The Theory and Practice of Human Rights





Why do human rights violations occur and what can be done to prevent them? What difference do human rights treaties make for changing state practices? How can governments, international organizations, and human rights NGOs contribute to bringing about positive human rights change? This class will integrate reading, discussion, and class projects of the theory and practice of human rights to try to answer these questions and others. We will examine political, economic, psychological and ideological explanations for human rights violations, and theories of state commitment and compliance with human rights norms and treaties. We will also explore the role of governments, international organizations and civil society organizations in the promotion and protection of human rights. Each theoretical discussion will also ask students to address how theoretical findings could influence choices of practitioners about tools to promote human rights. The course will also focus on building strategic capacity through group projects addressing a human rights issue of interest to the students, using the tactical mapping technique and searching tactical databases to understand what governments and NGOs around the world are doing to enhance compliance with human rights norms.