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Understanding Human Rights

Understanding Human Rights
An Exercise Book

First Edition

Social Welfare

May 2006 | 288 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Understanding Human Rights: An Exercise Book provides a concise, hands-on roadmap for learning about human rights within a social work context. By illustrating the importance of human rights to the social work profession with understandable explanations and exercises, author Elisabeth Reichert highlights why social workers need to embrace the concept of human rights.  

Key Features:
  • Recognizes the importance of human rights: Recent policy statements by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) and National Association of Social Workers (NASW) emphasize the need to educate social work students and professionals about human rights. This is the first book to incorporate a broad-based approach to the teaching of human rights, without lengthy, academic discussions of human rights principles.
  • Applies human rights principles: An accessible discussion of human rights topics and themes is provided to help students translate human rights concepts into social work practice. This book helps students identify human rights, recognize the value of human rights, analyze human rights, and take action to realize human rights.
  • Provides analytical tools: Each chapter begins with a major human rights theme, followed by exercises to assist students in understanding the discussion. The book aims to make human rights concepts real and adaptable to everyday circumstances. An interactive approach to learning about human rights is offered to generate true enthusiasm to and give students a working knowledge of this extremely important topic. 

Intended Audience: This book is an ideal supplemental text for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses on policy, practice, and advanced generalist practice in the field of social work, as well as an excellent resource for social work practitioners.

Why Human Rights and Social Work?

Human Rights and Law

Purpose of This Book

Outline of Book

Teaching Human Rights and Social Work

Ch. 1: What Are Human Rights?
Definition of Human Rights

Three Sets of Human Rights

Human Rights Terms

Enforcement of Human Rights


Ch. 2: Beginnings of Human Rights
Evolution of the Human Rights Framework

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Social Workers and Development of Human Rights


Ch. 3: Building the Foundation: Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Opening Statement

Summary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Taking the Human Rights Temperature of Your Community

Ch. 4: Beyond the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights



Ch. 5: Human Rights and Vulnerable Groups
What is a Vulnerable Group?

Women as a Vulnerable Group

Children as a Vulnerable Group

Victims of Racism as a Vulnerable Group

Persons With Disabilities as a Vulnerable Group

Persons With HIV-AIDS as a Vulnerable Group

Older Persons as a Vulnerable Group

Gays and Lesbians as a Vulnerable Group



Ch. 6: Cultural Relativism
Guidelines for Analyzing Cultural Relativism

Cultural Relativism - This Era's Facism?


Ch. 7: Human Rights and Ethics
NASW Code of Ethics

IFSW and Ethics

Human Rights and Ethics


Ch. 8: Social Work Practice and Human Rights
Preliminary Foundation for Applying Human Rights


Ch. 9: The International Side of Human Rights and Social Work
International Human Rights Issues



"In Understanding Human Rights: An Exercise Book, Elisabeth Reichert has written a basic introduction to human rights specifically for social workers and faculty who teach in this field. The book is clearly written and has a very practical orientation towards the subject of human rights that will engage many readers."

Debrah L. DeLaet
Drake University
Key features



This book will help students in:


a.        Defining human rights;

b.        Understanding why human rights is more encompassing than social justice;

c.        Relating articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to social work and human service practice;

d.        Understanding the history of human rights;

e.        Comprehending human rights documents and connecting them to current situations (e.g., Convention of the Right of the

f.         Understanding the tension between cultural relativism and human rights;

g.        Connecting ethics to human rights and how these areas translate into practice;

h.        Understanding social development and human rights; and,

i.         Understanding how different cultural approaches and political motives can lead to dilemmas within human rights.


Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 3

Chapter 5

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