Master of Human Rights Law
- CRICOS Code: 088072A
What will I study?
Students must complete eight subjects in total. All students must complete the subject International Human Rights Law.
Students who do not have a law degree from a common law jurisdiction must complete Fundamentals of the Common Law, as well as seven subjects from the prescribed list.
Students with a law degree from a common law jurisdiction must complete at least seven subjects from the prescribed human rights law subjects and may choose an eighth subject from those available in the Melbourne Law Masters (excluding Fundamentals of the Common Law).
Subject timing and format
The Melbourne Law Masters program has been designed around the busy schedules of working professionals. Subjects are offered from February to December each year.
Most subjects are taught intensively, giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the subject content. Intensive subjects are typically taught over five days, either from Monday–Friday or Wednesday–Tuesday, excluding the weekend. This intensive format enables students from interstate or overseas to fly to Melbourne to attend class. Semester-length subjects are generally taught for two hours in the evening each week during the semester.
Subjects are taught in an interactive seminar style and class sizes normally range from 20 to 30 students.
As a student, you will need to enrol in at least one subject per semester and will have a maximum of four years to complete the course, including any leave of absence.
Sample course plan
View some sample course plans to help you select subjects that will meet the requirements for this degree.
Sample course plan - 1 year full time
Sample course plan - 2 years part time
Explore this course
Explore the subjects you could choose as part of this degree.
- Business and Human Rights12.5
Business and Human Rights
The private sector represents one of the most important and daunting challenges facing the human rights community. As the reach and influence of companies has grown – sometimes dwarfing the states in which they operate – their impact on human rights has become impossible to ignore. Human rights have become the currency of major brands, helping determine Citibank financing, Exxon-Mobil relations with communities and working conditions along Wal-Mart’s enormous supply chain. Shareholder activists, NGOs, social movements, the media and governments are demanding greater transparency and reporting on human rights. The United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the multilateral banks have adopted human rights standards for companies, and a growing body of soft and hard law (domestic and international) is beginning to define the precise scope of corporate human rights obligations. This subject will explore the fast-growing field of business and human rights, highlighting the most critical legal and practical issues surrounding efforts to advance corporate responsibility and accountability.
Principal topics include:
- The history of the business and human rights movement
- The political and ideological challenge to applying human rights to business
- The legal framework and institutions for corporate human rights accountability
- The UN “Protect, Respect, Remedy” Framework and UN Guiding Principles
- The debate around a global treaty on business and human rights
- Multi-stakeholder initiatives and soft law human rights standards
- Key legal challenges: effective remedies, 'non-state actors', 'sphere of influence' and 'complicity'
- Litigating corporate human rights
- Non-judicial advocacy strategies
- Business and human rights case studies
- The business management perspective on human rights and implementation challenges.
- Development, Labour and Human Rights12.5
Development, Labour and Human Rights
The proper role to be played by labour standards and human rights in the construction of the international economic order, and in the development process, is an intricate issue and a matter of controversy. This subject examines the relationship between (economic) development and labour law – exploring the place of rights within both investment and trade-led development models, and the contrasting social justice-based developmental approaches.
In investigating the role of labour law in development, this subject interrogates the rationales, content, institutions and regulatory frameworks relating to labour standards and human rights at regional and international levels. This entails not only a technical analysis of transnational instruments and supervisory structures but also detailed consideration of underlying political and economic concerns. Such regulatory frameworks for labour that have prevailed in the global ‘North’ have been the basis of transplantation and experimentation in the 'South', and might obscure the actual characteristics of labour relations in the ‘South’. The subject examines the redefinition of labour law, paying close attention to North-South relations in the regulation of labour; to the relationship between labour rights and human rights; and to the limits of rights discourse.
Attention will be given to various case studies. Illustrative topics include:
- Introduction: Re-imagining labour law for development
- Labour and the turn to human rights discourse
- The changing nature of work: informalisation, ‘precariatisation’, and the rise in low quality work
- Defining labour in the global North and the global South: Unpaid labour, family employment and care work
- Setting, supervising and enforcing international labour standards
- ‘Core’ labour rights and the International Labour Organisation
- Development, free trade and labour rights: socio-economic rights as a condition of international trade
- Competing regimes and norms on migrant labour
- The regional and sub-regional dimension: the European Union, the African Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
- Labour dimensions of codes of conduct, social labelling and investor initiatives: effectiveness and legitimacy
- ‘Post-industrial’ labour law in the global North and South: Alternative models of social protection and social justice, Universal Basic Income and employment guarantees
- Disability Human Rights Law12.5
Disability Human Rights Law
This subject examines the human rights of people with disabilities. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is the newest United Nations (UN) human rights treaty. This subject analyses the interpretation and implementation of the CRPD. It also explores the effect of multiple forms of marginalisation; for example, individuals with disabilities that are members of other minority groups, such as women, transgender people or racial minorities. This subject is relevant for students who are interested in reform in this area or for those interested in exploring the newest iteration of UN human rights law.
The lecturer has both personal and professional experience in this field and has a network of collaborators, including UN bodies, government actors, community groups, academics and others. She draws on her experiences and connections to deliver substantive law as well as provide an insight into the lived experience of disability.
Principal topics include:
- Personhood and the right to equal recognition before the law
- Decision-making and the right to legal capacity
- Violence and the right to freedom from abuse
- Mental health and the rights to liberty and consent to treatment
- Universal design, reasonable accommodation, and accessibility
- Medical, social, and human rights models of disability.
- Environmental Rights12.5
With policy and law-makers under pressure to subordinate environmental concerns to short-term economic imperatives, environmental advocates are increasingly looking to human rights as a means of reinforcing the importance of environmental protection to human welfare. Domestic, regional and international human rights laws present a range of opportunities and challenges for addressing harms done to the environment. There are also a number of conceptual concerns with framing environmental issues in terms of human rights. Students will work as a class and in small groups to understand the relationship between human rights law and environmental protection at domestic, regional and international levels. The subject will provide insight into strategic aspects of human rights advocacy for the environment, using case studies to explore the roles of state and non-state actors in environmental protection and to consider a range of approaches in the different regions of the world. Resources drawing from academic, policy and advocacy material will be used to interrogate practical and critical perspectives on human rights law and environmental protection.
Principal topics include:
- The relationship between human rights and the environment in theory and practice
- Human rights that protect the environment, including general rights such as the rights to privacy, health and to information as well as specific rights ‘to’ and ‘of’ the environment
- Domestic, regional and international governance of human rights in relation to the environment
- Sustainable development and its relevance to issues of human rights and the environment in the different regions of the world
- The implications of human rights law for indigenous peoples and environmental protection
- The roles and responsibilities of non-state actors in relation to ‘environmental rights’, including environmental advocates and businesses
- Channels for redress beyond formal legal mechanisms for people and for ‘nature’.
- Equality and Discrimination at Work12.5
Equality and Discrimination at Work
Discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace represent an overwhelming majority of total complaints made to anti-discrimination authorities. Equality and discrimination at work remain pressing concerns for employees, managers and, more broadly, for society. Achieving equality is elusive and, indeed, the very meaning of equality is highly contested.
This subject explores the legal meanings of equality, with a focus on the frameworks through which Australian parliaments have sought to address inequality, discrimination and harassment. It examines federal and state laws that deal with discrimination, including the four federal laws, the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) and the adverse action provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Consideration is given to discrimination based on race, sex, disability, and pregnancy and family responsibilities. The lecturers in this subject combine many years of academic scholarship in this area, engagement in law reform debates and practical client-focused legal advice
This subject provides an examination of the development and current scope of Australian equality and discrimination law, as relevant in employment and work relationships. It will focus on federal and Victorian jurisdictions.
Principal topics include:
- A study of the framework and key features of federal and state legislative provisions dealing with equality and discrimination in the employment context, including theEqual Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic), the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and theAge Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)
- An examination of the general protection provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), including redress for certain types of adverse action
- Debates regarding the meaning of equality, discrimination and other contested concepts such as choice, especially as choice relates to carer responsibilities
- The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic), and its potential impact in the interpretation of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act
- Conciliation, dispute resolution and remedies
- Alternative regulatory regimes, including the National Employment Standards, equal remuneration provisions under the Fair Work Act, contract law and occupational health and safety issues such as bullying
- Current processes of legislative revision at federal and state level
- The potential for future developments in the field.
- Fundamentals of the Common Law12.5
Fundamentals of the Common Law
Fundamentals of the Common Law is a foundational subject in the Melbourne Law Masters (MLM), which is compulsory for graduates in disciplines other than law and for law graduates from countries with a non-common law system. It provides students with an opportunity to acquire the foundational legal skills necessary for studying and working in a common law system, such as that in Australia.
The common law forms one of the two principal systems of Western law that, through colonisation, have spread throughout the world. Common law systems have a distinctive approach to understanding the sources of law, the role of law-making institutions, and processes for resolving disputes. These characteristics of the common law system have had a profound effect on the development not only of the societies in the countries in which it applied, but also on international law and practice.
The aim of this subject is to acquire basic foundational legal skills that will assist you with other subjects in the MLM program. The subject teaches students how to read, use and interpret reported cases and legislation. The subject explains the sources of law, what influences them, and how they influence the development of the common law. These aims are given in context of some contemporary debates on common law reasoning by assessing the role of the High Court of Australia. The subject focuses on developing skills in analysis and legal writing, the tools of the common lawyer
Principal topics include:
- How to read and analyse a case
- The concept and use of precedent
- Evolution of a common law principle
- Common law issues: judicial activism, separation of powers
- The role of the High Court and an overview of the Constitution
- The relationship between the Constitution, case law and statute law
- Influences of other sources of law on the common law
- How to read and analyse statutes
- Approaches to statutory interpretation
- Legal writing skills and expectations in the MLM program.
- Human Rights Advocacy12.5
Human Rights Advocacy
This subject is a collaborative effort to reflect on, critique, appreciate, and learn about international advocacy that responds to global injustice using a human rights framework. It provides a map of the field of international human rights advocacy—its dominant forms of action, strategies, and range of methods—and introduces students to the core elements and skills involved in that work, including the collection of evidence of human rights abuses; interviewing witnesses, governments and other potential opponents; report writing; media work; advocacy strategies; quantitative and qualitative methods; litigation; and measuring effectiveness. The subject also introduces the ethical principles and professional rules related to human rights lawyering. It addresses the obstacles to effective global justice and human rights work, and the technical, procedural, and substantive problems with the manner in which advocates investigate abuses, seek accountability, and conduct advocacy. Teaching materials are drawn from a diverse range of fields and interdisciplinary sources including law, medicine, psychology, political science, social theory, critical theory, toolkits and how-to-guides, stories, video, podcasts, human rights reports, and witness testimony. The success of the subject depends, to a great extent, on the active, engaged, and critical participation of students. The subject will be of interest to students whose work already intersects with human rights directly or to students who wish to explore ways to further inject human rights into their work. It is designed to be of relevance to students whether they are working within Australia, other countries or at the international level.
The subject will examine human rights law and institutions; ethics for human rights lawyers; crafting strategy; fact-finding (including interviewing, documentation, open source investigations, and quantitative and qualitative research methods); and advocacy methods (including reporting, campaigning, messaging, and litigating).
- Human Rights and Climate Change12.5
Human Rights and Climate Change
This subject will introduce and explore the main concepts, laws, institutions and policies at the intersection of international climate change law and international human rights law.
Specifically, this subject will explore three aspects of the intersection between climate change and human rights. First it will explore the nature and extent to which the impacts of climate change and response measures to address climate change can affect the realization of core human rights. It will examine the substantive and procedural rights afforded through national, regional and international instruments to those affected by environmental harms, and the ways in which such rights can be extended to cover climate harms. It will in this context analyze cases in national, regional and international courts and tribunals that engage human rights in the context of climate harms.
Second, this subject will examine the treatment of human rights in the international climate change regime, and the prospects for further integration of human rights concerns in the regime. Third, this subject will consider the phenomenon of climate-related migration and displacement, the existing international legal protection for those affected, the gaps in such protection and ways to address these gaps.
More broadly, through a study of these three aspects, this subject will examine the potential, prospects and limits of international law in protecting the rights of those affected by climate harm.
Principal topics include:
- Conceptual architecture of international environmental law, climate change law and human rights
- Articulation of environmental protection in the language of human rights, both substantive and procedural, in international, regional and national human rights systems, instruments and case law
- autonomous ‘right to a healthy environment’ and its extension to a stable climate
- ‘greening’ of established rights such as the right to life and privacy and their extension to protection against climate harms
- value and reach of procedural human rights in relation to protection from climate harms
- Treatment of human rights in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and the 2015 Paris Agreement
- Legal protection (and gaps) in addressing climate-related migration and displacement
- Human Rights and Global Justice12.5
Human Rights and Global Justice
We live in a period of rising scepticism concerning human rights, their foundations, purposes and efficacy. Yet, the language and law of human rights remains one of the truly global languages of political, moral and legal claim-making. This course will unpack and examine the tensions and contradictions of contemporary human rights law and politics. It will first consider the historical origins of contemporary human rights frameworks, with special attention to the polemical debates about the origins of human rights. It will then examine various theories of human rights and their foundations, and as the question: what is global justice and what do human rights have to do with it? Finally, the course will inquire into the utility and uses of rights to challenge harms widely perceived as instances of global injustice: inequality and uneven development, labour exploitation and military occupation. In the end, we will ask, what can we expect from human rights law today?
Principal topics will include:
- The history of human rights law and practice
- Theories of human rights and global justice
- Human rights and inequality
- Human rights and labour exploitation
- Human rights and military occupation
- Human Rights Beyond Borders12.5
Human Rights Beyond Borders
This subject considers whether and to what extent international human rights law applies to the actions of states outside their sovereign territories. The focus is on international law only, not domestic law.
The extra-territorial application of international human rights law is one of the most contested and fast-moving areas of human rights law today. It is concerned with important and high-profile activities performed by states outside their borders, from war to occupation and anti-piracy and migration-related activities. This relatively under-explored area of law is of considerable current interest to governments (including their armed forces), international organisations and human rights non-government organisations (NGOs).
Principal topics include:
- The nature and scope of extra-territorial State activity, from war to occupation, the interception and detention of migrants and ‘pirates’, and the operation of embassies, military bases and detention facilities
- The main contours of international human rights law
- Relevant principles of general international law, including treaty interpretation, and relevant features of human rights law, including applicability in times of war and occupation, and co-application with other areas of law
- Arguments of principle in favour of and against applicability, including concerns about ‘legal black holes’, indirect nationality discrimination, abuses of detainees, double standards and ‘human rights imperialism’
- The main treaty provisions on applicability, including ‘jurisdiction’ and colonial extension clauses
- Key general features of extra-territorial applicability, including the substantive meaning of human rights law extra-territorially, and the relevance to this of self-determination; the possibility of activating ‘derogation’ clauses; and whether human rights treaties can and should apply to the actions of contracting states in the territories of other states not also parties to the same treaties
- The meaning of the two ‘jurisdiction’ triggers for extra-territorial applicability, based on the exercise of control over territory or individuals
- The extra-territorial application of other human rights treaties that use different triggers, notably the anti-discrimination treaties and the 1951 Refugee Convention
- The application and significance of the non-refoulement obligation extra-territorially.
- Human Rights: From Morality to Law12.5
Human Rights: From Morality to Law
Human rights are a dominant but highly contested feature of ethical, political and legal thinking in the era ushered in by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. This subject explores the many pressing questions raised by these rights from the point of view of contemporary moral, political and legal philosophy.
- Are human rights triggers for intervention or benchmarks of state legitimacy?
- Are they based on dignity, interests or some other value?
- How do we determine who has human rights and who bears the associated duties?
- Can human rights conflict with other values and how should such conflicts be resolved?
- Are human rights compatible with cultural pluralism?
- How should human rights be legalised?
- Is international human rights law legitimate in light of the claims of state sovereignty?
- How is the content of international human rights law to be determined?
- How should we reform or implement this law?
Principal topics include:
- The nature of human rights: moral, legal, political?
- The grounds of human rights: interests, dignity, God
- The subjects of human rights and the bearers of associated duties
- Conflicts involving human rights and their relations to the common good
- Human rights and cultural pluralism
- The legalisation of human rights
- The legitimacy of international human rights law
- Sources of international human rights law
- Reforming international human rights law
- Jus cogens, intervention and punishment.
- International Equality Law12.5
International Equality Law
Equality and discrimination law is continuing to increase in importance, but remains controversial. This subject examines international and comparative aspects of equality and discrimination law. The subject is not confined to, but will include a focus on labour and employment issues. Equality and discrimination issues will be examined at four levels: international law, transnational, state constitutional law, and state human rights law. A review of the content and operation of the major United Nations (UN) and International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions relevant to discrimination generally and to equality at work is directly relevant to Australian domestic law as these treaties provide a constitutional basis as well as content for much Australian anti-discrimination legislation. For comparison, an overview of the European Union (EU) system for regulating discrimination law will be included. The focus then shifts to comparative national law, with an examination of protection of equality and discrimination rights at constitutional and legislative levels in Australia and other countries that take different approaches: some or all of Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
This subject provides a critical examination of the scope and operation of equality and discrimination law at international, transnational and national levels and utilises comparative doctrinal and policy analysis. While the major focus will be on work and employment, other areas will be considered where they cast light on the development of the law.
Principal topics include:
- An introduction to the different roles played by equality and discrimination at different locations and levels of the legal system
- Consideration of debates about the meaning of equality, discrimination and other contested concepts such as choice and responsibility
- Analysis of the roles, framework and key features of international treaties and conventions relating to equality and discrimination in both general (human rights) and specific (ILO) contexts
- Analysis of some of the key EU equality directives and their adoption in some Member States
- An analysis of constitutional protection of equality rights in countries with different modes of protection, chosen from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States
- An examination of anti-discrimination and equality laws across several countries to contrast different approaches and conceptualisations of these rights, and also different social environments and barriers to achieving a more equal society
- Consideration of the role(s) of law in relation to equality and discrimination, and the uneven progress in the countries analysed
- Exploration of possible future directions for better protection of equality and discrimination rights.
- International Human Rights Law12.5
International Human Rights Law
The field of international human rights law is today composed of a multitude of legal instruments, implementation bodies, special procedures, human rights NGOs and transitional justice mechanisms. This subject provides the opportunity to examine this field in many of its dimensions, equipping students to navigate the system and critically assess its fundamental features. It will be of interest to all students who want to develop a detailed understanding of how the international human rights law system operates, including those with limited or no background in the area. The two lecturers have significant experience across a diverse range of topics and issues within international human rights law, which they draw upon to create an engaging and thought-provoking subject.
Principal topics include:
- Human rights and the challenges posed by state sovereignty and national security
- The contested universality of human rights
- The international institutional framework for the protection of human rights, with a special focus on the Human Rights Council and treaty monitoring system
- The interpretation and application of selected rights from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Domestic measures for the implementation of human rights, such as judicial implementation of economic, social and cultural rights
- The norm of non-discrimination as it relates to race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity
- The contribution of truth and reconciliation commissions to the protection of human rights
- Human rights law relating to refugees and asylum-seekers
- The challenges posed by economic globalisation.
- International Law and Children's Rights12.5
International Law and Children's Rights
Issues concerning children, whether they arise at the international, regional or local level, are increasingly being examined from a human rights perspective. Much of the momentum for this movement has been generated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989, and has been ratified by every state in the world except the United States and South Sudan. This subject is designed to provide students with an understanding of the CRC and the idea of a human rights-based approach to matters involving children. It will be of interest to anyone who works in areas that impact on children, either directly or indirectly, at the international, regional or local level. The lecturer has extensive networks with civil society, international bodies and government agencies that he draws on to provide an appropriate blend of academic and practical content.
The subject consists of two parts. Part one involves a general discussion of:
- The notion of children’s rights
- The international framework for the protection of children’s rights, with particular emphasis on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
- The factors that impact on the implementation of the Convention, both in Australia and overseas.
Part two involves an examination of specific issues relevant to children and how the Convention and a rights-based analysis can be used to respond to these issues. The issues will be drawn from areas such as:
- Sexual exploitation, including trafficking, prostitution and pornography
- Child labour
- Juvenile justice
- Child refugees
- Violence against children
- Children in armed conflict
- HIV/AIDS and children
- Child poverty and homelessness.
- International Law and the City12.5
International Law and the City
In recent decades, cities have become a critical site through which contemporary international aspirations are pursued. Increasingly, cities are asserting themselves as international actors while also coming to be regulated by global lawmaking processes. This subject offers an in-depth inquiry into international law and global governance, viewed through the lens of the city. Relevant both to scholars and practitioners, the course critically assesses the international legal framework in which cities in the global north and south are coming to be enmeshed, with a focus on the city-scale governance of climate change, urban security and human rights.
The subject will combine interactive lectures with group presentations, invited speakers and the use of documentaries and new media. Readings will be drawn from law and a wide range of other disciplines, including international relations, history, geography, development, sociology, anthropology, architecture, planning and philosophy. The more theoretical texts will be complemented by primary sources allowing students to develop a close reading on one of the most topical developments in contemporary global governance and international law.
Principal topics include:
- Introduction: Cities, international law and global governance today - an overview
- History and theory: From interwar internationalism to state decentralisation; The emergence of the global city; Urban development and the right to the city
- The legal framework: Cities in international law; Cities in domestic legal orders; Cities and international organisations: The local in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank; Cities as civil society; Cities
- Practices: The sustainable City: The climate change regime; The bankable city: Urban finances, competitiveness and debt; The human rights city: Local residents and urban development
- The law and politics of global cities: Local activism and the remaking of international law; Alternative local futures and global orders.
- International Legal Internship12.5
International Legal Internship
International Legal Internship allows students to gain credit for undertaking advanced legal research and analysis on an approved international internship of at least eight weeks of full-time work in an approved international institution or organisation. This subject is focused on providing students with an opportunity to engage with legal and policy issues in contemporary society through work experience and further develop oral and written communication skills. Students are required to secure and fund their internships personally.
Students are encouraged to discuss their internship proposals with the subject coordinators. Students who successfully enrol in International Legal Internship must arrange a meeting with at least one of the subject coordinators both prior to their internship and upon completion, to develop a better understanding of research and the role of international institutions in international law and relations.
- International Refugee Law12.5
International Refugee Law
This subject explores and examines the international legal regime for the protection of refugees. The essential premise of the subject is that refugee law should be understood as a mode of human rights protection, the viability of which requires striking a balance between the needs of the victims of human rights abuse and the legitimate aspirations of the countries to which they flee. The primary objective of the subject is to enable students to develop a comprehensive understanding of the international legal regime for international protection – the basis for being granted protection in 147 countries, including Australia. The subject will situate Australian refugee law and policy within the context of Australia’s international obligations.
Principal topics include:
- History of the international system of refugee protection
- Legal and institutional framework of international legal protection
- The implementation of the Refugee Convention in Australian law
- Refugee status determination: domestic and international dimensions
- Responsibility sharing and shifting
- Principles of treaty interpretation applied to refugee law
- The definition of ‘refugee’ in international law
- Exclusion from refugee protection.
- National Human Rights Institutions12.5
National Human Rights Institutions
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) provide a bridge between governments and civil society and are recognised within the United Nations (UN) system for their credible role in monitoring and advocating for human rights compliance within their country. A distinguishing feature of a NHRI is that, in order to meet the UN’s Paris Principles, it must be genuinely independent of the government that created it and that appointed its president and commissioners. Herein lies an inevitable tension. The obligation of the NHRI to monitor compliance with human rights may fail to meet the policy and political priorities of either or both the government and civil society. The independence of NHRIs is vital to ensuring evidence-based, legally accurate and objective monitoring of human rights compliance. That independence is however under constant threat. The United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders plays a significant role in ensuring that states are held accountable for protecting the independence of their NHRI. So too, civil society can provide vital community support to ensure respect for NHRIs.
This subject examines the role of the 118 or so NHRIs throughout the world and argues for their strengthening and independence of government and for their voice within the UN human rights system.
Principal topics include:
- The international standards governing National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)
- The role of NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights, from theory to practice; effective strategies; prevention and early intervention
- International monitoring mechanisms and their relationship to NHRIs; the effect of globalisation
- The mandates, functions and powers of NHRIs, with specific attention to those in Australia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and references to those in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine
- The relationship between NHRIs and government, parliament, the judiciary, other independent institutions, NGOs and civil society
- International and regional cooperation among NHRIs.
- NGOs and International Development12.5
NGOs and International Development
This subject considers the topic of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international development. In addition to critically examining the development context, this subject will highlight the importance of NGOs in development and engage with the criticisms that NGOs working in and towards development attract. In that respect, the course demonstrates how interest in NGOs has both reflected and informed wider theoretical trends and debates within development studies, public international law and not-for-profit law. It will also consider NGOs in relation to ideas and debates about civil society, globalisation and ideas and practices of international aid. The subject will consider a wide diversity of NGOs and locate their modern roles within broader histories of imperialism, proselytization, charity, self-determination and struggle as well as within the ideological context of neoliberalism. The legal and policy relationships of NGOs with governments and how this impacts on national and popular sovereignty, service delivery and civil and political freedoms will be examined through contemporary practice and case studies.
Principal topics include:
- Introduction to NGOS: What are non-governmental organizations? What legal forms do they take? How are they regulated?
- Understanding NGOs in historical context
- Introduction to development: what do we mean by development?
- NGOs and development theory: from missionary to mainstream?
- NGO roles in contemporary development practice
- NGOs and ‘civil society’
- NGOs: contemporary practice and case studies
- NGOs and the government sponsored aid system
- NGOs and international humanitarian action
- Australia, development and NGOs
- NGOs in broader perspective.
- Reimagining Human Rights Law12.5
Reimagining Human Rights Law
This subject considers ways of reimagining the international human rights regime, which is under attack from many quarters. It is said to be ineffectual, hegemonic and ill-equipped for a world that is very different from that of the era in which it was devised, and reliant for its implementation upon outmoded forms of regulation. Another set of critiques focuses on groups at the margins of the international human rights system, including women, indigenous peoples and minority sexual groups, whose human rights are often breached.
This subject reviews these critiques and examines their explanatory force. It considers ways in which the international human rights system can be reconceived to be more effective, drawing on anthropological and socio-legal scholarship. It will focus, first, on the turn to quantification in the human rights field, especially the use of indicators, and whether this is likely to increase protection of human rights. Second, the course will discuss attempts to respond to ‘outsider’ critiques of the human rights system, including the drafting of specialised treaties and instruments. Third, the course will consider the relationship between the formal mechanisms of the human rights system and the mobilisation of human rights ideas and values by social movements and non-governmental organisation. It will examine the social and cultural processes by which international norms and laws become translated into local situations. A unique feature of this course is that it combines the perspectives of international law and legal anthropology in its approach to human rights.
Principal topics include:
- A review of the key mechanisms used to promote the treaty obligations that states have accepted and how these operate
- An examination of some of the major criticisms that have recently been directed at international human rights mechanisms by governments and other key actors
- An overview of the question of evaluating impact in this field, including consideration of the work of scholars who have sought to measure the effect of ratification of human rights instruments
- The development of an ‘indicator culture’ in the human rights field
- An understanding of the role that quantification plays in defining human rights and fostering compliance through increasing accountability
- A review of recent sustained critiques of the human rights regime by scholars such as Stephen Hopgood, Samuel Moyn, Eric Posner, Harri Englund and others
- A discussion of Third World, feminist and queer critiques of the international human rights system
- Analysis of specialised treaties and instruments responding to these critiques, including CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence and the Yogjakarta Principles
- An introduction to anthropological approaches to the international human rights system
- Examination of human rights in practice, focusing on the way these ideas are mobilised to deal with local issues such as gender violence and indigenous rights.
- Women, Peace and Security12.5
Women, Peace and Security
In 2000 the United Nations (UN) Security Council for the first time considered the impact of war on women through the adoption of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). This has been followed by seven further resolutions, thereby creating an institutional agenda that encompasses women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution, protection of women from sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, and humanitarian relief and recovery for survivors of sexual violence. The subject will critically examine the WPS agenda, its place in contemporary conflicts and its basis in international humanitarian law, international criminal law and human rights law.
The lecturer, Professor Christine Chinkin, has a long academic record in international law, especially the human rights of women. She is currently Director of the Centre for Women Peace and Security at the London School of Economics and has practical experience through advising UN and Council of Europe bodies and a House of Lords select committee on sexual violence in conflict, as well as having been a member of fact-finding missions in Gaza, Malawi, Mali and Colombia.
Principal topics include:
- The concepts of new wars and human security
- The evolution of the women, peace and security agenda
- The status of women, peace and security as a legal regime
- Women and war
- The four ‘pillars’ of women, peace and security.
- Participation of women in peace processes and peacekeeping operations
- Prevention of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and in so-called peacetime
- Prevention of armed conflict
- Protection against sexual violence in conflict
- Post-conflict reconstruction
- Women peace, and security and countering violent extremism
- Implementation of WPS through national action plans
- Addressing sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers