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Making Human Rights Work


Admission requirements

Required courses:

  • Introduction to Socio-legal Studies

  • Law, Culture & Society or Security & Rights


This course examines the evolving body of law, norms and institutions that make up the human rights architecture. It examines the core obstacles that policy-makers and practitioners face in promoting human rights compliance, including where other bodies of law - for example religious law, customary law or indigenous law - may operate in parallel with the existing legal framework. It also considers emerging threats, such as climate change, migration and security, and how these might impact state-level as well as international responses. A large proportion of the course is dedicated to understanding the practical dilemmas associated with human rights programming – especially in contexts marked by weak rule of law, insecurity, low legal literacy or widespread discrimination – and how these might be overcome. While the course is principally concerned with how human rights are realized in developing, fragile and conflict affected states, it also examines the role of geopolitical forces and political economy as both impediments to and opportunities for realizing human rights.

Course Objectives

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

  • Explain the evolution of human rights, and the interaction of processes in norm-setting, compliance and enforcement at the local, national and supranational levels;

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

  • Identify the roles played by political economy and geopolitical forces in advancing human rights in different settings;

  • Illustrate how access to justice tools and approaches can be used to promote human rights and overcome obstacles to realising 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, including by drawing on different theories of diffusion or uptake.

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

  • Oral advocacy skills

  • Academic paper writing

  • Ability to work effectively in a group


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of 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.

Assessment Method

  • Three reaction papers: 15%

  • Participation: 15%

  • Group presentations 15%

  • Joint paper 15%

  • Final essay: 40%

Reading list

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


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Erica Harper,