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Course E061: International Human Rights Law (Foundation Course)

21 May-1 July 2014 (E06114) | Closed
5 November-16 December 2014 (E06114-2) | Register for this course (page opens in new window)
Instructors: Frank Elbers and Mihir Kanade

This certificate course jointly offered by HREA and the Human Rights Centre of the UN-mandated University for Peace introduces participants to the basics of international human rights law. The course is intended to not only build the foundations of the participants in international human rights law, but also as a foundation course for other HREA e-learning courses and to serve as a stepping stone for developing expertise in specialised areas of human rights law and practice.

The course adopts a holistic approach to learning international human rights law, beginning from its normative foundations and emergence as a distinct field of international law to its contemporary status and challenges for the future. Given the introductory nature of this course, emphasis is placed throughout on idealism as well as realism, including an understanding of how international and domestic politics have influenced and continue to influence the field of international human rights law. On the normative side, participants will analyse the merits and demerits of categorising human rights under different labels and its effects on human rights promotion. They will look at case studies from around the world that expose the tensions between cultural relativism and universality of human rights, and will also look at the concepts of collective rights and rights of vulnerable persons. On the practical side, participants will be introduced to the most important mechanisms as well as challenges to the realization and promotion of human rights, including State compliance and judicial enforcement. Finally, the inter-play between nation-states and civil society will be scrutinised with a strong focus on NGO activism and the emerging challenges thereto.

This e-learning course involves approximately 30 hours of reading, interaction with students and instructors on discussion boards, quizzes and webinars. The course is based on a participatory, active learning approach, with an emphasis on critical reflection and peer-to-peer learning. The maximum number of course participants is 25. Students who successfully complete the course will receive a Certificate of Participation. It is also possible to audit the course.

Course outline

Week 1: History and Normative Foundations of Human Rights and the Emergence of International Human Rights Law
Week 2: The Politics of Human Rights and Beyond (Debates on Generations of Human Rights and Universality)
Week 3: They are Humans Too? (Human Rights of Vulnerable Groups)
Week 4: Collective Identity and Collective Human Rights
Week 5: Compliance and Enforcement of Human Rights
Week 6: Civil Society and Human Rights Advocacy

About the instructors

Frank Elbers is Executive Director of Human Rights Education Associates (HREA). He has twenty years of experience in development and human rights in postcommunist Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. At HREA he has been an instructor and trainer for courses and workshops on human rights-based programming, monitoring children's rights and monitoring women's human rights. Before joining HREA in 1998 he worked at the Anne Frank House and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee. Mr. Elbers studied political science at the University of Amsterdam. He is currently the co-instructor of the HREA e-learning courses Gender and Human Rights (Foundation Course) and Gender Mainstreaming (Gender Equality-Advanced Course).

Mihir Kanade is the Director of the Human Rights Center at the United Nations mandated University for Peace (UPEACE) and is an Academic Consultant to the Department of International Law and Human Rights at UPEACE. Prior to the present position, Mr. Kanade practiced for seven years as a lawyer in the Supreme Court of India and the Bombay High Court, focusing on issues of fundamental human rights violations. He holds a LL.B. from Nagpur University and a Masters degree in International Law and the Settlement of Disputes from UPEACE. He has served extensively as a legal advisor to many human rights organizations, including those involved with refugee protection, and has represented them before different courts and tribunals in criminal, constitutional, asylum, human rights and labour cases. His current primary area of academic research and study is Human Rights, Development and International Trade linkages. He is a consultant to the United Nations University, Tokyo, on a project titled 'WTO Agreements, United Nations and Human Security'. Mr. Kanade is the instructor for the HREA-UPEACE Human Rights Centre e-learning courses Business and Human Rights, Development and Human Rights: Implications for the Globalised World, Health and Human Rights, International Refugee Law and Contemporary Challenges and International Trade and Human Rights: Balancing the Act.

Who should apply

The course is intended for (under)graduate students, staff members of social justice and development organisations, including development NGOs and UN specialised agencies. This course is recommended to those who would like to participate in other short and specialised HREA e-learning courses but lack sufficient background and knowledge of international human rights law. Candidates should have a good written command of English and have high competence and comfort with computer and Internet use. HREA and UPEACE aim to ensure equal gender and geographical distribution across the selected participants.


Tuition fee for participants: US$ 575; tuition for auditors: US$ 215. There are no scholarships or discounted tuition rates available for this course.

Payments can be made online by major credit cards (Discover, MasterCard, Visa), PayPal, bank transfer and money transfer (Western Union, MoneyGram). Bulk rates are available.


Register for this course (page opens in new window). Registrations are accepted on a first-come-first-served basis. There is no registration deadline, but please be aware that courses generally fill up quickly!

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