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Human Rights and Advocacy

Code KD616
Module Status Elective
Facilitator Nessa Ní Chasaide
Duration 25 hours
Credits 5

Module Aim

The course will support participants to critically explore the broad spectrum of debate relating to international human rights policy and practice. Participants will consider the possibilities, and limits, of the international human rights framework at community, national and international levels. The course will particularly focus on the achievements and challenges faced by grassroots campaigns for rights, operating within the context of globalised neo-liberalism and austerity. We will ask, has the human rights framework supported these struggles toward achieving meaningful social, political, economic or environmental transformation? The role of advocacy in realising human rights will be appraised, within the context of wider activism strategies. Participants will acquire important skills in being advocates for change.

Module Objectives

  • To provide participants with a clear understanding of the international human rights framework and how it functions;
  • To support participants to critically examine the spectrum of debate relating to human rights policy and practice;
  • To help participants appraise the possibilities and limits of the human rights framework in the context of globalised neo-liberalism and austerity including: the impact of human rights work at community levels (exploring community rights struggles; the use of human rights based approaches to development); national level (exploring campaigns to realise fundamental human rights such as the right to water or health); and the international level (exploring the impact of UN frameworks and bodies in holding states to account such as the International Criminal Court);
  • To appraise the role of advocacy, within the context of wider activist strategies, in realising human rights, and acquire skills on how to advocate for change.

Module Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course learners will:

  • Have a clear understanding of the elements of the international human rights framework and their purpose;
  • Have a critical understanding of the impact of the international human rights framework and human rights approaches on realising meaningful change in our world;
  • Have applied their learning to a range of specific case studies of struggles for human rights at community, national and international levels;
  • Have a critical understanding of the role of advocacy, contextualised within wider campaigning and activist strategies for change;
  • Be able to develop an advocacy strategy for the realisation of human rights and actively participate in an advocacy role play focusing on a human rights issue.

Approach and Methodology

The course will use a critical exploratory approach to human rights, focusing in particular on exploring the potential and limits of the ‘human rights toolbox’ to achieving meaningful change. A mix of methodologies will be used, with an emphasis on participatory approaches. Methodologies will include lectures, study circles (for working on case studies), activity based learning (including 1 group presentation and a role play for advocacy training), videos and informal sessions for sharing participants’ human rights experiences.

Module Content

Introduction to Human Rights

  • Historical and philosophical antecedents of human rights;
  • Introduction to the human rights framework – mapping actors, principles, treaties and bodies (international and regional);
  • Key questions in the human rights debate – outlining key issues for further exploration during the module.

Are Human Rights for Everyone?

  • How successful has the HR framework been in protecting and realising rights?
  • Outlining of critical Southern perspectives on human rights: Are human rights a “western” construct?; ‘Third World Approaches to International Law’ (TWAIL);
  • Can human rights challenge the capitalist system? Do human rights serve the poor?

Civil, Political. Cultural Rights

  • History of civil, political and cultural human rights struggles: their achievements and challenges;
  • Current (‘new’) concerns in civil, political and cultural spheres: eg the LGBTQ movement in the Global North and South; “security”/counter-terrorism discourse in Africa;
  • Current (‘old’/ continuing) concerns in political and civil spheres: eg right of association in Africa; women’s rights in Global North and South.

Social and Economic Rights: Human Rights in an era of global neo-liberalism and austerity

  • Can the human rights framework deliver social and economic rights at a national level? Do human rights instruments act as ‘vehicles of neo-liberalism’ or do they protect against social and economic inequality?;
    Case study work (eg: Ireland & right to health; South Africa Treatment Action Campaign etc)

Human Rights and the Environment

  • Is the environment missing from the HR framework? Can human rights instruments be used to help save our environment?;
    Case study work (eg: Rossport Struggle, South Africa Eskom Coal Plant & the World Bank).

Human Rights and Transitional Justice

  • Can international human rights frameworks hold states to account in cases of extreme human rights abuse?
  • Focus on transitional justice – can justice be restored post dictatorships/post war & conflict?
  • Case study: Kenya & the International Criminal Court

Human Rights Work at Community Level

  • Have human rights approaches supported empowerment at community levels?;
  • Case study work on community based human rights struggles (eg: Water Access campaign South Africa & Right2Water Ireland);
  • Introduction to the ‘Human Rights Based Approach’ (HRBA);
  • Benefits and Challenges of a HRBA to development at a community level;
  • Testimonies of practitioners of HRBA & sharing of participants’ experience.

Advocacy and Power

  • What is advocacy?;
  • Exploring the use of advocacy in the context of wider activist strategies;
  • When is advocacy effective? When is it not effective? Eg: considering “insider” and “outsider” activist strategies;
  • Ethical advocacy: Who gets to ‘talk to power’? Exploring representation and speaking on behalf of others.

“Doing” Advocacy

  • Exploration of advocacy planning cycle (eg: Issue Analysis, power mapping, setting objectives, “message” development, identifying approaches to advocacy work);
  • Exploration of basic tools for advocacy (lobbying, letter writing, debate);
  • Advocacy strategy development (Drawing up an advocacy plan, goal; objectives; activities; resources);
  • Forming of working groups and topics for case study work for group presentations.

Group Presentations

  • Groups present joint advocacy strategies & carry out an advocacy role play

Details of assessment and up to date reading lists for this module will be made available to learners following enrolment.

Please note that this description is subject to change.

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