection to the homeless or victims of domestic violence can also educate both those who offer services and those who need them. Any day care facility, classroom, or nonprofit organization that promotes respect, fairness, and dignity is instilling human rights values, even if they are not identified as such.

Learning about human rights is largely cognitive, including human rights history, documents, and implementation mechanisms. All segments of society need to understand the provisions of the UDHR and how these international standards affect governments and individuals. They also need to understand the interdependence of rights, both civil and political and social, economic, and cultural. Human rights should be the "4th R," a fundamental of everyone's essential education, along with reading, writing, and "rithmetic." 

Education for human rights means understanding and embracing the principles of human equality and dignity and the commitment to respect and protect the rights of all people. It has little to do with what we know; the "test" for this kind of learning is how we act. 

Why Human Rights Education?
 Human rights are highly inspirational and also highly practical, embodying the hopes and ideals of most human beings and also empowering people to achieve them. Human rights education shares those inspirational and practical aspects. It sets standards but also produces change. Effective human rights education can —
•  Produce changes in values and attitude
•  Produce changes in behavior
•  Produce empowerment for social justice
•  Develop attitudes of solidarity across issues, communities, and nations
•  Develop knowledge and analytical skills
•  Encourage participatory education.
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