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How Well Does International Human Rights Law Serve Marginalised People?

Investigate and challenge the claims of universality of human rights and how the law serves marginalised groups.

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  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Included in an ExpertTrack

    Course 2 of 3
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Uncover the shortcomings of international human rights law

On this four-week course from the University of Kent, you’ll delve deeper into universality claims, specifically examining marginalised groups, asking how well international human rights law serves them.

Explore women’s rights and the gaps in their protection

The provisions in UN human rights treaties have been deemed inadequate to the task of protecting women’s human rights. In particular, scholars and activists have called for a separate treaty addressing violence against women. The first week of this course will guide you through the importance of the human rights of women, focusing on discrimination and violence against women.

Examine poverty and inequality in the 21st century

Scholars have claimed that the greatest human rights deficits globally are heavily concentrated among the world’s poor. When people talk about human rights generally, the chances are they are referring to civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression or the right to a fair trial. What about other rights such as the right to health or education?

This week, you’ll examine economic, social, and cultural rights and how they aim to protect those facing poverty and inequality. You’ll also look at the impact globalisation has on the world’s poor.

Learn about the impact of the law on refugees and migrants

The final two weeks of this course will take you through the human rights of asylum seekers, refugees, and irregular migrants. You’ll examine the Refugee Convention and its shortcomings. You will also examine the many ways that states prevent people from arriving in the country of destination and the devastating impact this can have on migrants and their human rights.

You’ll finish this course by completing an assignment arguing your perspective on one of the topics covered in this course.


  • Week 1

    Human Rights of Women

    • The Importance of the Human Rights of Women

      In this activity you will be introduced to the reasons for singling out women as a category requiring a body of law that addresses their specific needs.

    • UN Instruments Concerned with Discrimination Against Women

      Here you will be introduced to three international law approaches designed to eliminate discrimination against women, as well as to the UN instruments directed at protecting women’s human rights.

    • Violence Against Women as Discrimination

      Here you will discover that there is a very significant gap in the CEDAW, namely, that it fails to address violence against women.

    • The Importance of Tackling Violence Against Women

      Here you will get a sense of how prevalent the problem is and the impact it has on women’s ability to access other rights.

    • Wrap Up

      Here you will find a list of resources and a summary of the week.

  • Week 2

    Human Rights of the Poor

    • Introduction to Human Rights and Poverty

      This week, we will focus on economic, social and cultural rights. Such rights meet the most pressing needs of those living in poverty.

    • Poverty, Inequality and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

      Here you will examine both poverty and inequality to see their impacts on the lives of the world’s poor.

    • The Role of Globalisation

      Here you will hear that globalisation is not neutral and that the gap between the rich and the poor, and poverty itself, are features of the current mode of globalisation.

    • Wrap Up

      Here you will find a list of resources and a summary of the week.

  • Week 3

    Human Rights of Asylum Seekers and Refugees

    • People in Flight as a Category of Concern

      Here you will consider the plight of people forced to flee their homes as a result of persecution, war, generalised violence, abject poverty, and other urgent reasons.

    • Reality for Millions who Manage to Cross a Border

      Here you will consider the conditions of life inside refugee camps.

    • Who is a Refugee in International Law?

      Here you will examine the legal definition of refugee and the problems this presents.

    • Wrap Up

      Here you will find a list of resources and a summary of the week.

  • Week 4

    Human Rights of Irregular Migrants

    • Undocumented Migrants and "Illegality"

      You will examine the concept of illegality in the context of migrants and migration and question the use of this term.

    • General International Human Rights Law

      Here you will consider the applicability of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the plight of undocumented migrants.

    • UN Migrant Workers' Convention

      You will consider this specialist treaty which is designed to address the specific needs for protection of both regular/documented and irregular/undocumented migrants.

    • Hannah Arendt's Analysis of the Situation of the Stateless

      Here you will consider whether Hannah Arendt’s analysis regarding stateless people is applicable to the situation of undocumented migrants.

    • Peer Graded Assignment

      Here you will learn about how the peer graded assignment works and you will be given a task to complete.

    • Wrap Up

      Here you will find a list of resources and a summary of the week.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of what constitutes international human rights law, its norms, systems and institutions.
  • Explore the history of international human rights law.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone working for national and international governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as lawyers looking to deepen their knowledge base.

Who will you learn with?

I am Senior Lecturer in Law at Kent Law School, University of Kent. I specialise in International Human Rights Law and International Migration Law.

Who developed the course?

The University of Kent

The University of Kent, the UK’s European university, is one of the country’s most dynamic universities. Established in 1965, it now has 19,850 students studying at its various campuses.

About this ExpertTrack

Explore human rights across the globe, how the law helps or hinders marginalised groups, and how we can protect human rights.

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