Germany, Berlin

Human Rights: Foundations, Achievements, Controversies

when 23 July 2016 - 20 August 2016
duration 4 weeks
credits 4 ECTS
fee EUR 900

Human rights constitute a central ideal in the contemporary world. Governments around the globe routinely commit themselves to upholding human rights, and many states have signed landmark international human rights agreements. Despite efforts by the ‘international community’ human rights remain challenged and contested, they need to be re-defined and uphold. The rights of refugees during their escape through European states, the right to privacy undermined by government surveillance, and the continuous practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments are cases in point.

The course introduces students to human rights and explores their growing importance in international politics. The first section of the course examines the philosophical foundations, historical evolution, and legal standing of human rights. The second section of the course focuses on the challenge of realizing human rights, with an emphasis on the key actors and institutional developments related to human rights, such as international organizations, states, NGOs and the media. The third section examines the accountability for human rights violations at the national, regional, and international levels. The course will survey various mechanisms for the promotion, protection and implementation of international human rights. In the final section, the course will turn to current challenges in the quest for the realization of human rights.

In this context, and whenever possible, the course will focus upon the many remaining disagreements about the definition and scope of human rights. We will equally discuss the many problems encountered when individuals attempt to invoke international human rights standards in domestic legal systems.

Course leader

Sören Stapel

Target group

The course is designed for students with different academic backgrounds who will benefit from each other in an intercultural and interdisciplinary learning process. The subject matter will be of particular interest to students pursuing degrees in a wide range of disciplines, including history, political science, international relations, law, and everyone with a general interest in human rights.

Credits info


Participation: 40%
Oral presentations: 30%
Final paper: 30%

Fee info

EUR 900: Tuition
EUR 250: Program fee