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Human Rights Conflicts & Development


Units: 6



Human Rights, Conflict and Development


In the words of Paul Collier, “Seventy-three percent of people in the societies of the bottom billion have recently been in a civil war or are still in one” Collier’s words effectively summarize  the purpose of this course. Thus, during the term will study why civil wars and the ensuing abuses happen largely in societies suffering from massive development problems. Conversely, we will also analyze the impact that human rights abuses and conflict have on development. We will then analyze different approaches to development and how to deal with past human rights abuses. In brief, we will study the connections between development and civil wars; the destructive societal and economic effects of conflict and human rights abuses, and the policies and actions geared to reverse those detrimental effects, including foreign intervention, foreign aid and Transitional Justice policies.



At the end of the course, the students are expected to have learned about:

a) Civil wars: Their reasons, frequency, regional scope, cost and their negative impact on development.


b) The nature and impact of international intervention and role of international actors, including international organizations, development agencies, international social movements and international NGOs.


c) Specific development issues and approaches, including the neo-liberal, the dependency and the path followed by China, among others.


d) How to achieve justice in the aftermath of civil wars and dictatorships. This field of inquiry is known as Transitional Justice policies and includes the study of truth commissions, trials and reparations among others.


e) Application of the knowledge acquired in the class to specific conflicts. Students will work in groups of three or four and the group’s task will be to assess the context and impact of civil wars as well as the human rights abuses committed and the actions of international agencies and actors. Among the countries studies will be Colombia and Guatemala in Latin America, Syria and Yemen in the Middle East, Nigeria, Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan in Africa, and Myanmar and Sri Lanka in Asia.




Learning Outcomes


.-SkillsThe course emphasizes the development of analytical skills.

Students will develop these analytical skills in different forms:

  1. Class discussions which will allow the students to develop the ability to analyze and discuss different policy positions in an academic environment
  2. Writing policy memos: It is critical for all of us to be able to summarize a problem, present possible solutions, and recommend policies/solutions to others. The policy memos allow the students to develop these very important skills. Typically, students are expected to assume the role of a policy maker and provide specific policy recommendations to the President or the Secretary of State. The policy memos emphasize the use of relevant data, the analysis of the problem, and the policy design.
  3. Group presentation and paper: Group presentations are geared to allow the student to develop the ability to work in a project with other students, learn about a specific topic in depth, and prepare a class presentation using either power point or class handouts. Students will analyze the connections between conflict and development both prior to the conflict and after the conflict, the human rights impact of the conflict, the nature of international intervention and the implementation of transitional justice measures. In order to ensure the effectiveness of the presentation:

1.- The instructor meets with the student about a week before the presentation to set the specific topics and parameters of the presentation.

2.- The handout or slides need to be submitted to the instructor at least 24 hours before the presentation for review and comments.

3.- The group has to write a case study paper which is a summary of the presentation. The paper will be due four days after the presentation and the instructor will provide guidelines and advice after the presentation