News & Updates

Workshop: Human Rights Cities and Today’s Political Context


When: Friday, July 27, 2018
Time: 9-5 pm
Where: University of the District of Columbia, Washington, DC
Cost: FREE

Conveners: National Human Rights Cities AllianceAmerican Friends Service Committee-DC Peace & Economic Justice, & Human rights on the Hill Institute

This day-long workshop convenes human rights activists, scholars, and policy practitioners to consider lessons learned from a growing global “human rights cities” movement. Participants will learn about global and national trends, opportunities, and challenges to “bringing human rights home” here in the United States.  This is a space for sustained dialogue to promote understanding of human rights cities/communities and to advance ideas and models for local human rights practice. Particular attention is paid to disparities in race, class, gender, and environmental health, and we will explore how people-centered human rights cities can help to addresses these structural injustices. Lessons from the workshop will shape the ongoing work of the National Human Rights Cities Alliance and its support for local human rights organizers and movements providing leadership and advocacy to secure, protect, and promote human rights for all people. See session summaries below.

Registration is free. Please RSVP to: Rachel Bergsieker, American Friends Service Committee DC Office (

The National Human Rights Cities Alliance has placed 3 double rooms at the Kellogg Conference Hotel on hold for out-of-town guests. Should you wish to book accommodations at this venue, please include the number of beds requested with your RSVP.

The workshops will run from 9AM-5PM Friday July 27th. There will be an optional program the evening of Thursday July  26th for participants who can attend. More details TBA.


The Global Movement of Human Rights Cities
This panel provides an overview of the emerging global human rights cities movement. It offers perspectives from different world regions and insights into how UN human rights institutions can be resources for local human rights enforcers.
Human Rights Cities in the United States: Background & Highlights/Lessons
This panel shares accounts from several human rights cities, offering perspectives on different models of human rights cities and projects that help build local human rights coalitions.
Human Rights Cities Models and Campaigns
Continuing themes from the preceding panel, this session lifts up key struggles common to all cities and reflects on possibilities for mobilizing local human rights cities around alternative models for community emerging from various national and international campaigns.
Today’s Challenges: Trumpism, Corporate Power and Local Resistance
Why Cities? What possibilities exist for using human rights frameworks to mobilize resistance to to right-wing populism? Drawing from recent struggles around the rights of immigrant residents and to resist corporate-led local development such as that seen in cities vying to host Amazon’s 2nd headquarters, panelists reflect on the lessons and strategies needed to defend human rights amid current challenges.
Concluding Dialogue
Participants will engage in dialogue and Q&A around ideas that emerge in the workshop, including the following possible themes: Lessons from Human Rights Cities—Key models and initiatives; Identifying critical needs for US human rights advocates; Expanding international alliances and strategic use of international mechanisms.

New Lessons and UN Recognition of HRE USA Curriculum Guide 

Two new lessons have been added to the HRE USA Curriculum Integration Guide.  Jamie Warner, a middle school social studies teacher at Orange Avenue School in Cranford NJ, created the multi-lesson project Going Global—Investigating Issues of Interest and Importance and Semira Markos, a high school social studies teacher at Hunterdon Central Regional HS in Flemington NJ, created the lesson Human Rights in National Memory  Both teachers piloted their lessons after receiving expert feedback from HRE USA educators and her students. The lessons are available in Word and PDF formats for use by educators worldwide.

The Curriculum Integration Guide project was recently contacted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, who requested permission to place 9 lessons of the 15 currently on the HRE USA website on their agency website for use by educators around the world.  This UN agency website will go live in mid-June 2018, and authors of the lessons have expressed their gratitude at having their lessons recognized by an office of the United Nations.

Phase four of the Curriculum Integration Guide project will commence this summer.  Interested educators who wish to develop lessons focusing on human rights education and who are able to have their lessons piloted with students during the 2018-19 school year, should contract Bill Fernekes for further information about details and timelines.

Teaching Black Lives

New from Rethinking Schools is Teaching for Black Lives, a classroom resource grown directly out of the movement for Black lives. Edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne Au, this book provides articles and lessons that demonstrate how teachers can connect curriculum to young people’s lives. Teaching for Black Lives highlights the hope and beauty of student activism and collective action.

Opel Tometi, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter and executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration states, “this book is not just for teachers in the classroom, but also for those of us who care about making Black lives matter in the community.  It should be required reading for all who care about the future of black youth.”

>> Learn more and purchase

Teach for Environmental Justice

At the heart of our environmental crisis is the idea that nature is a thing to be used for profit. That’s the bad news. The good news is that social movements across the world are challenging this profit-first orientation, and proposing alternatives. And educators are a part of these movements.

The Zinn Education Project (ZEP) has posted five teaching articles that grew out of a writing retreat sponsored by ZEP and This Changes Everything, the project launched by Naomi Klein’s brilliant book. These articles include role plays, stories of activism and resistance, and ideas for how to implement concepts from This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate in our classrooms.

>> Learn more

SPLC’s Whose Heritage? Report: A Teaching Opportunity

Schools, monuments and statues across the country pay homage to the Confederacy. Educators can use a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center to help teach the history behind these public fixtures—and how they spread throughout the South and beyond.  The report, entitled “Whose Heritage?”offers data and context that should inform and supplement any lessons on the Civil War, its legacy and the through-line of white supremacist ideology in the United States. A timeline, for example, illustrates the spike in Confederate-dedicated monuments that occurs in tandem with civil rights advancements for black people, or during moments of intense racial strife throughout recent U.S. history. An interactive map points to the geographic locations of these public homages, with monuments and schools in Union states like New York, Pennsylvania and California begging the titular question: Whose heritage is this, really? And what purpose were these symbols of the Confederacy meant to serve?

The data and brief history lessons in this report help answer these questions and counter Lost Cause myths—myths commonly held by, and passed down to, students. As calls to remove or rename symbols of the Confederacy continue to stir controversy, educators can resist the urge to avoid this topic and, instead, teach the hard history and motivation behind these monuments and public symbols. This report supplies a foundation for learning and fodder for lessons.

>> Learn more

HRE USA Statement on US Withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council

HRE USA joins its partner organizations in their shared concern over the recent announcement that the US has withdrawn the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.

HRE USA Statement on US Withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council

Human Rights Educators USA is founded on the belief that human rights can only be achieved through an informed society that is aware of and makes a conscious commitment to the fundamental values of human rights and democracy. Those values include equality and fairness, being able to recognize problems such as racism, sexism, and other injustices as violations of those values, and the common responsibility to make human rights a reality for all.

Therefore, we are deeply disappointed in the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Despite its flaws, the Human Rights Council is still the premier intergovernmental body at the global level.Until now, the United States has played a vital role in its deliberations and it has been the principal means through which the U.S. wields its influence within the global human rights movement. By withdrawing, the Trump administration denies Americans their opportunity to fully engage with the rest of the world in the important work of advancing human rights at home and abroad. We urge the administration to reconsider its decision, or, failing that, release a statement reaffirming its commitment to honoring its international human rights obligations.

The decision to withdraw is both counterproductive to national security and foreign policy interests and also sends a dangerous message to the international community that the United States does not intend to collaborate with others in the international community to address current and future global human rights violations or uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as it approaches its 70th anniversary this December.

As Human Rights Watch states, “by walking away, the US is turning its back not just on the UN, but on victims of human rights abuses around the world, including in Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Myanmar. Now other governments will have to redouble their efforts to ensure that the council addresses the world’s most serious human rights problems.”

Furthermore, this decision comes at a time when the United States itself is engaged in horrific human rights violations regarding the separation of migrant families at the border. Currently nearly 1,500 children are being held in a warehouse facility, as they await their futures with great uncertainty, separated from their loved ones. HRE USA condemns these blatant human rights violations.

Now, as ever, HRE USA remains committed to promoting human dignity, justice, and peace by cultivating an expansive, vibrant base of support for human rights education (HRE) within the United States and supporting educators in their efforts to equip students in becoming compassionate, aware, responsible and reflective citizens with respect for the essential rights of all.

Partner organizations who have also issued statements include: