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Making Human Rights Work




Admissions requirements

All students who enter this course should have taken the course Introduction to Socio-Legal Studies. In addition, they should have taken either the course Law, Culture and Society or the course Security & Rights.


This course generally examines issues concerning the proliferation and effectiveness of human rights. In doing so, the course concentrates on the Global South. The course takes a multilevel approach, combining a focus on the local level, with an analysis of dynamics that occur at the national and global level. As such the course explores how people get access to justice in their own towns and villages and examines how these dynamics interact with national and international processes. The course examines how transnational actors and international organizations promote, support, or otherwise facilitate claims-making processes related to human rights. The course thus brings together themes and approaches from other LUC-courses, notably those in the Human Rights & Society track of the International Justice major. Overall, the course will help students better understand under what conditions and in what ways human rights can become effective tools for citizens in improving their lives.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Explain the formation of human rights and the interaction between processes at local, national and supranational level;

  • Explain which roles human rights play in different social contexts, notably in societies where customary and religious law are important;

  • Illustrate the relevance of access to justice theories for promoting human rights;

  • Assess strengths and weaknesses of strategies to promote social justice via the casting of social and political problems into human rights language;

  • Devise strategies for promoting particular human rights, using theories related to the diffusion and ‘spiraling down’ of human rights;

  • Evaluate the pros and cons of indicators for measuring human rights.

Students will gain the following practical skills from taking this course:

  • Oral advocacy skills

  • Ability to organize and chair a debate

  • Academic paper writing

  • Ability to work effectively in a group


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course uses a variety of teaching methods, including lecturing, student presentations, class discussion, and debate. Teaching materials consists mainly of secondary literature.


Three web postings: 15%

Participation: 15%

Roundtable debates (15%): Students will be divided in 4 groups. Each group will be asked to initiate a debate in class on a particular theme, based on course readings and other relevant sources they find themselves. The group will introduce arguments central to the question, to which the rest of the class can respond in the debate.

Joint paper (2000 words, 15%): the same group writes a group paper on the topic of the debate, applying the knowledge learned in class to new case studies the students have to identify. Students are encouraged to identify opposite case studies (for instance one where a certain institution or legal change had a positive impact and one where it did not; or one case study that exemplifies a trend described in the literature and one that does not). They are also asked to come with a balanced conclusion to the debated theme.

Final essay (2000 words): 40%. Essays need to refer to at least 5 of the readings from at least three different lectures. The research questions formulated by the students and the scope of the research will be discussed in class. During the last lecture of the course, students will provide peer feedback on first drafts of the final essay. The lecturer will provide written comments on the first drafts.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The required and recommended reading will be listed in the course syllabus and will be made available on blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact