Citizenship: Human Rights & Responsibilities - Why it should be on your radar


Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, in remarks at the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, October 2013


Citizenship: Human Rights and Responsibilities

With civil wars and many people having to move away from the homes where they were born and raised, the issue of citizenship and human rights is always on our radar.

The war in Syria has displaced over 6 million people, with 5 million citing refugee status outside of Syria.

This is just one war torn country. Many other people are displaced due to reasons such as:

  • climate change

  • lack of food

  • environment

  • political persecution

With so many people moving, by choice or through need, our concept of citizenship is changing. Being a citizen once meant, to us, belonging to your country of birth or adopted country. It seemed to be about choice.

Now, with many people having to leave their war torn country due to drought and other reasons, citizenship takes on new meaning.


Citizenship is considered being part of a wider group. It is a way in which we can show the best qualities of being a human being.

When you respect yourself and others around you, you can’t help but create an inclusive, sense of belonging within your community.

Citizenship aims to do this by making places, people and situations around us mean something. We need to be able to communicate and work together in order to share the benefits of belonging to something greater.

In your home and community it can mean being responsible and respectful to people, animals and the environment.

Being a responsible and respectful person means taking an interest in your community and caring about what goes on in your school, home and environment.

Tip: Show this video in your classroom to demonstrate definitions

Human Rights: What are they?

Human rights and issues of citizenship are becoming entwined in the news lately, with the mass movement of displaced peoples, across the world.

When people disagree with President Trump over his desire to build a wall between North America and Mexico, it is in response to peoples rights to being treated humanely.


Human rights are moral principles that describe standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected as natural and legal rights in courts in municipal and international law. They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the past chair of United Nations Human Rights Commission, said “Human rights begins in small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. They are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

They are regarded as requiring empathy and the rule of law and imposing an obligation on persons to respect the human rights of others. It is generally considered that they should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances; for example, human rights may include freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture and execution.

As Syrian human rights activist, Razan Zaitouneh says:

“War conditions allow you to only see the painful and ugly side of the picture. But there is an amazing bright side... Awesome people - women and men - who are working silently on the ground to achieve their dream of freedom and justice.”

When there is freedom and justice for all, this is the true essence of what it is to be human.


Citizenship Issue out Feb 19

Read more inside our Citizenship Issue: Human Rights & Responsibilities.

Read more inside our Citizenship Issue in Extra! out on February 19, get your order in before Thursday (14 of Feb) to ensure your class gets their copy!

Let us know your thoughts and ideas for discussing Citizenship in your classroom in the comments section below.