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POLS0027 Human Rights and World Politics

Course Code: POLS0027

Course Tutor: TBC

Length: One term (Spring Term)

Teaching: 20 contact hours (10 lectures and 10 seminars)

Assessment: Two 2,000 word essays (40/60%)

Credits: 15 credits, 4 (US) 7.5 (ECTS)

Module Level: L6 (Advanced)

human rights, international human rights law, world politics, international relations, international organisations

About this course

Human rights and global politics are intimately related. This course will introduce students to this relationship by exploring some of the most complex and controversial challenges facing human rights that sit at the nexus of International Human Rights Law and International Politics.

The course is comprised of two sections. The first section will introduce students to the foundations of International Human Rights Law and examine its role and relevance in contemporary International Politics. Students will explore the United Nations system; the precise nature and scope of state obligations under International Human Rights Law; and how human rights are used and abused in world politics. Questions to be unpacked and examined include: What is International Human Rights Law and how does it work in practice? Who are the ‘rights holders’ and ‘duty bearers’ under International Human Rights Law? Who or what is responsible for enforcing international International Human Rights Law? What is the role and relevance of International Human Rights Law in defining foreign policy, deciding on foreign investment and drafting international trade agreements? Section one will conclude with an examination of the leading critiques of International Human Rights Law.

The second section will examine six thematic challenges to human rights that sit at the nexus of international law and international politics. First, we will examine the so-called ‘compliance gap’– the disjunction between the theory and practice of International Human Rights Law – and the forward strategies that exist to address this ‘gap’. Second, we will explore the politics of poverty, and in particular whether poverty is a violation of International Human Rights Law. Third, we will unpack and examine the role and relevance of International Human Rights Law in counter-terrorism policy and practice, and in particular whether there is an inherent conflict between national security and International Human Rights Law. Fourth, we will examine the role and relevance of International Human Rights Law during armed conflict - whether as an impetus for armed conflict, as legal protection against the effects of armed conflict, or as a potential pathway to peace. Fifth, we will explore the complex relationship between economic globalisation and human rights, and in particular the increasing significance of International Human Rights Law in international trade and investment, and the question of who is responsible for human rights violations committed by Transnational Corporations. Sixth, we will unpack the controversial concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) under international law, and examine the complex relationship between state sovereignty, mass atrocity, and human rights.

This module is for anyone interested in the role and relevance of International Human Rights Law, and in particular how International Human Rights Law works in practice – the politics of International Human Rights Law. Please note however, this is an advanced module that examines some of the most complex and controversial challenges facing human rights today. Students should be familiar with the leading concepts and theories of international relations, although they are not required to have a legal background or any legal experience. However, students will be required to study the International law of human rights, including international human rights treaties, United Nations Security Council resolutions, and international case law from judicial and quasi-judicial organs, such as the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Lectures and Seminars Overview

Section 1:

Week 1: Introduction to International Human Rights Law

Week 2: The nature and scope of state obligations under International Human Rights Law

Week 3: The politics of International Human Rights Law

Week 4: Contemporary critiques of International Human Rights Law

Section 2:

Week 5: Between idealism and realism – the compliance gap

Week 6: The politics of poverty and human rights

Week 7: Counter-terrorism and human rights

Week 8: War and human rights

Week 9: Business and human rights

Week 10: The responsibility to protect?