HREA / Education and training in support of human rights worldwide HREA archive
About Us | HREA News | E-Learning
Learning Centre Resource Centre Networks
Spanish French Russian Russian German Portuguese Italian Chinese Arabic
Course E068: The United Nations Human Rights System

17 September-28 October 2014 (E06814) | Closed
: Dr. Gerd Oberleitner

This certificate course is an introduction to the United Nations (UN) human rights system. The protection and promotion of human rights is a cardinal task of the UN. Over the past half century the UN has been active in drafting and adopting human rights standards and norms, and a considerable number of institutions, procedures and mechanisms have been (and continue to be) created in the field of human rights.

This e-learning course will provide on overview of and critical introduction to the UN human rights system. It will introduce the core UN human rights standards and discuss their universality. It will present the UN treaty bodies which monitor compliance with human rights treaties, the Human Rights Council and its mandate, role achievements and failures since its took over from the dissolved Commission on Human Rights in 2006, and the Council's subsidiary bodies. It will highlight the role of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and discuss the place of women's human rights in the UN system, the mainstreaming of human rights in UN specialised agencies, programmes and funds, and the role of civil society in the UN Human rights framework.

The course is intended to provide participants with the necessary skills to understand the UN human rights system and the standards and institutions, procedures and mechanisms developed over the past half century. It will allow for a critical reflection on the universality of these standards and the effectiveness of these mechanisms, on the role of human rights in the wider UN system, and on the potential and limits of entrusting the United Nations with protecting and promoting human rights. Participants will learn how law, policy and diplomacy come together and have shaped the UN human rights system, and how the system can be explained in theory and functions in practice. The course instructor will provide information in form of on-line material and "mini-lectures" and will guide participants through the required and optional readings. During the course NGO-staff and staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be available to participants in Q&A sessions through webinars.

The course involves approximately 30 hours of reading, on-line working groups, interaction among students and instructor, short assignments and webinars, and is offered over an 6-week period. The course will integrate active and participatory learning approaches within activities and assignments, with an emphasis on reflective and collaborative 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. The United Nations and its human rights organs
Week 2: Charter-based mechanisms
Week 3. Treaty-based mechanisms
Week 4. The Human Rights Council
Week 5. Special procedures
Week 6. From headquarters to the field: advisory services and technical cooperation; and the UN and civil society

About the instructor

Dr. Gerd Oberleitner is professor of international law at the University of Graz (Austria), where he works at the Institute of International Law and International Relations. His research interests are primarily in international human rights law, humanitarian law, human security and the law of international organisations. From 1998 to 1999 he served as Legal Adviser in the human rights and humanitarian law department of the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and has in subsequent years joined the Austrian governmental delegation to sessions of the (then) UN Human Rights Commission. From 1999 to 2002 he was the Executive Secretary of the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (ETC) in Graz. From 2002 to 2004 he was Lecturer in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and subsequently Visiting Fellow at the LSE’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights until 2007. He was visiting professor/scholar at the University of Prishtina, the European Inter-University Centre Venice and the Université du Quebéc à Montréal. For more than fifteen years, he has taught international law and international human rights law in a number of institutions and summer schools and in the Venice and Sarajevo Master Programmes on Human Rights and Democratisation. He has been an instructor for HREA e-learning courses since 2003. His publications include Global Human Rights Institutions: Between Remedy and Ritual (Cambridge, Polity, 2007) and Human Rights in Armed Conflict - Law, Practice, Policy (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

Who should apply

The course is aimed at university students and graduates of international relations, international law, politics and other areas, NGO staff members, staff of international organisations and other practitioners who want to gain in-depth knowledge about the United Nations human rights system. Participants should have a good written command of English and have high competence and comfort with computer and Internet use. The number of participants is limited to 25 per course. HREA aims to ensure equal gender and geographical distribution across the selected participants. It is also possible to audit the course.


Tuition fee for participants: US$ 575; tuition for auditors: US$ 215.

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.


Registration for this course is now closed.

Frequently asked questions about HREA's e-learning courses.



back to top
Bookmark and Share
HREA Trainings
HREA Publications
Join Our Email List

Other upcoming e-learning courses

Evaluation results 2011 course PDF file

Evaluation results 2009 course PDF file

Evaluation results 2008 course PDF file

Alumni 2007 course

Testimonials 2007 course

Evaluation results 2007 course PDF file

Alumni 2006 course

Testimonials 2006 course

Evaluation results 2006 course PDF file

Alumni 2005 course

Testimonials 2005 course

Evaluation results 2005 course PDF file

Accessibility | Copyright | Publications | RSS | Privacy | FAQs