• Course Code:  HR

  • Term:  October 2017

  • Start Date:  Oct 16 2017

  • End Date:  Feb 11 2018

  • Enroll by:  Feb 7 2018

  • Duration:  17 weeks

  • Course Author(s)
    Professor Joshua Castellino and Professor Sarah Bradshaw

This course has ended

Human rights

Human Rights, Human Wrongs

October 2017

  • Sdg academy website announcment
    The SDG Academy Team


This course is currently unavailable. Sign up for our newsletter to learn when this course (and others) will next be offered!


From women to children to indigenous peoples, the rights of marginalized groups the world over are violated daily. These injustices affect not just these groups, but also the stability of our world – and our collective future.


Join this free, massive open online course to learn about the establishment of human rights and their linkages to many other global issues in sustainable development. The course joins legal frameworks and societal contexts to explore the barriers that prevent rights from becoming a reality.  


Among the topics covered:

  • International human rights frameworks, including specific frameworks for groups including women, children and indigenous peoples

  • How global politics affect and form our understanding and regulation of human rights

  • The emergence of “inclusive” approaches, and the effects of these approaches on assigning responsibility and action to excluded groups

  • The intersectionality inherent to human rights, such as gender and ethnicity and how human rights influence responses to conflict and disaster

  • How culture and human rights are brought into conflict, such as in the practice of female genital mutilation

  • The rise of “new humanitarianism”

  • How human rights are not only key to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5, 10 and 16 (Gender Equality, Reduced Inequalities and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), but also how they affect all of the SDGs

Join us in discussing and debating the complex intersection of politics, gender, social norms, economics and power that have shaped – and will continue to shape – human rights worldwide as we strive to leave no one behind.


Course Structure, Logistics & Requirements

The course launched October 16, 2017 and will close on February 11, 2018 (00.00 hrs UTC)

After February  11, 2018, the course content will no longer be available.



  • Pre-recorded video chapters

  • Readings

  • Quizzes

  • Discussion forums

  • Live webinars, allowing students to ask questions and engage directly with instructors and leading practitioners in the field (exact dates of webinars to be announced early in the course)

Each module (the materials for each week) is made available each Monday, and once the module has been opened it remains open for the duration of the course. There are no written assignments for this course.


Estimated time commitment: 4-6 hours per module (though this depends heavily on the student and their objectives in taking the course)

Cost: Free

Requirements: An internet connection to access course materials 


Certificates: Students who successfully complete the course will receive a digital certificate of completion, signed by the instructors. In order to successfully complete the course, and achieve a Certificate of Proficiency students must score an average of 70% or higher on the weekly quizzes and final exam. Students who score 85% or above will receive Certificates of Proficiency with Distinction. Note: 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.


Questions about the course structure or requirements? Email the SDG Academy Team at sdgacademy@unsdsn.org or Rebeca (the course teaching assistant) at hrhwcourseteam@gmail.com. For technical questions about the platform, please email support@edcast.com.


About the Instructors

Professor Joshua Castellino

Joshua Castellino is Professor of Law & Dean of the Schools of Law and Business at Middlesex University, London, and Adjunct Professor of Law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, Galway, Ireland. He has held visiting positions in Ireland, Spain, Hungary and Italy. He worked as a journalist in Mumbai, with the Indian Express Group, was awarded a Chevening Scholarship to pursue an MA in International Law & Politics in 1995, and completed his PhD in International Law in 1998. He has authored and edited eight books in international law and human rights law, on self-determination, title to territory and indigenous peoples’ rights, besides several articles on a range of these and other legal sub-topics. He has completed the third, in a five-book series published by Oxford University Press, on issues concerning Global Minority Rights Law, the latest entitled Minority Rights in the Middle East: A Comparative Legal Analysis (with Kathleen Cavanaugh).


Joshua was part of the EU-China Experts & Diplomatic Dialogue and Lawyers for the New Millennium: Support for the Arab Law Union. He regularly engages with multilateral organizations and with Law Societies and NGOs in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, on issues of human rights advocacy and public international law. He is on the Leadership Council of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network where he co-chairs the Thematic Group on Social Inclusion, Gender and Human Rights. He was appointed Chair, by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the 8th Forum on Minority Issues, an inter-governmental dialogue with civil society under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council.


Professor Sarah Bradshaw

Sarah Bradshaw is Professor of Gender and Sustainable Development at the School of Law of Middlesex University, London. She joined Middlesex University in 1994 and over the years has been Programme Leader for various Development Studies programmes, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. She has been involved in the Equal Opportunities and Ethics since joining the University and is currently also Chair of the School of Law ethics committee. Her research focuses on the general field of gender and development, with a specific focus on Latin America, and she has published widely in the field.


During a career break in the late 1990s, she began working on women's rights issues in Nicaragua sponsored by Progressio UK and this relationship continues to date. This has meant working closely with actors of the women's movements in Central America and in particular with the Nicaraguan feminist NGO, Puntos de Encuentro. Her work with Puntos involved designing training workshops, working on advocacy campaigns and undertaking research around women's rights. It took her into new and emerging fields such as social communication initiatives for social change, including working on their popular TV social soap.


Living in Nicaragua when Hurricane Mitch struck, during the relief and reconstruction phase Professor Bradshaw worked with the Civil Coordinator for Emergency and Reconstruction (CCER), a consortium of NGOs, groups and movements formed in response to hurricane Mitch in 1998 and was involved in a number of studies looking at post-disaster reconstruction. This interest in 'disasters' has continued, and informs her research, teaching and PhD supervision today, with a book on the topic – Gender, Development and Disasters – recently published by Edward Elgar.


Professor Bradshaw is a member of the Advisory Panel for the Plan International report – Because I am Girl: The state of the world's girls. More recently, Professor Bradshaw has been working with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative of the United Nations that works closely with other United Nations agencies, multilateral financing institutions, as well as other international organizations seeking to help shape the post-2015 development agenda.


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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