• Offered by School of Politics and International Relations
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Political Science
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
Human Rights in International Relations: Theory and Practice (POLS8023)

This module explores the historical, philosophical and political origins of the modern human rights regime. The module will then examine  some of the major debates underpinning the role of human rights in international relations, such as: 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. A key focus of the course will then be to critically apply these debates to 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:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. Demonstrate that you 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);
  2. Demonstrate that you identify the key moments and international instruments in the establishment of the modern human rights regime;
  3. Show that you understand the major theoretical debates within the human rights discourse;
  4. Demonstrate that you understand the space and place human rights issues occupy in wider international relations debates and practice; and,
  5. Demonstrate that you can discuss the intersection between theories of human rights and the application of human rights standards.

Indicative Assessment

In-class exercise (10%) Learning outcome 5
Assessment, 4000 words (60%) Learning outcomes 1-5
Take-home exam, 2000 words (30%) Learning outcomes 1-5 

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of workshops over 12 weeks; and,
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Prescribed Texts

An e-brick with a range of readings for each week will be prepared by lecturer. Indicative texts include:

  • Carey, Gibney and Poe, The Politics of Human Rights: The Quest for Dignity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • Forsythe, Human Rights in International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)
  • Symonides, Human Rights: Concepts and Standards (London: Ashgate, 2000)
  • Hayner, Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions (London: Routledge, 2011)

Chappell, Chesterman & Hill The Politics of Human Rights in Australia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)


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
2019 $3840
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $5460
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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