Human Rights and the Climate Crisis

By the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force

As part of HRW Student Task Force’s (STF) advocacy to transition high schools across Southern California to 100% renewable energy, commit to energy efficiency plans, and engage in climate justice education, the STF hosted over 150 students, teachers, administrators, and community members at the “Human Rights and the Climate Crisis” Virtual Town Hall on Earth Day 2021.

“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our generation and we are at a monumental moment,” said one STF representative. “We are protecting our human rights to life, liberty, and personal security, to survival and development, and our right to health, to clean water – and a future! We are demanding public officials take action to protect our human rights and fight climate change.”

Students representing 18 high schools shared their personal climate stories, illustrating how climate change is impacting their lives. Several had experienced fire-threat evacuations and pollution-induced asthma, which further motivates them to take action. STF leaders also described using HRW’s methodology “Investigate, Expose, Change” to frame their advocacy as they engage school administrators and public officials.

Featured speaker, Christos Chrysiliou, LAUSD’s Director of Architectural and Engineering Services for the Facilities Division, discussed LAUSD’s steps to increase its energy and water efficiency, improve sustainability, and engage students in the decision-making process. “We cannot achieve all the things that we’re doing without your [students’] help… We need you in the process,” Mr. Chrysiliou said, “because that’s the only way to fight climate change.” Afterward, attendees participated in a spirited Q&A session with Mr. Chrysiliou. (Listen at 47:43 on the recording.)

Closing STF student speaker, Nathalia Wyss, quoted Greta Thunberg: “Act like your house is on fire, because it is – continue to take action against climate change and inform others, and please, keep fighting to turn our schools green.”

>> Learn more about the HRW Student Task Force
>> View the “Human Rights and the Climate Crisis” Virtual Town Hall
>> Download the Human Rights and Climate Crisis Toolkit

Pledge to Teach the Truth

Lawmakers in at least 15 states are attempting to pass legislation that would require teachers to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and oppression throughout U.S. history.

More than 1,500 teachers have signed a pledge: “We, the undersigned educators, refuse to lie to young people about U.S. history and current events — regardless of the law.” Read more pledges and add your name today.

To raise public awareness about the danger of these state bills, teachers, educators, and allies are invited to take a public stand at historic sites on Saturday, June 12, 2021.

Hosted by the Zinn Education Project and Black Lives Matter at School.

>> Join the day of action
>> Sign the pledge to teach the truth

Join the HRE USA Steering Committee

Help shape the future of human rights education. 

Nominate yourself or a colleague to join our Steering Committee. Our rules call for the election every summer of new Steering Committee members to replace retiring members. This year there are 2 open seats to be filled, and we invite all members to make nominations for their replacements. You may nominate anyone who fits the criteria for membership and can fulfill the responsibilities of Steering Committee members, including nominating yourself!

Brief biographies of current Steering Committee members can be viewed here. A ballot will be sent to all HRE USA members in July.

Elected Steering Committee members will serve a three-year term beginning in August 2021.


>> Learn more
>> Nomination form

For further inquiries, please contact Kristi Rudelius-Palmer

Lesson Plan Book: Planning to Change the World

This is a plan book for school-based, home-based, and community-based educators who believe that young people can, will, and already do change the world. It is designed to help educators translate their vision of a just education into concrete activities.

This year’s calendar features all-new historical anniversaries and birthdays. The newest edition has all the things you would expect in a lesson plan book, plus:

  • Weekly planning pages packed with important social justice birthdays and historical events 
  • References to online activities, resources, and lesson plans related to those dates
  • Tips from social justice educators across the country
  • Inspirational quotes to share with young people
  • Thought-provoking essential questions to spark discussion on critical issues
  • Reproducible social justice awards 
  • and much more

Planning to Change the World is created by the Education for Liberation Network with the support of Rethinking Schools. All proceeds from the sale of the plan book support the work of these two organizations.

>> View resource

Support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Going to school or returning home from an after-school job or visiting friends or going to a cookout or concert—or a playground—should not put students’ lives at risk. But sadly, in communities of color, this is the reality.

As the one-year mark of George Floyd’s murder approaches, we demand accountability and justice for all and to demand that our our elected leaders and those who swear an oath to protect us respect our rights, no matter our race, background or where we live. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 1280) takes initial steps toward that goal and will work to end police brutality, protect civil rights and liberties, and change the culture of law enforcement agencies.

Email your senators and ask them to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

>> Take action

RFK Human Rights Video and Music Contests

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights video and music contest deadlines have been extended! You still have time to use art as a tool for community building, self-expression, and collective transformation.

Music Contest
Students create a song that uses their own voices and perspectives to take a stand against human rights abuses. Their music can contribute to creating meaningful change on any pressing human rights issues such as racial justice, the right to health care, domestic violence, or criminal justice. The contest, presented in partnership with the GRAMMY Museum, is open to any genre of music, and entries will be judged by a panel of GRAMMY-nominated artists. The grand prize winner will perform at a GRAMMY-related event and participate in a virtual student showcase.

Music Contest Deadline: Monday, May 17 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

Video Contest
The Speak Truth video contest invites students to make a three- to five-minute video that uses creative storytelling to teach people about a human rights issue through the work of a human rights defender. This is an opportunity for students to share their thoughts on what is happening in the world around them in a creative and original way. The format is open to documentary, stop-motion, narrative, or other innovative explorations. The grand prize-winning film will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Video Contest Deadline: Monday, April 26 at 11:59 p.m. EDT

End Gun Violence

Date: Wednesday, March 24, 2021
8 – 9 pm


It’s been 3 years since the March For Our Lives and the work to end gun violence is as relevant today as ever with 9 mass shootings in the past week – a painful reminder that we don’t have the luxury to celebrate progress.

Today March for a Lives is a powerful movement that continues to fight to end gun violence, with an expanded view of how we achieve a better world.

Learn how you can get involved – join an open call with March for Our Lives at 8PM ET tonight on Twitter and Facebook to look at how far we’ve come, and talk about what’s coming next.

Stop Line 3 – For Water. For Treaties. For Climate

Line 3 is a tar sands oil pipeline currently under construction in Canada and Minnesota — violating treaty rights, risking over 200 bodies of water with the threat of an oil spill, and reversing our progress on climate change with a carbon equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants. 

The pipeline’s impacts on the economy, natural resources, and public health, and its violations of indigenous rights are unacceptable.

First Nations, tribal governments, landowners, environmental groups, and communities across the Great Lakes have been fighting for 5 years now to stop this new corridor and #StopLine3 . See the links below to learn more about how you can get involved to protect the water and our future generations

>> Learn more about Line 3
>> Watch film and download study guide
>> Take action

Write for Rights 2020

Uniting supporters from more than 100 countries, Write for Rights is Amnesty International’s largest annual human rights campaign

Every December, during Write for Rights, people like you from around the world write letters for people experiencing human rights abuse and in need of urgent help. People like Nassima (pictured top right) who has been locked up since 2018 for protesting against the ‘male guardianship’ system in Saudi Arabia. Through the power of collective action, your letters will help convince government officials to free Nassima and other people unjustly imprisoned or facing abuses. 

In the past, the project has freed prisoners of conscience, saved the lives of human rights defenders under attack, stopped torture, and put an end to some of the world’s worse human rights abuses.

>> Learn more and get involved