Human Rights in International Relations module (PO52017)

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Module code


Module aims

  • To introduce students to the study of human rights in international relations, particularly to regime theory;
  • To encourage students to examine human rights through the comparative perspective of international law and international relations;
  • To challenge students to analyze complex human rights problems and make informed arguments on these issues;
  • To give students the opportunity to discuss on-going human rights crises and topical issues using normative arguments and empirical literature; and
  • To facilitate the development of argumentative and research skills.

Module details

This module introduces students to regime theory in international relations and uses the international human rights regime as a case study. The creation, implementation, compliance, and enforcement of regimes will be discussed with reference to human rights-related issues. The focus of the module is on examining various explanations for the efficacy of the human rights regime in ensuring the protection of human rights by its member states. Evidence gathered utilising quantitative and qualitative methods will be presented to students for assessment.

We explore the following key areas:

  • regime theory
  • applying regime theory to understand the creation and implementation of the human rights regime
  • the role of polity type, civil war, economic development and civil society in regime compliance
  • the role of sanctions and armed intervention in regime enforcement
  • the role of actors such as transnational corporations and non-state armed groups that are outside the regime


This module is assessed by two equally-weighted essays -

  •  two x 3,000-3,500 word essays (40 credit)
  •  two x 2,500 word essays (30 credit)


This module is delivered through weekly seminars. 

Indicative Reading

  • Haas, Michael (2008) International Human Rights: A Comprehensive Introduction, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Landman, Todd (2005) Protecting Human Rights: A Comparative Study, Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
  • Landman, Todd (2006) Studying Human Rights, Abingdon:Routledge.
  • Goodhart, Michael (2009) Human Rights: Politics and Practice, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Fagan, Andrew (2010) The Atlas of Human Rights: Mapping Violations of Freedom Around the Globe, University of California Press.
  • Simmons, Beth (2010) Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Haggard, S. & Simmons, B. (1987) Theories of International Regimes, International Organization, 41, 491-517
  • Hasenclever, A., Mayer, P. & Rittberger, V. (1996) Interests, Power, Knowledge: The Study of International Regimes, Mershon International Studies Review, 40, 177-228
  • Hasenclever, A., Mayer, P. & Rittberger, V. (2000) Integrating Theories of International Regimes, Review of International Studies, 26, 3-33
  • Krasner, S. (1983) International Regimes. Cornell University Press
  • Oye, K. (1996) Cooperation under Anarchy. Princeton University Press
  • Rittberger, V. (1997) Regime Theory and International Relations. Clarendon Press

Intended Learning Outcomes 

Having successfully completed this module, students should have:

  • Knowledge of the basic literature and normative and empirical debates in human rights and international relations;
  • Knowledge of regime theory and its application to understanding the role of human rights in international relations;
  • Experience in the application of international relations theories and evidence to current issues;
  • Basic skills necessary to evaluate the methods and evidence used in academic, policy, and advocacy research; and
  • Improved essay writing and research skills.

Students will also be able to analyse and research normative and empirical issues concerning regime theory and human rights protection.


This module is available on following courses: