Childhood, Adolescence, Youth, and International Human Rights

Since ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child twenty years ago, considerable progress has been made in advancing young children's enjoyment of basic social and economic rights including access to basic education and health care.These gains are not matched by corresponding advances for older children, particularly girls, minorities, and migrants:in many developing societies, secondary and tertiary education remains widely inaccessible, maternal mortality remains the largest cause of female teenage death, and youth unemployment and violence have reached epidemic proportions. What explains this differential performance, and how can the gap in realization of adolescent and youth human rights be addressed? The course will explore legal and other strategies for understanding and advancing the human rights of children, adolescents, and youth globally.

Offered by Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School  

Human Rights Dilemmas in Child Protection

A growing number of children and adolescents around the world are subjected to violence, exploitation and other forms of abuse. These harms persist despite the proliferation of international norms and structures designed to protect this population and promote its wellbeing. In many cases global transformations exacerbate rather than reduce the risks of abuse and increase the protection challenges these risks give rise to. Though each category of child protection deficit has its own characteristics and its attendant normative framework, they all share common and definable elements. An investigation of the human rights dilemmas that arise in child protection on a global scale presents, in a microcosm, a perspective on the social and political dynamics affecting some of the world's most vulnerable populations. One focus of the course is the child protection issues themselves, their genesis and impact. The other is the human rights strategies and dilemmas relevant to those (at both the individual and societal levels) charged with responding to rights violations affecting children and fulfilling public child protection obligations. In the midst of historic technological advances and significant progress in the realm of international human rights, the strategic choices and responsibilities facing leaders and others concerned with child protection are of increasing complexity and scope. A key concern of the course will be to integrate legal approaches with those developed in the health and social sciences. A recurring theme will be the evaluation of how international obligations map onto policy outcomes and how human rights mechanisms affect problems facing vulnerable children on the ground. The course will begin with a brief review of the theory and literature relating to child protection and international human rights. It will proceed with an in-depth discussion of case studies covering central aspects of child protection-child labor, child trafficking, child soldiering and child persecution. Analytic points will be derived from an investigation of specific problems, the legal frameworks relating to them, and the solutions that have been advanced to address them.

Offered by Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School 

Human Rights in Peace and War

Human rights have become a global lingua franca, invoked by leaders and movements across the political, religious and cultural spectrum. Because they can come into conflict with each other, human rights can serve to justify wars (to combat terrorists), religious intolerance (to counter fundamentalists), gender discrimination (to support religious tenets), refusal of safe haven to refugees (to promote domestic human security).  Despite over half a century of international law making and domestic enactment of human rights treaties, and despite a vibrant civil society that has embraced human rights principles world-wide, remedies for violations such as torture, rape, genocide, political or economic persecution, and crippling destitution, remain elusive. This dilemma is particularly clear in situations of forced migration, when vulnerable populations are separated from individuals and institutions that traditionally provide support. This seminar will address key issues in contemporary human rights theory and practice through the lens of displaced, disenfranchised, and threatened individuals and groups.  Members of the seminar will first study the philosophical and political traditions that led to codification of human rights. The seminar will then cover the legal frameworks of contemporary international human rights and humanitarian law and examine how they affect some of the most egregious human rights violations of the current period. Case studies of pivotal controversies and decisions will be examined to explore such questions as who is a refugee or an internally displaced person (IDP), what is trafficking, when is deportation justified, what protections do civilians have in conflict settings, and what are major crimes of atrocity and war.   

Offered by Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Protecting the Human Rights of Vulnerable Populations 

International law is no longer a purely interstate arena. Not just states, but individuals now have legal tools that enable them to directly challenge aspects of state sovereignty. As the scope of international law has changed, so has the conception of states. Once thought of as bounded territories with a homogenous citizenry, uniform border controls, and absolute autonomy in their conduct of internal affairs, they now include diverse populations with different claims of belonging, different border regimes, and a complex interaction of domestic, regional, and international legal systems. This class introduces students to some of the main human rights laws and mechanisms for implementing them. It provides a forum for discussion of different theoretical perspectives on human rights as well as practical questions about how rights translate into realities. We consider how individuals, but also groups and movements, can effect social change using human rights norms. We also explore the distinction between humanitarianism and human rights. The class focuses on a range of vulnerable populations in Turkey, including the following: migrants and refugees, minority resident populations (including Kurds and Armenians), the LGBT community, and trafficked and other exploited populations (whether for sex or labor).

Offered by Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences