Introduction to Human Rights


What does the 'rights-based approach to development' mean? This short introductory course provides a grounding in the basic principles of human rights. It also introduces participants to the international and regional conventions and instruments which encode human rights. It is one of an integrated collection of courses developed by Fahamu in conjunction with the University of Oxford.

Course content

The course is in four parts.

1 What are human rights?

  • Defining the term
  • The values underlying human rights
  • How human rights develop
  • Examples of struggles for human rights
  • Human rights duties and obligations
  • Dealing with rights that conflict with each other.

2 Monitoring, enforcement and protection

  • How rights are enshrined in law.
  • How to monitor that laws are being enforced:
  • In particular places, such as prisons, courts, hospitals and schools
  • In particular situations, such as an election
  • On specific issues, such as child labour or female circumcision.

The mechanisms and bodies set up to make monitoring easier.

3 The human rights system

  • The treaties and laws that encode human rights as enforceable
  • statements of law, such as:
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • How courts enforce and neglect different kinds of human rights
  • The set of international laws that govern situations of armed conflict.

4 Values in a human rights organisation

A human rights organisation should reflect the underlying values of human rights – not only in its monitoring and campaigning but also in its own practice. These values and practices include:

  • Respect for other people
  • Tolerance of different points of view
  • Participation of staff in decision-making
  • Transparency in the decision-making process
  • Accountability of managers, staff and office-holders
  • Fair pay and terms of service
  • Good working conditions
  • Sensitivity on issues of gender.

By the end of the course

Participants will be able to:

  • Define human rights
  • Explain how human rights are codified
  • Understand how human rights are monitored and enforced
  • Distinguish between economic, social and cultural rights
  • Understand how the values underlying human rights affect the way in which organisations should be run.

Course benefits

Every participant will be provided with course materials including a course CDROM, which contains a comprehensive library of all relevant declarations, conventions and documents, as well as useful website addresses.

Every participant who successfully completes a course will be awarded a certificate from the University of Oxford and Fahamu.


This course is suitable for governmental and non-governmental organisations, and is strongly recommended for those development organisations implementing a 'rights-based' approach.

Course length

Distance learning course (1–2 hours/day): 5 weeks

Orders within the United Kingdom include VAT.


Title Introduction to Human Rights
Publisher Pambazuka Press
Imprint Fahamu Books
BISAC Subject Heading POL055000 POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / Australian & Oceanian
Audience 01 General / trade
Audience Activists, campaigners, NGO-workers, academics, journalists, commentators
Credit Fahamu Ltd
Subject Scheme Identifier Code      93 Thema subject category: JP      94 Thema geographical qualifier: 1M

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