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Human Rights: Universal Principles in World Politics Liberal Arts & French Studies Program 2021/2022 Year - Early Start - Paris

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Human Rights: Universal Principles in World Politics

Human Rights: Universal Principles in World Politics Course Overview


CEA CAPA Partner Institution: CEA CAPA Paris Center
Location: Paris, France
Primary Subject Area: Political Science
Instruction in: English
Course Code: POL350CDG
Transcript Source: University of New Haven
Course Details: Level 300
Recommended Semester Credits: 3
Contact Hours: 45
Prerequisites: None Required


This course surveys the political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of human rights and analyzes the challenges of setting and upholding universal standards of respect in contemporary world politics. Encounters with guest speakers and representatives of minority groups will provide students with first-hand experiences of the issues at stake.

The historical experiences of the late 18th, 19th and early 20th century including the French Revolution, the abolition of slavery, the conditions of labor and poor health ensuing from the Industrial Revolution including women's political enfranchisement, the Marxist and Bolshevik emphasis on economic justice, the horrors of state genocide and the Holocaust have all impacted the justifications for a legislation on international human rights. These historical events enhanced recognition that human society might perish altogether if protection mechanisms were not placed at the center of domestic and international politics.

The weight of our own historical records has led to the formation of the United Nations and a framework for the protection of human rights that was put into place after World War II. The students will therefore analyze the 1945 UN Charter, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the two 1966 Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as other international treaties issued under the aegis of the United Nations.

Particular emphasis will be given to the difficult task of defining universal principles of human rights, of considering different cultural and theoretical approaches to determine their content, as well as creating effective methods of monitoring and enforcing appropriate standards. In this sense, students will consider the successful efforts of the Council of Europe, the Helsinki process and the European Union in guaranteeing basic human rights. On the other hand, the analysis of the mixed experience and hesitant commitment by the American, Arab, African, and Asian states, will reveal the roots of the cultural and political impediments to the meaningful implementation of human rights regulations. For this reason, students will also consider the work of non-governmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and the increasingly important role of private actors (UN Global Compact initiative).

The humanitarian crises that have occurred since the fall of the Berlin Wall (i.e. in Somalia, Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia, East Timor, Haiti, Sudan, etc.) compel us to evaluate the relevancy of humanitarian law as spelled out in the Geneva Conventions. Furthermore, the unprecedented threats that have emerged with the current "War on Terror," call for a re-assessment of the recently reformed UN system for the protection of human rights, as well as the enhanced functions of the UN High Commissioner, the International Criminal Court and the newly created Human Rights Council. Today, urgent economic, social, developmental, nutritional, and educational rights of several billion people still go unheeded, and this when the so-called post-Cold War peace dividend was to be invested not in military matters but in humanitarian ones.

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