Human Rights In Africa
Course Summary:

The course adopts a holistic approach to learning international human rights law, beginning from its normative foundations and emergence as a distinct field of international law to its contemporary status and challenges for the future. Given the introductory nature of this course, emphasis is placed throughout on idealism as well as realism, including an understanding of how international and domestic politics have influenced and continue to influence the field of international human rights law. On the normative side, participants will analyse the merits and demerits of categorising human rights under different labels and its effects on human rights promotion. They will look at case studies from around the world that expose the tensions between cultural relativism and universality of human rights, and will also look at the concepts of collective rights and rights of vulnerable persons. On the practical side, participants will be introduced to the most important mechanisms as well as challenges to the realization and promotion of human rights, including State compliance and judicial enforcement. Finally, the inter-play between nation-states and civil society will be scrutinised with a strong focus on NGO activism and the emerging challenges thereto

Course Objectives:

  • An understanding of the principles and institutions of international human rights law, including their origins, assumptions, contents, limits and potential;
  • An improved ability to think analytically about the implementation and development of international human rights law and to apply this body of law in your own professional and national setting;
  • Aan improved ability to conduct research on international human rights law; and;
  • An institutional framework for cross-national professional collaboration and the exchange of information.
  • Be able to conduct effective research in the field of international human rights law. 
  • Be familiar with the major universal and regional systems of human rights law, their relationships to each other, and the legal value and authority of declarations, decisions, judgments and other materials generated by them.
  • Be comfortable with general concepts of public international law, to the extent that they are relevant in the field of human rights. 
  • Develop an awareness of the primary areas of concern within the field of international human rights law and other relevant branches of international law, and the ways in which human rights are promoted and protected.

Course Outline


  • Background to the course manual 
  • How to use this manual 
  • Learning objectives and themes 
  • Course content 
  • Daily programme overview 

Human rights violations and the health worker 

  • The Smilo Dyanti role play 
  • Small-group work on case studies 
  • Report back, naming the abuse 

The origins and underpinnings of human rights 

  • What are human rights? What is international human rights law? 
  • Human rights in the South African Constitution: applying the Bill of Rights 
  • Closure and homework exercises 

Claiming health rights: the South African situation 

  • Health as a socio-economic right 
  • Institutions to respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights 
  • Patient’s Rights Charter 

Objectives-based health and human rights curricula 

  • Input on objectives-based curricula 
  • What are core competencies in health and human rights? 
  • Examples of objectives-based health and human rights curricula 
  • Closure and discussion of homework exercise 

Councils and professional associations

  • Feedback and responses to TRC submissions
  • Input on overall TRC health sector findings and recommendations 
  • What should your institutions be doing? Group work and plenary discussion 
  • Input by a speaker from a professional council and professional association and plenary discussion 

Training institutions 

  • Transformation and reconciliation initiatives: inputs 
  • Transformation and reconciliation initiatives: panel and plenary discussion 
  • Transformation and reconciliation initiatives: panel and plenary discussion (continued) 

The relationship between bioethics and human rights:

  • implications for teachers 
  • Panel discussion 
  • Plenary discussion 
  • Closure 

Resources for education and training in health and human rights 

  • Input on educational resources for human rights 
  • Internet resources for health and human rights teaching