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Challenges and Opportunities of Human Rights as Governance Instruments (STG-MA-M5-COH23)


Department STG
Course category 2nd Year
Course type Course
Academic year 2023-2024
Term 1ST SEM
Credits 5 (European Credits (EC))
Contact Francioni, Cino
  Course materials


This course explores the potential and relevance of human rights norms in view of contemporary theoretical debates around the challenges and opportunities of human rights. It does so in four ‘parts’. The first part considers human rights in general. In these sessions, we will examine the history and origins of human rights to set the scene. We will then look at the arguments presented first by human rights defenders, and then by human rights critiques. These three weeks represent the introduction to the course, and in them students will be able to develop their own critical or supportive approach to human rights as governance instruments. In part two, we will exemplify some of the tensions, challenges and opportunities of human rights as governance instruments by zooming into the debates and experiences around women´s and SOGI rights. Women’s and SOGI rights represent a useful topic to consider in giving insight into the tensions around human rights precisely because although much progress was made in the decades following the development of transnational human rights approaches, the current debates show that women’s and SOGI rights are struggling to mediate between a series of competing perspectives. The third part then considers human rights and the environment. It begins by considering the successes, failures, and tensions of applications of human rights in the context of climate litigation. In then looks at how indigenous and minority rights are, or are not, advanced by a human rights approach to environmental governance. Finally, it will consider the question of rights for nature per se, and ask how such rights may call into question the very human rights project. The fourth part concludes the course by drawing some conclusions.

This course will deepen your knowledge of human rights, whilst also ensuring that this engagement is critical and cognisant of the limits of human rights. We will think about the practice of human rights litigation, of the challenges of bringing human rights claims, and of the substantive limitations of these rights. This links well with seminars concerned with global climate governance, with approaches to regulation, and is a classic example of transnational law at work.

At the end of the course in addition to having knowledge on the topics described above, you will also have enhanced legal skills which can be applied to a wide range of topics.

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Page last updated on 05 September 2023

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