Human Rights Day is an opportunity for youth to be active global citizens.

Learning about the rights of all people prepares youth to engage in international issues through global citizenship and service.

What is the “most universal document in the world”? If you guessed Harry Potter, Hunger Games or the Hobbit, you would be wrong. According to the United Nations and the Guinness Book of World Records, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the winner. The Declaration, translated into 400 different languages, consists of 30 articles covering a “broad range of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is available to read online in English or in one of the 400 other languages. A Plain Language Version (in English) of the Declaration is also available, which is easier for children to read and understand.

Human Rights Day, held annually on Dec. 10, commemorates the adoption of the Declaration by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Human Rights Day provides an excellent opportunity for youth to explore the role of global citizenship and human rights by learning about the Declaration and by engaging in efforts to ensure the rights of all global citizens. This year marks the 64th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration.

The Declaration was written following the end of the World War II. “With the end of that war, and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow atrocities like those of that conflict happen again. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere.

Global and cultural education is a way for youth to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for living and succeeding in a world that is becoming increasingly connected through media, communication, technology, trade and transportation. Today’s youth have extraordinary opportunities to learn about and engage with people from other countries and cultures.

The United National provides a variety of resources that are available for children and youth to learn more about the Declaration and about Human Rights. The United Nations Human Rights In Action webpage features an interactive version of the declaration including the original language version and a plain language version. The interactive version is available in English, French and Spanish. The website also has excellent historical information about the development of Universal Human Rights and the declaration, as well as a discussion of current human rights issues around the world.

Older youth and teens interested in learning about how human rights are protected globally can explore the role of Non-governmental Organizations (NGO’s) in human rights advocacy and monitoring, NGO’s such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International work to ensure that the rights of all people are defended and protected. Michigan State University Extension 4-H programs educate today’s youth on history and heritage to give them a broader global perspective. For information on 4-H programs contact your local MSU Extension office.

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