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Global human rights law plays a complex role in international society. Formally inaugurated with the founding of the United Nations in 1945, human rights law has been a source of great inspiration as well as profound disappointment. This subject aims to introduce students to the law and legal questions at the heart of the global human rights system.
The subject will discuss the development of global human rights law, focussing on the work of the United Nations and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It will survey a variety of approaches to human rights, as well as challenges to the human rights system – including feminist and Third World critiques of rights. It will discuss how international human rights law protects various groups, such as women, racial minorities, migrants, indigenous peoples, and people with disabilities.
The subject will consider current issues in global human rights law, including a selection of the following:
- Treaty drafting and negotiation processes and the role of civil society.
- Debates about the effectiveness of available monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
- Human rights claims of Indigenous peoples and international responses to them.
- Tensions between claims of culture or religion and apparently universally applicable human rights legal standards, for example in debates over religious clothing.
- Interaction between human rights law and the environment.
- Role of international politics in the human rights law system, including superpower rivalry.
- National legal translations of international human rights standards, for example in Australia.
- The role of human rights law and its institutions in the ongoing struggle for gender equality.
- Revolutions in the newest United Nations human rights treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- The relationship between international and regional human rights systems.
- The utility of human rights law in international development.
- The impact of human rights law for refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants.
- State sovereignty and the limits of human rights law.
- Modern innovations in human rights law.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed the subject should have:
- Obtained a general knowledge of the international human rights legal system.
- Acquired an understanding of various theoretical approaches to human rights, including critiques of the idea of human rights law.
- Analysed and applied human rights law in a range of current contexts.
- Developed advocacy skills through the application of human rights law to current social problems.
- Understood both the potential and limits of global law and institutions in responding to human rights abuses.
- On completion of this subject, students should have developed skills in: • Reading inter-disciplinary material in preparation for class; • Analysing conceptual and practical human rights problems through a legal lens; • Using legal norms as the basis for advocacy; • Writing clearly for assignments; and • Verbal communication through group discussions in tutorials.
Last updated: 8 April 2020