Human Rights Resources

“Where after all do human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map in the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person. The neighborhood s/he lives in; the school or college s/he attends; the factory, farm, or office where s/he works.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958

What are Human Rights? Human rights are a set of values that all human beings can claim in order to live in dignity and freedom. These rights are a set of social and legal contracts between governments, institutions and individuals identified in a body of mechanisms, tools & methods that both make governments  accountable for implementing them, and empower people to act when they are not being met. Human Rights set minimum standards for how people everywhere should be treated. They place an obligation on governments to ensure that we enjoy our rights, and empower people with tools for action when our rights are not met.


Resources by the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center

Human Rights Resource Library

Toolkits | Teacher Resources | The International Bill on Human Rights | The Human Rights Instruments and the Treaty System | Treaty-Based Bodies | The Universal Periodic Review | Other Documents & Websites


University of Minnesota Human Rights Library More than 65,000 human rights related documents and resources available for download.

HREA Distance Learning Program E-courses and short and distance education for human rights defenders and educators, development workers, and staff members of social justice organizations, international and inter-governmental organizations.

Discover Human Rights Toolkit In an effort to increase awareness of human rights in the U.S., The Advocates for Human Rights has created a series of toolkits that examine important human rights issues and that offer tools to help Americans advocate for positive social change.

Speak Up, Speak Out: A Tool Kit for Reporting on Human Rights Issues This toolkit grew out of the Internews Global Human Rights Program, which aims to provide journalists in developing countries with the skills, knowledge and tools to report responsibly on human rights issues and generate innovative coverage of these topics.

Teacher Resources

“Taking Your Human Rights Temperature” Online resource to take the “human rights temperature” of your elementary or secondary school.

“This is My Home” Toolkit Resource for primary and secondary students which seeks to create peaceful, effective and fun learning environments for all to excel in Minnesota schools. Includes online model units for grades K-12.

Human Rights Education Association (HREA) Clearinghouse of education and training materials for educators.

The Advocates for Human Rights Education Resources Curricula, fact sheets, lesson plans and tool kits for educators.

The International Bill on Human Rights

Together, these three documents—UDHR, ICESCR, & ICCPR—constitute the International Bill on Human Rights

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) The 30 articles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights form a comprehensive statement covering the broad range of human rights, including economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights.

In 1966, the United Nations also adopted two other international instruments: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

The Human Rights Instruments and the Treaty System

There are a number of human rights instruments that set out various principles which constitute the fundamental rights. Some of the instruments are legally binding, others are not. Those referred to as declarations, principles, guidelines, standard rules and recommendations have no binding legal effect. Their values lie in their recognition and acceptance by the international community. They are distinguished from those international treaties that are referred to as covenants, protocols or conventions, which are legally binding on governments that ratify or accede to them. Enforcement mechanisms are built into each treaty. Each treaty has a committee of independent experts that oversees its implementation. When countries ratify a treaty, they are bound to certain obligations with respect to that treaty including submitting “progress” reports to the treaty committee. The report details the country’s progress on implementing the treaty in question. Non-governmental groups are also allowed to submit shadow reports in response to the country report.

International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). To date, it has been ratified (formally agreed to) by 173 nations around the globe. The United States ratified it in 1994.

International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). To date, 187 out of 193 countries have ratified CEDAW. The United States is one of only seven countries—including Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Nauru, Palau and Tonga—that have not ratified CEDAW.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (MWC)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Treaty-Based Bodies

There are ten human rights treaty bodies that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties.

Human Rights Committee — Monitoring civil and political rights

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — Monitoring the economic, social and cultural rights

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — Monitoring racial equality and non-discrimination

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Committee Against Torture — Monitoring the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT)

Committee on the Rights of the Child — Monitoring children’s rights

Committee on Migrant Workers — Monitoring the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Committee on Enforced Disappearances

The Universal Periodic Review

Through the Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Council reviews, on a periodic basis, the fulfillment by each of the 193 United Nation Member States (countries) of their human rights obligations and commitments. A review of a State is based on a national report prepared by the State under review; a compilation of United Nations information on the State under review prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and a summary of information submitted by other stakeholders (including civil society actors), also prepared by OHCHR. The review itself takes place in Geneva in a session of the Working Group on the UPR, which is composed of the 47 member States of the Human Rights Council. The review takes the form of a three-hour interactive dialogue between the State under review and the member and observer States of the Council. At the end of each review, the Working Group adopts an outcome document, which is subsequently considered and adopted by the Human Rights Council and at a later session. The full recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the U.S. are available online. U.S. Response to UN Human Rights Council Working Group Report Additional information on the UPR can be found here.

Other Documents & Websites

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church Chapter Three outlines the human rights tradition in Catholic Social Teaching.

A Handbook for Civil Society The new OHCHR user-friendly guide explains how the different United Nations human rights mandates and mechanisms work, and how members of civil society, such as human rights defenders, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions, can engage with them most effectively. “We must persevere in our efforts to make the Universal Declaration’s principles come to fruition for the different communities that we serve. It is my hope that this Handbook will be used to facilitate civil society actors’ understanding of and access to the UN human rights system. It is a modest but significant resource in our joint endeavor to make human rights, dignity and equality a universal reality.” Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, this non binding instrument outlines the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.