Paolo De Stefani, Claudia Pividori, Andrea Cofelice, Pietro de Perini, and Federica Napolitano

Human Rights: Global & Local Protection

  • FREE
  • English
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Certificate included

What is the course about?

Course Summary

Human rights are a complex issue. Their protection and promotion involve a number of actors: from international organisations to local communities, from governments to civil society. Human rights affect all aspects of our life, as individuals (as women, men, children, refugees, workers…) and as members of a community. This MOOC provides students with critical knowledge concerning the norms, institutions and procedures tasked to promote and protect human rights. Students will acquire the knowledge needed to actively join the global debate on fundamental rights and to avail themselves of the existing legal and institutional tools set up for their implementation. The MOOC introduces to the human rights legal framework in a multi-disciplinary and multi-level perspective, helping students to approach real-life scenarios with competence and cultural and ethical awareness.

What do I learn?

Students are expected to acquire a sound knowledge of the international system of human rights protection, and of the opportunities for human rights promotion and protection that are practically available at the national and local levels. The skills acquired can be preparatory for further specialisation on this subject. Finally, students will be able to apply the acquired knowledge and skills to real scenarios, including in relation to their everyday life.

What do I need to know?

The MOOC is mainly addressed to people from all over the world who have a background in political science, international relations and/or international law. The course, however, includes a general introductory chapter explaining the main issues, concepts and scenarios at stake. For this reason the MOOC is also open to people actively engaged on the ground that do not have a specific academic or educational background.

Course Structure

Chapter 1 - The basics
The Chapter aims to introduce the course and starts addressing (and providing some preliminary answers) some basic questions: What are human rights? Who is involved in their protection? Why are human rights a global priority? How can effectively be protected?

Chapter 2 - The UN and human rights
The focus is on the evolution of the UN commitment in human rights protection based on three pillars: positivisation, monitoring and mainstreaming.

Chapter 3 - The UN human rights machinery
The analysis deals with the UN mechanisms for the protection of human rights at the global level. Special attention will be given to the role of the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review.

Chapter 4 - The European system for the promotion and protection of human rights
The Chapter starts looking into the promotion and protection of human rights at regional (continental or sub-continental) levels. In particular, the European system will be presented highlighting the respective roles of the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE and their capacity to interplay and possibly complement each other.

Chapter 5 - Regional systems for the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa, Asia and the Americas
The other regional systems investigated in this chapter are those operating in the framework of regional organisations in the Americas (the Organisation of American States), in Africa (the African Union), in the Arab world (the League of Arab States), as well as in South-East Asia (the ASEAN).

Chapter 6 - Human rights in conflict and post-conflict contexts
The focus shifts to the national level, in particular to situations of armed conflict and to post-conflict scenarios. Issues related to the standards and procedures of International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law are also tackled.

Chapter 7 - Human rights promotion and protection at the National and sub-national level
This Chapter addresses a number of issues related to the role of National Human Rights Institutions and other actors involved in human rights policies nationwide and at the local/community levels, such as local governments and municipalities.

Chapter 8 - The driving forces of human rights promotion: the role of civil society
The Chapter focuses on civil society organisations and networks. The analysis looks into the multifaceted strategies carried out by non-state actors, especially in relation to the international instances of human rights protection.

Chapter 9 - Conclusions: perspectives on global human rights
A summary and discussion of the multi-level dimensions of human rights protection dealt with in the previous chapters. This final segment provides some closing critical reflections on the questions set forth in Chapter 1.

Mid –term homework
At the end of chapter 4, the instructions for homework will be released: homework must be submitted by the end of chapter 6 (2 weeks). Homework consists of writing a communication or a petition addressed to one of the monitoring bodies studied in the first four chapters. The aim is to familiarise students with the tools of human rights protection mechanisms. The texts will be evaluated using a peer review methodology.

Final homework
At the end of chapter 8, the instructions for homework will be released: homework must be submitted in 2 weeks. Students will be asked to write, using a simplified form, a project addressing a human rights related issue that is challenging their town, territory, home country and likely to be taken up by governmental or non-governmental agencies.

Within each chapter, the MOOC offers tailored case-studies, interviews with field experts, officers and academics.


Approximately 4 hours per week for watching video lectures, taking quizzes, completing homework and reading the material provided.

Founded in 1222, the University of Padova is one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious seats of learning: it is a multidisciplinary university, which aims to provide its students with both professional training and a solid cultural background. A qualification from the University of Padova is a symbol of having achieved an ambitious objective, one that is recognised and coveted by both students and employers alike.

If you want to know more about the University of Padova, visit its website.

The Human Rights Centre of the University of Padova is the first established (in 1982) specialised structure dedicated to human rights in the framework of an Italian University, and one of the oldest in Europe. The Centre hosts the UNESCO Chair in Human rights, democracy and peace - its chair-holder being prof. Antonio Papisca - and the European Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence Intercultural dialogue, human rights and multi-level governance. It edits the Italian Yearbook of Human Rights and manages the Archive Peace Human Rights, a web portal on human rights funded by the Region of Veneto.

The Centre supports the master’s degree in Human Rights and Multi-Level Governance at the University of Padova, and the postgraduate courses of the EU-backed EIUC (the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation in Venice).

Learn more about the Human Rights Centre of the University of Padova.

Course instructors