• Offered by School of Politics and International Relations
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Political Science
  • Areas of interest International Relations, Political Sciences
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2015
    See Future Offerings

This module explores issues of human rights in international relations in both theory and practice. It will commence by examining the historical, philosophical and political development of ideas concerning human rights. It then charts the major moments that led to the emergence of the modern human rights regime - epitomised in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The module will explore some of the major theoretical debates that underpin the role of human rights in international relations. This includes: the emergence of ideas concerning ‘rights’ and the specific development of the concept of ‘human rights’ discussions on Universalism and Relativism; issues around the implementation and enforcement of human rights standards; and questions on the best mechanisms for dealing with human rights violations (such as the Truth Commissions vs Justice debate.) The course then focuses on applying human rights theory to a range of contemporary human rights issues such as: human rights advocacy and application in the international system; human rights during conflict; the human rights of refugees; indigenous and minority rights; protecting the rights of women, children and sexual minorities; the question of the rights of future generations (particularly in terms of environmental responsibilities); and the broader future of human rights within international relations.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

By the end of the course, as a result of class discussions and the completion of coursework assessments, students passing the module should be able to demonstrate:

  • That they understand the key moments, issues and debates around the emergence of ideas concerning ‘rights’ and the specific development of the contested concept of ‘human rights’ (within both Western and non-Western contexts).
  • That they identify the key moments and international instruments in the establishment of the modern human rights regime.
  • That they understand the major theoretical debates within the human rights discourse.
  • That they can discuss the intersection between theories of human rights and the application of human rights standards.

Indicative Assessment

Research Essay (40%) (2000 words)

Exam (40%) (3 essay question responses)

Tutorial Participation (10%)

In-Class Exercise (10%)

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The workload will be a 3 hour lecture/documentary forum and a 1 hour tutorial once a week. There is an expectation of approximately 6 hours per week of independent study.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed12 units of 1000 level POLS courses; or permission of the convenor

Prescribed Texts

Sally Engle Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

Nicholas Wheeler, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).





Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $2604
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $3576
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3297 20 Jul 2015 07 Aug 2015 31 Aug 2015 30 Oct 2015 In Person N/A

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