A User's Guide to Taking a Stand: Resource Guide

Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines our rights as human beings, yet many of us have never even heard of it. Consider your rights. Understand them. Appreciate their meaning. Then help others learn to do the same.


Begin by reading The American Civil Liberty Union's reasons why you should care about defending human rights. It refers specifically to our U.S. civil liberties, but the message can be applied more broadly. The American Civil Liberty Union is a powerful resource for checking up on the United States commitment to its own human rights promises.

Amnesty International logo

Amnesty International is a Nobel Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 1.8 million members. Amnesty International focuses on preventing and ending human rights violations by organizing volunteer activists, instigating massive letter writing campaigns and supporting programs that help people learn about human rights. www.amnesty.org

If you are a U.S. citizen or are interested in human rights within the United States, also visit www.amnestyusa.org.

Amnesty International's Online Documentation Archive Library provides access to nearly every human rights-related press release of the last ten years. Articles can be explored based on region, theme, or specific country. www.web.amnesty.org/library/engindex

United Nations logo

The United Nations' Human Rights site contains information about the Human Rights Council, UN treaties and documents, research guides and more, all offered in six languages. This is also where you can find a full text version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. www.un.org/rights

close to home by ford foundation
Close to Home: Case Studies of Human Rights Work in the United States, examines the work of U.S. organizations that are using traditional human rights tools—such as fact-finding, litigation, organizing and advocacy—to reduce poverty, promote workers' rights and environmental justice, abolish the death penalty and end discrimination. Together the case studies shed light on the emerging human rights movement in the United States. http://www.fordfound.org/pdfs/impact/close_to_home.pdf

Human Rights Tools is a 100% volunteer-run initiative dedicated to compiling the most comprehensive library of human rights resources on the Web. Their library links to stats on various countries, relevant Web sites, as well as pertinent books available on Amazon.com. www.humanrightstools.org

US Human Right Network logo

The United States Human Rights Network fights to prevent the dangerous assumption that the United States excels at enforcing human rights. They firmly believe in a democratic approach to heightening the government's awareness of its own responsibilities. The Network also strives to bring justice to those suffering human rights violations by putting them in touch with grassroots movements. 404/588-9761. www.ushrnetwork.org

Human Rights Watch logo

Human Rights Watch is the largest human rights organization based in the United States. The organization's researchers have been investigating and exposing human rights violations around the world since the late ‘70s. Along with publishing their findings in new releases, the organization holds campaigns and hosts film festivals to create awareness about human rights violations. 212/290-4700.www.hrw.org

Human Rights Web logo

Human Rights Web introduces you to human rights and history of the movement, as well provides you with legal and political documents concerning human rights. The site also contains additional resources for learning and information about how to get involved regionally or internationally. www.hrweb.org

Universal Rights Network was created in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It offers a forum for people to submit testimonies of human rights enforcement or violation, and recognizes heroes of the global human rights movement. www.universalrights.net

The National Center for Human Rights Education unites the struggles for equality across the barriers of gender, sexual orientation, race, physical ability, and economic class, linking all movements to human rights education and enforcement. 678/904-2640. www.nchre.org
Be sure to visit their list of “10 Things You Can Do” at www.nchre.org/10.html.

People's Decade of Human Rights Education is an international non-profit that works primarily with social justice and women's groups, along with the United Nations and human rights experts, to facilitate human rights education. Specifically, they believe that increased respect for others will instigate fairer economics and stronger communities. Download manuals, read articles, or watch videos at www.pdhre.org

University of California Berkeley Human Rights Center logo
The University of California, Berkeley Human Rights Center protects and promotes human rights worldwide by investigating and documenting human rights abuses and training the next generation of human rights researchers, policymakers, and advocates. www.hrc.berkeley.edu.

The University of Minnesota Human Rights Center provides a plethora of services to the ongoing human rights movement, including research into how programs can become more effective and “training the trainers” of human rights education. www1.umn.edu/humanrts/center/default.html. Their Web site includes a full Human Rights Library, as well as a Human Rights Resource Center, where you can find more organizations like the ones mentioned here. Library: www1.umn.edu/humanrts Resource Center: www.hrusa.org.

University of Nebraska's Human Rights and Human Diversity logo

The University of Nebraska's “Human Rights and Human Diversity” page offers basic information about human rights within the context of civics, social studies, and political science. Includes information about the U.S. as well as the rest of the world. www.unl.edu/HumanR/teach

University of Washington's Human Rights Education & Research Network offers a unique database of films and pieces of literature that can further one's understanding of human rights on both a practical and aesthetic level. For Washington residents, it also features local organizations and upcoming events. www.depts.washington.edu/hrights/resources.htm

Witness logo

WITNESS is an international organization founded in 1992 by musician and activist Peter Gabriel and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation that supports using the power of video to advocate for change. WITNESS provides training, video cameras and editing equipment to local groups to use video in their human rights advocacy campaigns. 718/783-2000.www.witness.org

Changemakersonline library section on human rights and legal reform includes videos, interviews and articles to help you further your knowledge of current debates and action concerning human rights. Changemakers is an initiative of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public that focuses on the rapidly growing world of social entrepreneurship. 703/527-8300. www.changemakers.net


These are a few of the major advocacy groups fighting for specific causes within the framework of human rights. Choose a cause that inspires your passion, and learn how you can further it.

Immigrants' rights:

National Immigrant Solidarity Network logo

The National Immigrant Solidarity Network works with smaller immigrant rights groups from all over the country to form campaigns, rallies, and marches geared toward justice and equality. 213/403-0131. www.immigrantsolidarity.org

Education and Youth-oriented rights:

School for Human Rights NYC integrates human rights into its academic curriculum so that students mature into individuals who can think critically about, and understand the real, social significance of human rights. Learn more at www.hrea.org/donate-to-SHR.html.

The Right to Education Project combats the notion that education should only be available to those who can afford it. They believe global education will improve the enforcement of all human rights, and thus create programs that will make education accessible to as many people as possible worldwide. www.right-to-education.org.

Youth for Human Rights International logo

Youth for Human Rights International specializes in creating audiovisual tools that educate young people about their human rights. Since 2005, YHRI's latest work has been viewed by more than 130 million people. Get involved by encouraging young people to care about their rights! Features art and essay contests, as well. www.youthforhumanrights.org
Visit YHRI's detailed list of simple things you can do to support human rights awareness at www.youthforhumanrights.org/getactive/thingsanyonecando.html

Global Youth Connect logo

Global Youth Connect believes that raising the current and future generations of young people to solve conflicts peacefully and respect each other's human rights is the key to a more sustainable world. They facilitate “whole person” leadership development for North and South Americans aged 14-30. 845/338-2220. www.globalyouthconnect.org

Voices of Youth logo

Voices of Youth is an organization created by UNICEF that presents complex human rights violation issues in easy-to-understand language, so that younger people can share their thoughts and be empowered. VOY invites (and has received) authentic participation from youth all over the world. www.unicef.org/voy/index.php

Youth Action for Peace logo

Youth Action for Peace aims to foster a more peaceful and just society by equipping young people with the knowledge and skills they need to defend their rights. YAP runs international volunteer program, and conducts training seminars and education workshops. www.yap.org

Prisoners' rights:

The American Civil Liberty Union's National Prisoner Project strives to soften the government's “no mercy” approach to crime by replacing the harsh (sometimes unconstitutional) treatment of prisoners with reformatory programs. www.aclu.org/prison/gen/14759res20010131.html

Books Not Bars logo

Books Not Bars combats the problem of youth incarceration in California by making education resources more available to at-risk youth. www.ellabakercenter.org/bnb

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association supports attorneys who work with low-income clients. www.nlada.org

Equal Justice USA logo

Equal Justice USA fights to abolish the death penalty. Legislation for or against its elimination is categorized by state. www.quixote.org/ej

The Prison Activist Resource Center provides information to prisoners and their families, educators, and activists to combat race-biased incarceration and expose human rights violations in prisons. www.prisonactivist.org

Stop Prisoner Rape logo

Stop Prisoner Rape seeks to end all forms of sexual aggression against the incarcerated. www.spr.org

Economic rights:

The National Priorities Project shows how our tax dollars are being spent, and what we could have if the same amounts of money were reallocated to human and community development. Stats available by state, subject, and trade-off. http://www.nationalpriorities.org/nppdatabase_tool

United for a Fair Economy heightens awareness of economic inequality and its ability to divide communities, aggravate racial discrimination, and undermine democracy. It includes links to several social programs already in existence, and also offers free resources for getting your own informative workshop started. www.faireconomy.org

Responsible Wealth is made up of wealthy individuals who are fighting widespread poverty. Through shareholder initiatives, action alerts, newsletters, and more, they seek to bring prosperity and fair wages to those currently suffering from an inequal system. www.responsiblewealth.org


Other movements for human rights enforcement:

Freedom from Fear tells about Canada's Human Security programs. It seeks to engage Canadian citizens in the fight against all forms of violence and armed conflict, not only in North America, but around the world. It develops new programs, and fastidiously evaluates their efficacy. http://geo.international.gc.ca/cip-pic/cip-pic/humansecurity-en.aspx

Physicians for Human Rights logo

Physicians for Human Rights is a network of doctors, nurses, scientists, and other health professionals who travel throughout the world giving medical attention to those who need or cannot afford it. They also combat the unjust treatment of health professionals who are persecuted for their political activities. Their Web site features a number of opportunities for you to get involved in social justice movements by writing letters or contacting representatives. www.phrusa.org

Human Rights First logo

Human Rights First is an organization, formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, works on domestic and international rights from a legal perspective. Some of the issues the organization focuses on are ending torture and protecting human rights defenders. www.humanrightsfirst.org

Witness Against Torture is an interfaith group devoted to shutting down Guantánamo. Through marches and protests, they urge the U.S. government to condemn torture and either sentence or release prisoners immediately. www.witnesstorture.org

Violence Against Women, a resource page from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contains information about domestic abuse and how to get help. Includes specific pages for the elderly and immigrants, as well as resources in Spanish. www.4woman.gov/violence/index.cfm

Keep in mind, there are many more organizations and grassroots movements fighting for human rights within the United States. Broaden your search and find a cause that truly resonates with you.


The power to create a world in which all human beings lead dignified lives is in our hands. Change starts with you. Be the spark that starts a fire of awareness and activism within your own community.

Host a documentary night at your house. Expose yourself and your friends to knowledge that will inspire (or outrage) you enough to take action. Borrow films like Juvies and The Lost Boys of Sudan online for free at The Film Connection: www.thefilmconnection.org.

The Lost Boys of Sudan follows a group of boys, orphaned by the Sudanese civil war, from an African refugee camp to the US, where they struggle to earn a living, get an education, and adapt to a foreign culture. www.thefilmconnection.org/filminfo.asp?id=552

Juvies exposes the injustices of our juvenile justice system, which has been increasingly sentencing youth offenders as adults. Juvies gives us a personal and poignant look into the lives of the kids who face these sentences. www.thefilmconnection.org/filminfo.asp?id=232

Film Connection logo

The Film Connection offers an extensive library of enlightening, shocking, and moving documentary titles, categorized by many different themes.

United Nations Commission for Human Rights logo

Celebrate Human Rights Day every year on December 10. Organize events and invite your neighbors. Pass out copies of the UDHR. Encourage others to take the time to understand the beauty and power of our rights, and the importance of enforcing them.

Combat inequities that feed division. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, or organize a food drive. Give old clothes or belongings to the poor. Help teach an immigrant English.

Hear other sides. Get your news from an international source at least once a week.

Connect with local youth. Create an opportunity for young people to explore human rights. Become a mentor, or start an after-school dialogue club. You can use our Issue 41 Discussion Guide to get conversation started. www.yesmagazine.org/discussion41.

Be a Big Brother or Sister. Mentor a youth. Encourage him or her to participate in the cultural life and civic service of the community.

Raise your voice. Call or email your senators and representatives (www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/congdir.tt). Write letters to the newspaper, or contact local media (www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media/). Share your opinions on human rights.

Consume consciously. Seek alternatives to goods and services that are made available through human exploitation.

Bring human rights into the cultural life of your community. The arts offer a powerful way in which we can inform and inspire. Get those creative juices flowing and introduce human rights to the public through an unconventional medium such as a mural, a play, or a song.

Set an example. Report violations. Stand up to those disrespecting the rights of others. Your display of courage may encourage others, and liberate them to stand with you.


No Paywall. No Ads. Just Readers Like You.
You can help fund powerful stories to light the way forward.
Donate Now.