Introductory group work: The new planet



Aim: This group work will prepare the students for a lecture on the origin and content of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The description also includes instructions for a follow-up group work and a second lecture on the international human rights system and how it functions today. It is possible to do the constituent parts separately or split them up with longer periods in between, but it is recommended that they are done together.


  1. The session leader organises small groups (3-5 participants) and introduces the task:
    A catastrophe has taken place on Earth and all life has been wiped out. You are the only fortunate people to get on board a spaceship that is on its way to an entirely new planet. The planet strongly resembles Earth, with mountains, water, plains, oceans and an atmosphere you can breathe in. There is nature, forest, grass, fruit trees, vegetables and animals. The only thing missing is people. You are the first human beings on the planet. But afterwards, you will settle there and multiply. As the first people, you have the privilege to decide what rules shall be in force. The rules must not only apply to the individuals in your group, but to all the people who will eventually live on the planet. Each group must agree on 10 rules that will apply to all people on the planet so that they can live good lives. The rules must be written down on a big piece of paper. You can decide on a name for the new planet (30 min).

  2. Everyone comes together in a plenary session where the groups present their planets. During the presentations, the session leader shall encourage discussion and in-depth reflection on the different rules. The process will reveal that many of the group´s rules have similarities to, and the same intentions as, modern human rights. The session leader concludes that the students’ group work, in a way, resembles the negotiating process that the UN´s Human Rights Commission undertook after the Second World War, where state representatives from all over the world agreed on some basic human rights that should apply to all people everywhere. This exciting history is what they now will learn about.
  3. The session leader lectures on the origin and content of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Lecture.  

  4. After the lecture, everyone receives a copy of the Universal Declaration and they all return to their initial small groups. The task now is to compare their own planet’s rules with the articles in the Universal Declaration. Which articles regulate the same issues as their own rules? The articles’ numbers should be written alongside the rules (20 – 30 min).

  5. Everyone returns to the plenary session for a summary. The participants will have discovered that many of their own rules are in accord with the contents of the Universal Declaration. This is a good opportunity to look in more detail at a number of the articles and become more familiar with them. The session leader concludes that international human rights represent values and norms that are common to human societies worldwide. When the Universal Declaration was adopted in 1948, the UN member states declared that they would work to protect and promote human rights. This became the foundation for the international human rights system we know today.

  6. The last element of this session is a lecture on how the international human rights system has developed since 1948. Lecture. A good tip is also to include a film



Lillian Hjorth, Director, Human Rights Academy (Norway):
Marit Langmyr, Project Manager, Human Rights Academy (Norway)

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