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Human Rights Negotiations Workshop

Project Overview

A workshop to provide students and young professionals with effective strategies for negotiating human rights issues.

Identifying the Problem

Courses in human rights have become a staple in universities across the world. Students learn about various human rights issues through seminars, lectures, debates and community events. However, there are few opportunities for students to learn the more practical aspects of working in human rights. While well-versed in the history and important theoretical concepts of human rights, graduates seeking to begin a career in human rights are often without the skillset that would allow them to successfully approach the more practical aspects of their work as young professionals. Zacharias wanted to concentrate on one such practical skillset – the art of negotiating human rights – and provide students and young professionals with an opportunity to strengthen this skill in preparation for real-world application.

Creating A Solution

Zacharias decided to focus his workshop on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and how to negotiate human rights issues relevant to the Convention. He then reached out to Kimberly Gamble-Payne, Senior Advisor on Human Rights and Gender at UNICEF, who agreed to facilitate the workshop. 

The workshop was held at the Graduate Institute for International Development Studies in Geneva, and attended by 26 students and young professionals. While most of the participants were students intending on working on children’s rights issues with international organizations, some participants were young professionals who had recently begun working with international organizations. All participants were eager to learn negotiation skills that were specifically geared towards human rights work.

Ms. Gamble-Payne began the workshop with a presentation on the various categories of rights included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as a history of the negotiation of the Convention. She also informed the participants of the issues that had been discussed during the most recent session of the Human Rights Council. 

The next part of the workshop centered around an exercise that Ms. Gamble-Payne had recently facilitated during a human rights negotiations training for diplomats. The interactive exercise presented the participants with the opportunity to engage in negotiations about how to tackle the issue of corporal punishment in the Resolution on the Rights of the Child, an issue that had been highly polarizing during the United Nations General Assembly meeting just a couple of years earlier.

The participants were assigned the role of representatives from either the European Union or Singapore, and tasked with negotiating the original text of the draft resolution in groups of two. Following this exercise, Ms. Gamble-Payne led a discussion on the results of the negotiations, which highlighted the difficulties and frustrations faced during human rights negotiations. Not all teams were able to reach common ground on the language of the resolution, while other teams achieved compromise by leaving room for interpretation or by simply not including controversial terms. The participants were able to share their strategies with one another, identify which had been effective and which had not and come up with ideas for more effective negotiation in the future. The participants left the workshop with significant negotiation skills and a much better understanding of the difficult process of negotiating human rights.

Lessons Learned

Zacharias reminds other young social entrepreneurs that it is possible to organize a great event with minimal resources. For events such as this, once you have secured a great speaker and a room, you are most of the way there! 


This event required securing a room, printing material for the workshop, providing food and drinks to the participants and presenting the speaker with a gift as a token of appreciation. The German Senior Fellow Network of Humanity in Action and the CSP Network for International Politics and Cooperation sponsored the event. In addition to helping Zacharias cover the costs of the event, both sponsors utilized their broad networks to advertise the workshop.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2008

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