• Course Code:  HR

  • Term:  October 2017

  • Start Date:  Oct 16 2017

  • End Date:  Feb 4 2018

  • Duration:  16 weeks

  • Course Author(s)
    Professor Joshua Castellino and Dr. Sarah Bradshaw
Human rights

Human Rights, Human Wrongs

October 2017

  • Sdg academy website announcment
    The SDG Academy Team


Human rights are critical for achieving the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Across the globe many people’s rights are violated everyday, creating injustice and instability that threatens our collective future.  


Human Rights, Human Wrongs: Challenging Poverty, Vulnerability and Social Exclusion is an 11-week course that focuses on human rights and their link to the sustainable development context, particularly in terms of the advances, or lack thereof, in achieving women’s rights across the globe. The course brings together two different perspectives on rights – the legal and the social– to explore what implementing a rights-based agenda entails. The course examines how rights are understood and lived around the world, and what are the barriers that prevent rights from becoming a reality.  


Human Rights, Human Wrongs begins by discussing the evolution of the international human rights frameworks. It discusses how human rights, and their denial affects the lives of excluded groups, and the ability of countries to deal with the challenges of sustainable development. The course brings a particular focus to the global politics around the human rights discourse, with a discussion on the nuances of promoting ‘inclusive’ approaches and their possible effects on shifting the responsibility of alleviating poverty to the excluded groups themselves. It highlights the intersections of issues related to human rights, such as how gender interplays with ethnicity and the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as how human rights influences responses to conflict and disaster. The course not only describes pathways to a more inclusive and just society (SDGs 5, 10 and 16), but also raises questions on the role  that human rights can play in achieving all of the SDGs. The course is designed to engage students in debating and discussing difficult, complex issues at the intersection of politics, human rights, gender relations, social relations and economics and power. 


Your experiences, views, and voices matter.  Please join us as we collectively explore this journey in asking questions, exploring perspectives and building solutions that will create a more sustainable world - a world that leaves no one behind. 


Course Structure & Requirements

The course is structured around a series of pre-recorded lectures, readings, quizzes, and discussion forums. These course components can be completed at a time that is convenient for the students, and most quizzes and timed activities are given a two-week window for completion. The material for each week is made available each Monday, and once the material has been opened, it remains open for the duration of the course. There are no written assignments for this course.


In addition to the recorded lectures, readings, and quizzes, the instructors and select visiting experts will hold several real-time discussions on Google Hangouts so that students can ask questions and engage directly with the instructors and leading practitioners working in this field. The exact dates of these discussions will be announced early in the course.


The estimated time commitment to complete all course components is 4-6 hours per week, though this depends heavily on the student and his/her objectives in taking the course.


Students who successfully complete the course will receive a digital certificate of completion, signed by the course organizers. In order to successfully complete the course, students must score an average of 70% or higher on the quizzes and final exam, all of which are multiple choice. Students who score 85% or higher will receive certificates of completion with distinction. While this course is not credit granting, we encourage students to work with their own institutions to explore the option of granting credit for online coursework.


If you have any additional questions on the course structure or requirements, please email the SDG Academy Team at sdgacademy@unsdsn.org. For technical questions about the platform, please email, support@edcast.com.


Course Syllabus

Module 1: Why Does the World Need Human Rights?

1.1 What are Human Rights and why do we need them?

1.2 From economic growth to people-centered development

1.3 The 'Rise of Rights' in Development

1.4 How are Human Rights created?

1.5 Rights are nice but are they enough?


Module 2: How Do International Legal Frameworks and Institutions Interact with the Development Agenda?

2.1 Underlying concepts of International Law

2.2 United Nations Vision and Institutions

2.3 International Law and the Codification of Standards

2.4 Regional Systems for Human Rights  

2.5  Social Inclusion: a Litmus Test for the efficacy of Human Rights?


Module 3: International Human Rights Frameworks and Marginal Groups

3.1 If Rights are for all, why special rights for some?

3.2 Convention on the Rights of the Child

3.3 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

3.4 International Human Rights Treaties

3.5 Limitations of Existing Standards


Module 4: What are the Basic Underlying Frameworks for Social Inclusion?

4.1  Subject in Law vs. Object in Law

4.2  Equality of Opportunity

4.3  Affirmative Action and Special Measures

4.4  Autonomy as a Means of Protection

4.5  The Role of Law in Combatting Inequality


Module 5: Contested Rights and the Co-option of the Rights Discourse

5.1  The Hierarchy of Rights

5.2  Collective vs. Individual Rights

5.3  The Co-option of Rights

5.4   Intellectual Property Rights


Module 6: Sites of Gendered Poverty and Inequality

6.1 Ideas of Poverty and Wellbeing

6.2 Roots of Gender Inequality

6.3 Households as Sites of Inequality  

6.4 The Gendered Experience of Poverty

6.5 Attacking Gender Inequality within Development       


Module 7: Gendered Rights and Violence

7.1 Advancements in Women’s Rights

7.2 Conceptualizations: Sexual and Reproductive Rights  

7.3 Conceptualizations of Violence and Legal Frameworks

7.4 The gender agenda in the UN human rights framework

7.5 Root Causes and Lived Realities: VAWG  

7.6 Social Communication for Social Change: Puntos De Encuentro 


Module 8: The Nature of Social Exclusion: Minorities and Indigenous Peoples

8.1 Who are Minorities and Indigenous Peoples?

8.2 What are the key issues facing Minorities and Indigenous Peoples?

8.3 Global Snapshots of social exclusion by Continent

8.4 Tools to Overcome Structural Inequalities

8.5 Social Policies to combat social exclusion


Module 9: Who Will Advocate for the Vulnerable at Their Most Vulnerable?

9.1 Vulnerability and ‘natural’ disasters  

9.2 Gendered experiences of disaster

9.3 Social Protection: Problematizing Conditional Cash Transfers   

9.4 Culture v Rights: The case of Female Genital Mutilation

9.5 Equalizing the Encounter: Free Prior Informed Consent


Module 10: From Exclusion to Inclusion: Responding to crisis and conflict 

10.1 Humanitarian Response to Crisis

10.2 ‘Do no harm: The rise of ‘New Humanitarianism

10.3 International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

10.4 Democratization and political participation: The Situation Room

10.5 Responding to Crisis: Mediating for Peace  


Module 11: New Directions: Rights and the SDGs

11.1  Sustainable Development and Rights

11.2  A Vision of Rights for the Future

11.3  Pathways to Sustainable Development and Human Rights

11.4  Human Rights and the Economy  

11.5  The SDGs and Beyond


This course was made possible through the generous support of Svenska Postkod Stiftelsen and the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation

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