Accueil > The role of ngo's in human rights protection

OADH 4025 - The Role of NGO's in Human Rights Protection

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

The course will deal with the various means by which Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are active in the field of human rights protection and how their assigned goals are achieved in complex international and domestic contexts where human rights are celebrated and/or on trial.
Dilemmas arise out of the very many protagonists in this field, the instrumentalization of human rights, the conflicting issues such as public order and security vs human rights, justice vs peace, business and trade vs human rights, moral and traditional values vs human rights.
By the end of the semester, students should understand what stakes those organizations are facing everyday and how human rights NGOs impact protagonists' behaviours.

1. Introduction (Classes1 and 2):

- Setting the scene: human rights contexts, global and regional protection systems, standards, power mapping, actors.
- NGOs landscape: legal concepts, political realities.
- Techniques, tools and challenges: from documentation to advocacy, strategic litigation, public mobilisation and media work, information and communication technology, standard setting (focus on international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law), training and capacity building.

2. Challenging States'responsibility (Classes 3 and 4) :

- NGOs contribution to and use of normative frames and standard-setting.
- Advocating for rights protection.
- Litigating against State's measures or practices.
Topics and case studies (to be selected with students) relating to: shrinking space for civil society ; human rights defenders protection ; conflict situations, closed states).

3. Challenging Individuals' Criminal Responsibility for International Crimes (Classes 5 and 6) :

- The Rome Statute and ICC related instruments, domestic standards: NGOs contribution to and use of normative frames and standard-setting, strength and weaknesses of contemporary legal standards.
- Advocating for independent and effective justice for international crimes.
- Litigating international crimes and accompanying victimes' quest for justice.
Topics and case studies (to be selected with students) relating to: the ICC framework, an international justice system? ; domestic proceedings in or outside countries of perpetration ; victims' right to and role in participation ; documenting and promoting prosecution of gender and sexual crimes ; conflict situations.

4. Challenging Businesses' Responsibility in the field of human rights (Classes 7 and 8) :

- Multinational corporations' accountability, CSR, justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights: the development of legal standards and challenges ahead.
- Enforcement: filling the impunity gap, strategic litigation.
- Engagement with corporations: conditions, modalities.
Topics and case studies (to be selected with students) relating to : From the Ruggie principles to a UN and others legally binding instruments? ; industrial projects and land grabbing ; IT business and conflict situations ; textile and retail industry.
The detailed course outline will be adapted in the beginning of the course in order to take the student's interests into account.
Special focus will be brought on NGO practical experience through the lens/practice of FIDH and other international and domestic NGOs. Special guests or presentations will also be scheduled.


BERNARD, Antoine (Deputy Director general, Reporters without borders, RSF)

Course validation

Students will be required to submit a maximum of 4 one page notes on topics dealt with during classes (25% of final grade) and a final essay on a theme related to the course (75% of final grade).

Required reading

  • The sources of international law, in Brierly's Law of nations, Andrew Clapham, Oxford University Press, 7th edition, 2012
  • The international human rights movement, A history, Aryeh Neier, Princeton University Press, 2012

Additional required reading

  • Catalysts for Change: How the UN's Independent Experts Promote Human Rights Ted Piccone, Brookings, 2012
  • Rough Justice: the International criminal court in a world of power politics, Oxford University Press, 2014
  • Optional : NGOs and development, David Lewis and Nazneen Kanji, Routledge, 2009