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Human Rights in Global Politics


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations. Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to the mentioned master programmes are requested to contact the co-ordinator of studies.


In this course we investigate the conceptions, practices and institutions of human rights at the global level. We explore the historical processes and practices of state and non-state actors that correspond with the emergence of human rights as a global concern and their contemporary relevance in global politics. At the heart of our discussion will be the question of whether and to what extent human rights practices have contributed towards the emancipation of disempowered groups or the justification of domination over them. Our approach is threefold. First, we examine the reasons that different actors have given for associating their action or inaction with human rights norms and institutions. Second, we consider the instruments and strategies that actors have relied on to either support or prevent specific developments with regard to the expansion of the remit of human rights, or the design and operation of global human rights institutions. Finally, we assess whether and to what extent the growing centrality of the discourse, norms and institutions of human rights in global politics has changed the behaviour of powerful state and non-state actors in favour of the disadvantaged.

Course Objectives

The overarching goal of this course is to trace the emergence and practice of human rights in time and space. By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Understand the origins and development of human rights norms and institutions;

  • Understand the ramifications of appeals to human rights by state and non-state actors;

  • Understand the conditions under which human rights make a difference in the real world.


The timetable is available on the website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • 24 Hours of classes

  • 120 Hours of reading and class preparation (10 hours per week over 12 weeks)

  • 36 Hours to prepare for the presentations

  • 40 Hours to complete two written assignments

  • 60 Hours to complete and end-term research essay.

Total 280 hours.

Assessment Method

  • Critical commentary on the discussion question of every session (500 words): 15%

  • Presentation: 15%

  • Research plan (1,000 words): 20%

  • Final Paper (4,000 words, excluding references): 50%


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


The resit for the final examined element is only available to students whose mark of the final examined element is insufficient.

Exam Review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for this course.

Reading list

The list of required and recommended readings will be announced on Blackboard at least one week before the start of the course, and subsequently during the course. Check Blackboard for timely information. Refer to the course syllabus.

More required and recommended readings will be announced on Blackboard before the start of the course, and subsequently during the course. Check Blackboard for timely information.


Via uSis.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Contact information

Dr. G. Macaj