Human Rights Advocacy

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2014

Human rights norms and discourse are employed widely by advocates around the world in their struggles for social justice. This course explores what it means to be a human rights advocate, whether one is engaged in debates over U.S. policy at home and abroad, the role of corporations in alleged violations, or the role of rights in times of transitions from conflict. Through case studies and role plays, this seminar examines the various dimensions and limitations of human rights advocacy, including strategic, ethical, and tactical challenges. What are the different ways that human rights can be used? In developing strategies for effecting meaningful change, how do advocates decide which tactics to use and when? The goal is for students to develop core advocacy skills while thinking critically about their work. To that end, the seminar engages seriously with the major critiques and dilemmas faced by human rights advocates, in particular by lawyer-advocates from the Global North. The seminar also grapples with the limits of established approaches of the movement such as litigation naming and shaming, and explores community lawyering and human rights. How do we engage without perpetuating power differentials along geopolitical, class, race, gender, and other lines? How do we find ways to work in collaboration with directly affected communities and movements? In addition to case studies, students workshop and reflect on their participation in supervised clinical projects, which include fact-finding investigations, media work, negotiations, advocacy, and litigation. Critical reflection will not be the end, but rather the means to find responsible ways of advancing justice.