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Securing Human Rights: Contemporary Themes and Issues

  • Module code: PO5004
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 5
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level 4
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module introduces the contested and evolving relationships between the theory and practice of securing human rights.  It starts with an overview of key frameworks and mechanisms designed to secure rights at the international, regional and domestic levels.  A central feature of the module is to introduce key critical themes, from which issues can be dissected and analysed through a range of contemporary and international case-studies.  Key themes of the module are: ‘Human Rights, Security and Forced Migration', which analyses the way in which the issue of forced migration brings together a variety of legal, political and security debates.  ‘The Politics of Human Rights in Development', which examines the recent convergence of the fields of human rights and development (inclusive of ‘the right to development' and the proliferation of ‘rights-based approaches to development').  ‘Rights in the aftermath? Truth, Justice and Reconciliation', which examines the globalization of transitional justice discourses and the propagation of different mechanisms (ranging from International Criminal Tribunals, to national truth commissions, to local justice initiatives).  And, ‘Indigenous Peoples, Rights and Beyond' that engages with central issues surrounding indigenous peoples' claims, whilst also probing the gravity of particular contested issues (such as ‘the right to self-determination' and broader ‘sovereignty' challenges).  The module concludes by asking: what is the future for human rights? 

Aims

  • To critically engage with key theoretical debates concerning the securing of rights and analyse the relationship between the theory and practice of human rights;
  • To examine key themes and issues surrounding the practice of human rights with an emphasis on contemporary case studies;
  • To develop and enhance a knowledge of the frameworks and mechanisms involved in the securing of human rights at the international, regional and domestic levels;
  • To critically examine contemporary successes, challenges and inconsistencies related to the practice of securing human rights.

Learning outcomes

  • engage in debate concerning a broad range of issues surrounding the theory and practice of securing human rights;
  • distinguish between different translations of theory into practice, demonstrating the ability to critique received opinion;
  • assess the gravity and significance of key issues surrounding the practice of securing human rights, from the perspective of a variety of contemporary case-studies;
  • research and evaluate the wider social implications of human rights frameworks and mechanisms at the international, regional and domestic levels;
  • appraise central ideas and concepts in human rights discourses, through the critical assessment of potential successes, challenges and inconsistencies related to contemporary human rights practice;
  • use the CIT skills acquired in this module to complete the Wiki-Website (Group Project) assessment.

Curriculum content

  • Introduction to contemporary themes and issues
  • Critical theories, concepts and debates
  • International, regional and domestic frameworks for securing human rights

Theme 1: Human Rights, Security and Forced Migration

  • Forced Migration, globalisation and governance: the international protection of  refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs
  • Forced migration, human rights, sovereignty, security and order
  • Responses and solutions to forced migration
  • Case study: Internal Displacement in the Democratic Republic of Congo

***AND/OR*** 

Theme 2: The Politics of Human Rights in Development

  • Histories, controversies, convergence, formulations
  • Debating the right to development
  • Comparative analysis of (human) rights-based approaches to development
  • Case study: value added by human rights practice? 

***AND/OR***

Theme 3: Rights in the Aftermath? Truth, Justice and Reconciliation

  • Global discourses on transitional justice: theory and practice
  • The proliferation of different mechanisms
  • Case study: post-apartheid South Africa
  • Case study: post-genocide Rwanda
  • Case study: post-genocide Cambodia

***AND/OR*** 

Theme 4: Indigenous Peoples, Rights and Beyond

  • Indigenous peoples' rights in the international human rights system
  • Debating key controversies and contested claims
  • Case study: Australia/ Canada
  • Case study: The Amazon

 Conclusion: The future for human rights? 

Teaching and learning strategy

The teaching and learning strategy for this module employs a ‘blended learning' approach, alongside an ethos of ‘students as co-researchers'.  Taught as a weekly three-hour block, the approach incorporates a mix of lectures, seminars, workshops, debates, simulations and group research exercises appropriate to the content and focus of the module. The module begins by developing and interrogating central theories, frameworks and issues surrounding the securing of human rights. Then, for each of the guiding themes of the module students are given various participatory opportunities to interact and interrogate each theme.  During this time (of focusing on the themes) class debates, simulations, and a selection of group presentations will also be hosted.  Through the ethos of ‘students as co-researchers' and problem-based learning, research will also be prioritised and embedded through some of the later case studies.   Each case study will interrogate a different set of issues surrounding the securing of human rights.  The module will close through the revision of key themes and issues studied throughout the duration of the course, appraising their significance and what might be argued as the contested future for human rights.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Lectures/seminars/workshops/group work 66
Guided independent study Wiki-website design & production (Individual & Group Work) 20
Guided independent study 214
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Formative Assessment:

Throughout the duration of the module there will be four formative assessment activities, each providing opportunities for students to receive feed forward on the development of learning outcomes.  The formative assessments will enable students to practice and enhance appropriate study skills – with particular reference to knowledge and comprehension; application of knowledge/understanding; and analysis and evaluation.  Formative assessment is non-assessed (no formal marks), with the emphasis being placed on feedback to identify areas for improvement. Feedback will be provided by the Module Leader/ Seminar Tutor and student peers.

The four formative assessments will respectively take the format of two class debates, group presentations and a class simulation.  The two debates will test two distinct contemporary controversies surrounding the theory and practice of securing human rights.  The group presentations will critically evaluate mechanisms related to securing human rights. The simulation will be focused on a rights dilemma.

Summative Assessment:

The Portfolio  (3,000 words) is a collection of reading responses, short research exercises and an enhanced question designed to assess the advancement of students' comprehension and critical evaluation of key theoretical debates, contemporary human rights issues and application of human rights mechanisms.  The final (enhanced) question requires students to demonstrate their ability to analyse and critically evaluate complex issues related to the theory and practice of securing human rights, utilising examples from contemporary case-studies. Students will work throughout the two semesters creating the portfolio, which will be based on set questions relating to the curriculum content and overall themes of the module.

The Wiki-Website (Group Project 750 words per student) is a research project, designed to simulate an online website that human rights practitioners would produce as part of their work.  In groups, students will research, design and produce a wiki-website based around critical human rights issues (covered in the module).  This assessment is a group project, with contributing students receiving a group grade based on the combined efforts of the group. 

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
1) engage in debate concerning a broad range of issues surrounding the theory and practice of securing human rights; Portfolio
2) distinguish between different translations of theory into practice, demonstrating the ability to critique received opinion; Portfolio
3) assess the gravity and significance of key issues surrounding the practice of securing human rights, from the perspective of a variety of contemporary case-studies; Portfolio: Wiki-Website (Group Project);
4) research and evaluate the wider social implications of human rights frameworks and mechanisms at the international, regional and domestic levels; Portfolio
5) appraise central ideas and concepts in human rights discourses, through the critical assessment of potential successes, challenges and inconsistencies related to contemporary human rights practice; Portfolio: Wiki-Website (Group Project);

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Portfolio 3,000 words 80
CWK Wiki - website 750 words 20
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Freeman, M. (2012) Human Rights: an Interdisciplinary Approach (2nd Edition). Oxford: Polity.

Goodhart, M. (ed.) (2009) Human Rights: Politics and Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Steiner, H., P. Alston, et al. (2007). International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals, 3rd edition. Oxford, Oxford University Press

Smith, R. K. (2010) Textbook on International Human Rights, 4th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bibliography recommended reading

Cornwall, A. & Nyamu-Musembi, C. (2004) ‘Putting the 'Rights-Based Approach' to Development into Perspective'. Third World Quarterly, 25, 1415-1437.

Cornwall, A. & Nyamu-Musembi, C. (2005) ‘Why Rights, Why Now? Reflections on the Rise of Rights International Development Discourse in 'Developing Rights''. IDS Bulletin, 36, 9-18.

Dijk, P. van and Hoof, G. J. H. Van (et.al.) (1998) Theory and Practice of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.

Donnelly, J. (2006) International Human Rights (3rd edition). Boulder CO: Westview Press.

Dunne, T. and Wheeler, N. (eds.) (1999) Human Rights in Global Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eide, A., Krause, C. and Rosas, A. (2001) Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: A Textbook. Dordrecht: M. Nijhoff.

Evans, M. D. and Murray, R. (2002), The African Charter on Human and People's Rights: the System in Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Falk, R. A. (2008) Achieving Human Rights. London: Routledge.

Forsythe, D. P (2000) Human Rights in International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gready, P. & Ensor, J. (Eds.) (2005b) Reinventing Development? Translating Rights-Based Approaches from Theory into Practice. London: Zed Books.

Hamm, B., I (2001) ‘A Human Rights Approach to Development'. Human Rights Quarterly, 23, 1005 - 1031.

Harris, D. J. and Livingstone, S. (eds.) (1998), The Inter-American System for Human Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Harris, D. J., O'Boyle, M. and Warbrick, C. (2001), Law of the European Convention on Human Rights. London: Butterworths.

Ishay, M. (2004) The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era. University of California Press.

Marfleet, P. (2006) Refugees in a Global Era. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Merry, S., E (2007) ‘Introduction: Conditions of Vulnerability'. The Practice of Human Rights: Tracking Law Between the Global and the Local. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Miller, H. (2010) ‘From 'Rights-Based' to 'Rights-Framed' Approaches to Development: A Social Constructivist View of Human Rights Practice'.  International Journal of Human Rights, 14, 6, 915-931.

Nelson, P. and Dorsey, E. (2008) New Rights Advocacy: Changing Strategies of Development and Human Rights NGOs. Bristol: Georgetown University Press.

Power, A. and Allison, G. (eds.) (2006) Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to Impact. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Sengupta, A., Negi, A. & Basu, M. (eds.) (2005) Reflections on the Right to Development. California: Sage Publications.

Sen, A. (1999) Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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