Human Rights, Law and Advocacy





Susan H. Farbstein (Harvard Law School)
Freshman Seminar 41K  4 credits (fall term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Human rights practitioners confront numerous ethical, strategic, and legal dilemmas in their struggles for social justice.  This freshman seminar explores the underlying legal framework in which human rights advocates operate, and then uses specific case studies to consider the various challenges they must grapple with in their work.  The seminar is designed to encourage students to critically evaluate the human rights movement while offering an introduction to some of the essential tools and strategies used by human rights advocates, including advocacy, litigation, documentation, and report writing.  Students will be asked to grapple with tough questions, such as:  How can human rights be harnessed to successfully influence and change behavior?  What does responsible, effective human rights advocacy look like?  How do we engage without perpetuating power differentials along geopolitical, class, race, gender, and other lines?  How do we find ways to work in collaboration with directly affected communities?  What does it mean to be a human rights advocate working on abuses affecting individuals and communities remote from yourself?  How do you balance broader advocacy goals with the needs of individual survivors or clients?  How do you determine when to intervene and devote limited resources to a given issue?  Students will also consider a series of dynamics (e.g., north/south, insider/outsider, donor/donee, lawyer/non-lawyer) that influence how and why advocacy is formulated and received.  Finally, the seminar considers the limits of the human rights paradigm and established methodologies, such as litigation and “naming and shaming,” and explores alternative sources and forms of advocacy, including the role of community lawyering in the human rights context.    
See also: Fall 2022