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Liberal Arts & Social Sciences
Fall 2016 Semester - Early Start Paris

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Course Overview


Human Rights: Universal Principles in World Politics

Human Rights: Universal Principles in World Politics Course Overview


CEA Partner Institution: CEA Paris Center
Location: Paris, France
Primary Subject Area: Political Science
Other Subject Area: History, International Relations
Instruction in: English
Course Code: POL350
Course Details: Level 300
Recommended Semester Credits: 3
Contact Hours: 45
Prerequisites: None required. Introductory courses in International Relations and 20th century European or world history are recommended.


This course provides a survey and analysis of the theory and practice of setting, implementing, and enforcing universal standards of respect for international human rights in contemporary world politics.

This requires an initial review of the historical, religious, and intellectual background that gave rise to the early legal theories and doctrines upon which modern international human rights law would come to be based. The weight of this historical record leads directly to a study of the United Nations system and the framework for action it put into place after World War II for the protection of human rights.

The difficult task of defining universal principles of human rights, of determining the content of such rights, of considering the different cultural and theoretical approaches to these rights, and of creating effective methods of monitoring and enforcement of human rights standards will be taken up. This requires a study of the on-going and impassioned argument between the Universalist approach to human rights and the culturally relativist approach, on the outcome of which the successful protection of human rights will ultimately depend.

The more successful regional attempts, such as the Council of Europe and Helsinki process, to codify and enforce standards of human rights protection will also be studied. But the very mixed experience of, and hesitant commitment to regional guarantees of human rights by the American, Arab, African, and Asian states reveal the very great cultural and political impediments to meaningful human rights regimes and enforcement mechanisms. For this reason, this course will also consider the very significant human rights efforts of non-governmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

As part of the conclusion, this course considers the many new political, social, and economic threats to universal human rights that have emerged since the end of the Cold War era and, more recently, as a result of the "War on Terror." This compels us to evaluate the effectiveness of the recently reformed UN system for the protection of human rights, including the enhanced role and function of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Criminal Court and the newly created Human Rights Council. Also, the urgent economic, social, developmental, humanitarian, nutritional, and educational rights of several billion people today 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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