This activity embraces all human
rights, but social and economic rights in particular; for example,
the rights to work and leisure, to health care, and to a basic
standard of living. (Articles 16, 22-29 of the UDHR)
The statements given below are designed to address some of the
debates that take place concerning the difference between civil
and political rights on the one hand, and social and economic
rights on the other. There is no need to go into a great deal
of detail at the beginning of the activity, since many of the
points should emerge in the course of discussion.
However, two points are perhaps worth drawing out by way of
an introduction. First, the simple distinction that civil and
political rights are those moral demands that we make on governments
concerning civil and political issues, such as the right to a
fair trial, to vote, to express one's opinion, etc; and social
and economic rights are those demands that are connected with
social and economic issues - such as homelessness, inadequate
health care, poverty, etc. The first type of rights are also referred
to as first generation rights, and the second type as second generation
rights, because of the historical order in which they came to
be recognised by people as universal human rights.
The second point is that some people have drawn a fundamental
distinction between the different types of rights. Social and
economic rights have been claimed by many to be either less important,
and/or more difficult to guarantee than civil and political rights.
Others dispute this. You can find more information about the debate
in chapter 4.
During the brainstorming, you may want to give people copies
of the simplified UDHR to jog their memories; or you yourself
could read out some of the articles and ask people to put them
into the correct category. Articles 16 and 22-29 are generally
regarded as referring to social-economic rights.
You may want to run the lining-up part of the activity relatively
quickly, without giving much time for discussion between the various
points, and then to select two or three of the statements and
discuss them in more detail with the whole group. But it is worth
stopping the activity at certain points in order to give people
the opportunity to reflect both on some of the points and on their
position relative to that of others.
Compose other statements, or ask members of the group to make
up their own.
Suggestions for follow-up
Organise a formal debate on one of the issues, asking people
to prepare their arguments in advance, and then take a vote at
the end of the debate. You could invite other young people or
members of the public to attend.
Knowing about human rights is important, but being an active
citizen is also essential if rights are to be safeguarded. You
may like to try the activity "Electioneering".
This looks at the question of persuading others over to your opinion.
Ideas for action
Get in touch with a local organisation that works for human
rights or social welfare and find out how you can contribute.
When talking about human rights it is important to be aware
of the words you use and the impact they have. For instance, is
it better to say 'gay' or 'homosexual',
'disabled', 'handicapped' or 'people
with disabilities'? The group may like to discuss the issues
of plain speech and political correctness through the activity,
in the all different all equal education pack.
Chapter 4 of the manual contains background information on the
different generations of rights, including an introduction to
"third generation" rights.