Political Science 3506
A1, Winter 2004
Human Rights and International Relations
Despite the overall failure of the world community to live up to its commitments in the area of human rights, human rights issues are of growing importance on the international stage. Today, international institutions are far more likely to address human rights concerns than in the past; institutional structures specifically devoted to interpreting and upholding human rights are common. International non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have become highly respected and influential actors on the world stage. Communications technology has made it far easier for outsiders to monitor human rights abuses within states and for people around the world to become informed on what is happening in other countries.
Nonetheless, the advance of the human rights agenda in international relations does pose difficult questions for the traditional operation of the international system. Significant philosophical and political questions about the nature of human rights need to be addressed. Questions about the relationship between human rights and the traditional sovereign state are especially important. Concerns about cultural relativism and neo-imperialism loom large: are modern efforts to promote human rights issues just a new form of cultural imperialism being imposed by Western states - which largely define what "human rights" are - upon weaker, non-Western countries? Are there such things as "universal human rights"? Can different forms of human rights come into conflict? If so, how should we resolve those conflicts? Can they be resolved?
The object of this course will be to address these major issues. Our final goal will be to arrive at a basic understanding of the problems facing the development of the human rights regime at the international level. Students should leave the class with an awareness of the practical, political and philosophical imperatives underpinning the debates around international human rights. It is important to emphasize that this course is about the politics of human rights.
This is a full-year class. The first part of the class will be spent exploring the questions from a theoretical and philosophical perspective. The second part of the course will be spent investigating particular historical and current cases of human rights abuse, and then employing some of the arguments and concepts that we have examined in the first semester. As part of the second semester, we will conduct analyses of such events as sessions of the World Court, the Security Council, and actual cases of human rights abuse.
This syllabus deals with the first semester of the class. A second syllabus will be provided to you later in the year.
Readings: the reading load for this course will be fairly heavy. It is very important to stay on top of your readings. The course will also take advantage of the full range of new technology available to us and will include numerous required readings that are available online from the UNB library. The course will not provide a reading packet. Students are expected to access and download the appropriate material themselves. Other required readings will be available on reserve at the Harriet Irving Library. It is very important that students do the readings and be prepared to discuss them in class.
Please note that the readings are subject to change. I reserve the right to add or subtract readings from the syllabus on the basis of such factors as time, relevance, or the discovery of a new reading that may be particularly pertinent to the issue at hand. Rest assured, however, that alterations in the syllabus will be the exception rather than the rule.
I am currently working on a Web CT home page for the course which you should be able to access shortly. The home page will enable you to keep track of your marks, and it will have links to useful websites, as well as the syllabus.
Brown, Human Rights in World Politics. New York: Longman, 2000.
Marking scheme: For this class, there will not be any examinations. The marks for the class will be entirely dependent upon your written work and participation in class discussions and exercises. The mark breakdown is as follows:
25% - class participation.
Based on participation in class discussions, presentations and other
Early in the first semester, I will present the class with a list of possible human rights cases (both historical and ongoing) that students can use to select a topic that will be the focus of a major presentation in the second semester. This topic may also be the focus of the major papers written for the class. It may be necessary for two or more students to share the same topic. In such cases, students will need to coordinate with one another on the final presentation.
Week One: Human Rights In International Relations: Overview
One: Introduction: Human Rights in International Relations
Human Rights Standards
Weeks Four-Six: The Philosophical Debates Around Human Rights:
Three: Philosophical Issues and Insights
Weeks Seven-Eight: Global and Regional Institutions of Human Rights:
Four: The International Law of Human Rights
Weeks Nine-Ten: The Influence of Non-State Actors on Human Rights:
Seven: Non-governmental Organizations and Human Rights
Weeks Eleven-Twelve: Humanitarian Intervention:
to Protect, Report of the International Commission on Intervention and
In the second semester, we shall examine the following topics:
Human Rights - world courts, European Union, UNHCR.
-Looking inside: what are the nature of Western human rights abuse?
-Human Rights During War
The bulk of our
readings in the second semester, however, will be focused on specific
case studies and questions of human rights abuse. The selection of case
studies will depend upon the issues selected for examination by students
during the first semester.