International Human Rights Law (Foundation Course)

6 March-16 April 2019 (E06119) | Register for this course (page opens in new window)
Instructor: Frank Elbers

This certificate course introduces participants to the basics of international human rights law. The course is intended to not only build the foundations of the participants in international human rights law, but also as a foundation course for other HREA e-learning courses and to serve as a stepping stone for developing expertise in specialised areas of human rights law and practice.

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 structure

This e-learning course involves approximately 30 hours of reading, interaction with students and instructor on discussion boards, quizzes and webinars. The course is based on a participatory, active learning approach, with an emphasis on critical reflection and peer-to-peer learning. Students who successfully complete the course will receive a Certificate of Participation. It is also possible to audit the course.

Course outline

Week 1: History and Normative Foundations of Human Rights and the Emergence of International Human Rights Law
Week 2: The Politics of Human Rights and Beyond (Debates on Generations of Human Rights and Universality)
Week 3: They are Humans Too? (Human Rights of Vulnerable Groups)
Week 4: Collective Identity and Collective Human Rights
Week 5: Compliance and Enforcement of Human Rights
Week 6: Civil Society and Human Rights Advocacy

About the instructor: Frank Elbers

Frank ElbersFrank Elbers is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World at Lebanese American University in Beirut. He teaches professional development courses for humanitarian workers and NGOs who are part of the Syria Crisis Response and conducts research on refugees and changing gender dynamics in urban contexts. He has more than 25 years of experience in development and human rights in post-communist Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Before moving to Lebanon Frank was Executive Director of Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) for seven years. He joined HREA in 1998 and have been an instructor and trainer for courses and workshops on human rights-based programming, monitoring women’s human rights, gender mainstreaming, and the human rights of (forced) migrants for many years.

Who should apply

The course is intended for (under)graduate students, staff members of social justice and development organisations, including development NGOs and UN specialised agencies. This course is recommended to those who would like to participate in other short and specialised HREA e-learning courses but lack sufficient background and knowledge of international human rights law. Candidates should have a good written command of English and have high competence and comfort with computer and Internet use. HREA aims to ensure equal gender and geographical distribution across the selected participants.


Tuition fee for participants: € 345 (after 21 December 2018: € 405); tuition for auditors: € 135 (€ 165 after 21 December 2018). There are no scholarships or discounted tuition rates available for this course. Payments can be made online by major credit cards (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa), PayPal and bank transfer. Bulk rates are available.

How to register

Register for this course (page opens in new window).

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about HREA’s e-learning courses.

Testimonials by course participants