POLS444-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021

International Human Rights

30 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 July 2021
End Date: Sunday, 14 November 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 1 August 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 1 October 2021


This course examines the growth of the human rights movement over the past 70 years and problems associated with creating a universal set of human rights norms. Contemporary challenges will be examined with a particular emphasis on the Global South.

In 1945 in San Francisco, the members of the United Nations (UN) were vowing, in joining the new organisation: ‘to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small […]’ (UN Charter Preamble, 1945). More than seven decades later, human rights continue to be asserted as an international normative imperative. However, they are also ignored, abused and challenged. In the United States, President Trump is a blatant supporter of torture: ‘It works; it absolutely works!’ Meanwhile in the Philippines, President Duterte’s war on drugs has led to thousands of extra-judicial killing in less than a year. But beyond such direct contemporary challenges to human rights, other forms of contestations have long been brewing, notably linked to the expected ‘universality’ of human rights. Building on five specific themes, this graduate course provides a review and analysis of international human rights philosophy, instruments and institutions. It seeks to engage students in discussing plural contemporary debates linked to international human rights, and how they permeate at the local, regional and international stage.  

This course is divided into five modules. The first module explores human rights in a historical and theoretical perspective. It lays the foundation for the rest of the course which will tackle a wide range of case studies. In Module two, we will tackle international justice by discussing the International Criminal Court. Module three will peer into the pressing concerns oven gender-based violence. Here, two case studies will be analysed: gender violence and the conflict in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo, and international sex trafficking. The fourth module will engage with one of today’s most pressing concern: the refugee ‘crisis’. This part of the course will discuss the meaning of current breaches to the international convention and the response – and sometimes lack of – from the international community. In the last module, we will explore how civil society has historically mobilised in support of human rights and crucially, what strategies are being deployed today, in a time where populism and neoliberalism is encroaching on the international human rights framework.

Learning Outcomes

  • Gain knowledge on the history of international human rights and their multidisciplinary underpinnings (Attributes: 1, 3, 5);
  • Critically reflect on the strengths and failings of the main theories informing the field of international human rights (Attributes: 1, 3, 5);
  • Building on diverse case studies from different regions of the world, demonstrate an ability to analyse how the range of political, economic and altruistic motives that animate actors across the field impact the outcomes of human rights on the ground (Attributes: all);
  • Bring student to critically reflect on their own viewpoints on human rights (Attributes: all).
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Employable, innovative and enterprising

      Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

      Biculturally competent and confident

      Students will be aware of and understand the nature of biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand, and its relevance to their area of study and/or their degree.

      Engaged with the community

      Students will have observed and understood a culture within a community by reflecting on their own performance and experiences within that community.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Subject to approval of the Head of Department.


POLS405, DIPL405, ILAP662, POLS420 and DIPL418 prior to 2014

Timetable 2021

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Friday 09:00 - 12:00 Jack Erskine 239
19 Jul - 29 Aug
13 Sep - 24 Oct

Course Coordinator

Pascale Hatcher


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Reading Report 10%
Final Assessment 40%
Debate 35% Students will be asked to prepare an in-class debate. This will involve Students will be asked to prepare an in-class debate. This will involve a 5,000-word essay, as well as taking an active part in the class debate.
Informed Participation 15%

Textbooks / Resources

The weekly readings are compulsory. They have been selected to complement the information provided during the lectures and to guide the weekly class discussions. The readings will be available via Learn. Additionally, students will be encouraged to seek out other literature on the topics covered in class, notably in daily newspapers, magazines, documentaries, journals, etc.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,905.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see Language, Social and Political Sciences.

All POLS444 Occurrences

  • POLS444-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021