Human Rights, Law, and Advocacy






Human rights practitioners around the world rely upon human rights law, language, and methodologies in the struggle for social justice. This freshman seminar explores the underlying legal framework in which human rights advocates operate, and uses specific case studies to consider the legal, ethical, and strategic challenges that practitioners grapple with in their work. The seminar is designed to encourage students to critically evaluate the human rights movement while offering an introduction to some of the essential tools and strategies used by human rights advocates, including advocacy, litigation, documentation, and report writing.

Students will be asked to contemplate tough questions, such as: What is the proper mandate of a human rights advocate? What is responsible, effective human rights advocacy? How can human rights be harnessed to successfully influence and change behavior? Is it possible to engage in human rights advocacy without perpetuating power differentials along geopolitical, class, race, gender, economic, and other lines? How do practitioners forge meaningful, collaborative partnerships with individuals and communities directly affected by abuse? How do advocates balance broader advocacy goals with the needs of individual survivors? How do practitioners determine when to intervene and devote limited resources to a given issue? How can human rights advocates practice self-care and cultivate resilience and optimism in the face of such challenging work?

Students will also consider a series of dynamics (e.g., north/south, insider/outsider, donor/donee, lawyer/non-lawyer) that influence how and why advocacy is formulated and received. Finally, the seminar considers the limits of the human rights paradigm and established methodologies, such as litigation and “naming and shaming,” and explores alternative sources and forms of advocacy, including the role of community lawyering in the human rights context.  


Additional Information

Faculty: Susan Farbstein
Semester: Full Fall Term
Time: Wed, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. ET