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Human Rights: Global & Local Protection

University of Padova via iversity

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When and why have human rights become effectively central? The course will answer such questions, stressing the multi-level dimensions of the work for human rights.

Course Summary

Human rights are a complex issue. Their protection and promotion involve a number of actors: from international organisations to local communities, from governments to civil society. Human rights affect all aspects of our life, as individuals (as women, men, children, refugees, workers…) and as members of a community. This MOOC provides students with critical knowledge concerning the norms, institutions and procedures tasked to promote and protect human rights. Students will acquire the knowledge needed to actively join the global debate on fundamental rights and to avail themselves of the existing legal and institutional tools set up for their implementation. The MOOC introduces to the human rights legal framework in a multi-disciplinary and multi-level perspective, helping students to approach real-life scenarios with competence and cultural and ethical awareness.

What do I learn?

Students are expected to acquire a sound knowledge of the international system of human rights protection, and of the opportunities for human rights promotion and protection that are practically available at the national and local levels. The skills acquired can be preparatory for further specialisation on this subject. Finally, students will be able to apply the acquired knowledge and skills to real scenarios, including in relation to their everyday life.

What do I need to know?

The MOOC is mainly addressed to people from all over the world who have a background in political science, international relations and/or international law. The course, however, includes a general introductory chapter explaining the main issues, concepts and scenarios at stake. For this reason the MOOC is also open to people actively engaged on the ground that do not have a specific academic or educational background.


Chapter 1 - The basics The Chapter aims to introduce the course and starts addressing (and providing some preliminary answers) some basic questions: What are human rights? Who is involved in their protection? Why are human rights a global priority? How can effectively be protected?

Chapter 2 - The UN and human rights The focus is on the evolution of the UN commitment in human rights protection based on three pillars: positivisation, monitoring and mainstreaming.

Chapter 3 - The UN human rights machinery The analysis deals with the UN mechanisms for the protection of human rights at the global level. Special attention will be given to the role of the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review.

Chapter 4 - The European system for the promotion and protection of human rights The Chapter starts looking into the promotion and protection of human rights at regional (continental or sub-continental) levels. In particular, the European system will be presented highlighting the respective roles of the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE and their capacity to interplay and possibly complement each other.

Chapter 5 - Regional systems for the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa, Asia and the Americas The other regional systems investigated in this chapter are those operating in the framework of regional organisations in the Americas (the Organisation of American States), in Africa (the African Union), in the Arab world (the League of Arab States), as well as in South-East Asia (the ASEAN).

Chapter 6 - Human rights in conflict and post-conflict contexts The focus shifts to the national level, in particular to situations of armed conflict and to post-conflict scenarios. Issues related to the standards and procedures of International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law are also tackled.

Chapter 7 - Human rights promotion and protection at the National and sub-national level This Chapter addresses a number of issues related to the role of National Human Rights Institutions and other actors involved in human rights policies nationwide and at the local/community levels, such as local governments and municipalities.

Chapter 8 - The driving forces of human rights promotion: the role of civil society The Chapter focuses on civil society organisations and networks. The analysis looks into the multifaceted strategies carried out by non-state actors, especially in relation to the international instances of human rights protection.

Chapter 9 - Conclusions: perspectives on global human rights A summary and discussion of the multi-level dimensions of human rights protection dealt with in the previous chapters. This final segment provides some closing critical reflections on the questions set forth in Chapter 1.

Mid –term homework At the end of chapter 4, the instructions for homework will be released: homework must be submitted by the end of chapter 6 (2 weeks). Homework consists of writing a communication or a petition addressed to one of the monitoring bodies studied in the first four chapters. The aim is to familiarise students with the tools of human rights protection mechanisms. The texts will be evaluated using a peer review methodology.

Final homework At the end of chapter 8, the instructions for homework will be released: homework must be submitted in 2 weeks. Students will be asked to write, using a simplified form, a project addressing a human rights related issue that is challenging their town, territory, home country and likely to be taken up by governmental or non-governmental agencies.

Within each chapter, the MOOC offers tailored case-studies, interviews with field experts, officers and academics.

Taught by

Prof. Paolo De Stefani


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