INTS 336 International Human Rights


This course will examine many of the complex and controversial issues regarding the emergence of the contemporary international human rights regime. Among these issues are: What is the purpose of human rights? What should their content be? When do violations of human rights warrant intervention across national boundaries? Is there a single moral foundation for human rights that spans many cultures or are there many culturally specific moral foundations, or none? In what sense, if any, are human rights universal? We begin with a brief look at the philosophy of rights, discussing how to define rights in general and human rights in particular. Using Mary Ann Glendon’s study of Eleanor Roosevelt and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a point of departure, we also review existing international treaties on human rights. Our class discussions will focus on rights about which there is a great deal of international consensus (such as the right not to be tortured) and rights over which there is much disagreement (such as the right to health care). We will also discuss whether rights are accorded to individuals or groups and how rights are guaranteed. We conclude with a consideration of what makes for a successful human rights campaign (e.g. South Africa) and what challenges are faced by “new” campaigns such as women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and the rights of the child?