IGA-385: Strategizing for Human Rights: Moving from Ideals to Practice

Semester: Fall

Credit: 4.0

Syllabus: Click here for syllabus

Faculty: Douglas Johnson


Day Time Location
Term Start Date 8/31
Meet Day M/W 1:15 PM - 2:30 PM 1 Brattle Sq 401 (HKS)


Violence and social injustices abound in the world.  How do we make a difference?  This class will apply the concepts of strategizing to today’s human rights struggles, examining cases of successful efforts to learn key principles and applying them to live and unsettled cases. Over the last decades, the human rights movement has emphasized the development of international treaties to define ideals as legal norms, created international institutions and instruments to encourage those norms to be implemented, and built local, national, and transnational civil society organizations to bring attention to the gap between norms and reality.  Yet many believe that the global situation is getting worse, not better, and that we have reached “the end times of human rights.”  Committing our professional futures to human rights struggle requires not only moral commitment but also the sense that we are being effective and strategic in our approaches to change making.  We will study how to think strategically and apply that thinking to cases that are still active arenas of conflict over ideals of justice and the realities of power imbalance, where the risks of failure are both present and of serious consequence.  We will explore social science research that is useful to the leadership task of strategizing, broaden our understanding of available tactics, use tactical mapping and other strategizing tools to construct alternative scenarios to resolve an active human rights struggle, and apply analytic frameworks that help us think through the acceptable balance between risk and success in making social change.

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