International Human Rights

Wednesday10:15 - 12:00RAI J-031

Course Syllabus (updated) (PDF, 44 KB)

22.2.Class postponed to 29.2.

Foundations and history of human rights

General concept of human rights

  • From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • Overview of the key features of the ICCPR and the ICESCR
  • Relationship between the UDHR and the ICCPR

Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
  • Bates, in Moeckli/Shah/Sivakumaran (eds.), p. 17-38
  • Clapham, p. 1-56 (Chapters 1 and 2)


Economic, social and cultural rights

The ICESCR; respect, protect and fulfil

  • Origin and legal foundations of economic and social rights
  • Key features
  • Differences and relationship between the ICCPR and the ICESCR
  • The problem of resources
  • Obligations to respect, protect and fulfil
  • The issue of justiciability
  • Poverty as a violation of (which?) human rights?
Reading Assignments Additional Reading


Non-state Actors and Human Rights
  • Overview
  • Non-state actors and globalization, privatization and trade liberalization
  • Legal Framework
  • Status of multinational enterprises (MNEs) in international law
  • Case study: cluster munition
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
  • Clapham, in Moeckli/Shah/Sivakumaran (eds.), p. 561-582 (Chapter 25)

Texts on case study:

28.3./ 18.4.
The responsibility of MNEs: new approaches within the UN

Draft norms on the responsibility of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights

Appointment of Special Representative John Ruggie

  • Framework: protect, respect and remedy
  • Recent developments: adoption of the Guiding Principles
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading


All material issued by the UNSRSG can be found at

4.4.No classes - instead full day excursion to Geneva on May 16th 
11.4.No classes - Easter break
Implementing the Ruggie Framework takes different shapes: OECD and IFC
  • Overview of the OECD's mandate and work; OECD Declaration on international investment and multinational enterprises
  • Principles and standards for responsible business conduct
  • Recent devleopments: Update of the OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises
  • Application of the guidelines to human rights and supply chains (investment nexus and sphere of influence; due diligence)

IFC Sustainability Framework

  • Overview of the IFC mandate and work
  • Recent developments: Update of the IFC Sustainability Framework
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
The role of the OECD National Contact Points for implementing the corporate responsibility to respect human rights
  • OECD's mandate for NCPs
  • Implementation options
  • Case study: Norwegian NCP case
Reading assignments Additional reading

Updated OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, 2011 (see above)



Special focus on labour rights
  • ILO core labour rights
Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
16.5. Excursion to Geneva
  • Visit to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Visit to the International Labour Organisation (ILO)

More Information on the Excursion will be distributed during class on 9.5.2012

Monitoring human rights compliance
  • Existing general mechanism
  • The role of UN institutions, especially the Human Rights Council in observing member states' compliance
  • The state duty to protect
  • The corporate responsibility to respect
  • Access to remedy

Reading AssignmentsAdditional Reading
  • Clapham, p. 57-80 (Chapter 3)
30.5.Case study: Chocolate and Child labour