The University of Pennsylvania Graduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies in Global Human Rights provides you with an enriched perspective on the core international human rights documents, treaties, and mechanisms through cross-disciplinary and flexible coursework.
This certificate is ideal for advanced students in a variety of fields, as well as for teachers, researchers, the service professions, and law enforcement, military, public health, and governmental personnel.
About the Certificate
The Global Human Rights Certificate aims to promote human rights at Penn with enrolled undergraduate and graduate students through a variety of cross-disciplinary courses.
Human rights have assumed great prominence as globalization has advanced. Not only are human rights of vital practical importance in fields like international politics and development strategies, but problems in the academic domain are increasingly being assessed in relation to human rights. The study of human rights now constitutes a portion of most disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities as well as the professions, including the fields of medicine, law, and engineering.
This certificate accords with the United Nations’ second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education (WPHRE) that began in 2010 and focuses on institutions of higher education.
Professor Henry Teune, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania for 50 years, held the firm view that widespread knowledge of human rights would further the observance of such rights. In spring 2008, he explored with colleagues at Penn ideas for ways to harness the interests of faculty across the University and the human rights offerings in various Schools to present a curriculum for students. In fall 2010, SAS agreed to award a Certificate to those students meeting the requirements set forth in the resulting proposal. As of January 2011, students could take courses with the aim of meeting the requirements for the Graduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies in Global Human Rights.
Henry Teune died in April 2011, having succeeded in the effort to establish an interdisciplinary program in human rights at Penn, but too early to see the first student qualify for the Graduate Certificate. His faculty colleagues recognize Henry Teune as a champion of efforts to promote human rights, and they continue his work of providing Penn students with a curricular option for gaining knowledge of global human rights.
Logistics & Administration
All University students admitted to post-baccalaureate degree programs at the University are eligible to take courses leading to the Global Human Rights Certificate.
Interested undergraduate students should instead review information on the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Human Rights
You are encouraged to maintain contact with your department/school to ensure that you remain on track for your certificate.
To qualify for this certificate, you must take a total of five graduate courses relating to international human rights.
One of the five graduate level courses must be Human Rights (PSCI-5401), International Human Rights (LAW-9890), Public International Law (LAW-6600), or Health and Human Rights (PUBH-5250).
The remaining four courses should be selected from a list of approved perspective offerings. See the “Petitioning Non-Approved Courses” section below for information about courses outside the pre-approved list.
In accordance with the certificate’s interdisciplinary mission, courses must be taken in at least two of the University’s Schools. No more than three courses can be taken from any one school.
Satisfactory grades (B or better) must be earned in all five courses.
Note: Individual schools may impose additional requirements to qualify for this certificate. Contact your school for details.
Once you have completed your course requirements, forward a Global Human Rights Certificate Completion Form (PDF) to your Certificate Advisor.
You may petition for up to two of your five courses outside the pre-approved list by submitting a petition form (PDF) to your School’s Certificate Advisor prior to the start of the semester.
This decision requires the executive committee’s approval of the merit of the petition; courses are considered on a case-by-case basis. One example of a successful petition course might be a class taught by visiting faculty, new offering, or other one-time class that may not be available again. Another example might be a class that touches on themes outside the central academic objectives of the Certificate.
PSCI 5401—Global Human Rights
What exactly should be considered a fundamental “human right” in international politics? What is the basis for saying something is a fundamental human right? This course will examine the conceptual, historical, and political foundations of contemporary human rights debates. The course not only will cover broad conceptual debates, but also will focus on the politics of international human rights discussions, specific issue areas (e.g., civil rights, economic rights, women’s rights, children’s rights), and the question of how new rights norms emerge in international relations.
AFRC 4200—The U.S. and Human Rights: Policies and Practices
After an examination of the philosophical, legal, and political perspectives on human rights, this course will focus on U.S. policies and practices relevant to human rights. To that end, emphasis will be placed on both domestic and international aspects of human rights as reflected in U.S. policies and practices. Domestically, the course will discuss the process of incorporating the International Bill of Human Rights into the American legal system and the country’s position on and practices regarding the political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights of minorities and various other groups within the United States. Internationally, the course will examine U.S. human rights policies toward Africa. Specific cases of Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt, as well as other cases from the continent, will be presented in the assessment of U.S. successes and failures in the pursuit of its human rights strategy in Africa. Readings will include research papers, reports, statutes, treaties, and cases.
LALS 5220—Transitional Justice in Latin America: Lessons from Film, Case Studies, and Firsthand Accounts
Latin America often serves as a model for transitional justice—the process of dealing with past human rights abuses. The region provides numerous insights because many of its countries have emerged from years of civil war or transitioned to democracy since the mid-twentieth century. This online class explores the nature, history, and context of transitional justice across the region through class dialogue on film, case studies, firsthand accounts, and scholarly research. Engaging in comparative analyses of countries including Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, and Colombia, students will consider such topics as the extent to which countries have moved from impunity to accountability for previous human rights violations; the effectiveness of transitional justice mechanisms, such as trials versus truth commissions; and the theoretical, empirical, and historical arguments for transitional justice. Finally, students will learn about transitional justice models and processes worldwide, including the case of South Africa and the workings of the International Criminal Court, and analyze them according to the Latin American examples.
PSCI 3580—International Law and International Relations **
The primary purpose of this course is to enhance students’ understanding of the ways in which international law orders international (and sometimes domestic) politics. How and to what extent has it been used in resolving conflicts between nations? How and to what extent has it facilitated the achievement of common goals? What is the relationship between international law and states’ foreign policies? How does international law interact with domestic politics and legal systems? The third section of this course deals with three issue areas that states have attempted to govern through international law: war, commerce, and human rights. The final section explores international law through a series of contemporary challenges: the rise of new powers such as China; difficult problems of collective action, including that of forced migration and climate change; and cultural and legal resistance from beyond the “west.” (**Note: There are specific requirements in place for graduate students enrolled in this course, which must be met to be counted toward the graduate certificate.)
LAW 6550—Transnational Legal Clinic (Open to Law Students Only)
Gain lawyering experience under close faculty supervision and mentorship while you provide direct representation to individuals from around the world in immigration court and before USCIS in their applications for asylum, visas as victims of human trafficking and other crimes, and other humanitarian forms of relief. Clients are in all stages of proceedings, and some are being held in immigration detention. You will also have the opportunity to partner with national, international and grassroots organizations and individuals in human rights advocacy tackling the systemic rights abuses endemic to systems of immigration enforcement, detention, and low-wage work, including litigation and other forms of advocacy before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations, and foreign and U.S. governmental agencies. All students gain training and experience in transferable skills of lawyering across cultures, languages, and legal systems.
LAW 6600—International Law
This course provides an overview of the principal doctrines, institutions, and practices of international law and begins with a brief survey of some of the broad questions that frame the field of international law and its relationships to international politics (which are examined partly from perspectives drawn from international relations theory). The course begins with an introduction to the nature and structure of the international legal system. Topics in the first part of the course include fundamental, structural and procedural issues such as: sources of international law, the roles of states and other actors in the international legal system, the international legal accountability of states and non-state actors, the authority of states to make and enforce law beyond their borders and against non-citizens, and the interactions between domestic and international law. The second part of the course turns to substantive legal issues. Topics include most or all of the following: the use of force and intervention, protection of human rights, law of the sea, territorial disputes and their resolution, international economic relations, and environmental protection.
LAW 9000—International Women’s Rights
Securing the protection and promotion of the human rights of women globally remains one of the major challenges of the twenty-first century. Notwithstanding the significant advances in international human rights norms relating to women, systemic discrimination and violence against women remain pervasive. The progress made in the area of women’s human rights in the last decade are at risk of being rolled back during a time of COVID and economic stress. This class will focus on the international human rights system as it relates to the protection and promotion of women, the intersectionality of human rights conventions, treaty bodies, and UN special procedures; critically analyze the theoretical debates about securing the human rights of women, including debates about discrimination, equality, the public-private divide, cultural practices/cultural relativism, and mainstreaming human rights; critically comment on the international law-based approaches to securing the human rights of women; and analyze the domestic application and implementation of international norms and the mechanisms for enforcing the human rights of women, including gaps in treaty body reporting, strengths and weaknesses in lawmaking, and challenges in women’s rights litigation.
LAW 9890—International Human Rights
This course introduces students to the international human rights system and provides a detailed focus on current challenges in international human rights. The course will draw on the expertise of former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein to offer both a theoretical and practical introduction to international human rights. The first third of the course is designed to provide a general introduction to the international legal regime protecting human rights, the United Nations human rights architecture, the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and the interaction between international human rights regimes and regional and national human rights protection. The course will then turn to key areas of tension in the present moment, including the protection of privacy in the digital age, the implications of human rights for climate justice, human rights to freedom of movement and refugees, and the role of the International Criminal Court. The final third of the course takes on key country and regional case studies, including the situations in Myanmar, Venezuela, Syria, and the United States.
LAW 9490—International Human Rights and National Security
This course will analyze the continuing tension between international human rights norms and national security in the post-9/11 era. The central debate will be whether national security must propel the application of human rights, or whether human rights law must shape national security measures. Additionally, students will be asked to consider the value of a “moral imperative” to safeguard human rights in a post-9/11 world. Does such an imperative still exist? The course begins with an overview of human rights and humanitarian law, and consider the role of human rights in U.S. domestic law prior to 9/11. Subsequently, the course discusses the expansion of executive power to the detriment of human rights, and debate different aspects of the “Global War on Terror,” including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the CIA rendition and interrogation program, detention at Guantanamo Bay, domestic surveillance and profiling, the refugee/migrant crisis, and the use of drones. Finally, we examine the human rights norms most impacted by post-9/11 national security measures, and examine the important of accountability.
LAW 6060—Refugee Law
This course will explore the origins of protection from persecution: “refuge” or “asylum.” We will begin with a review of the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees – international treaties against which refugee protection is measured. We will study the responsibilities and realities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which monitors States’ implementation of the UN treaty. The course will begin with how Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East deal with refugees. Throughout the course, students will explore the root causes reasons of current and potential displacements in these regions of the world.
LAW 9450—GRS: Special Topics (Open to Law Students Only)
Each year, Global Research Seminars address new cutting-edge topics, identified by law faculty as singular research opportunities for Penn Carey Law students. These intensive semester- or year-long research courses build toward an overseas field research visit, when students and faculty jointly meet with primary stakeholders on key topics in public and private international law. A Global Research Seminar will be considered an approved course ONLY if the topic is related to human rights and has been pre-approved by the Global Human Rights Certificate Committee. Please contact your advisor for specific details.
LAW 9890—International Law and International Relations
Do legal rules really affect international politics? This course explores why international law has the form and content it does, and its role in shaping how states and other actors behave. It combines law and social science to examine important issues of the day, including security policies, human rights, and economic relationships.
Note: Law courses that have successfully been petitioned in the past include, but are not limited to, Law and Morality of War and Chinese Law.
SW 7490—Civil Society Activities Promoting Coexistence, Shared Society, and Peace in Israel and Palestine
This course will focus on activities carried out by nonprofit organizations operating within the Israeli civil society, dealing with issues related to co-existence and to the protection and advancement of the civil and human rights of different populations, with special emphasis on the Arab-Palestinian population in Israel. These activities include educational and social services programs, equality before the law, community work and advocacy activities, and prevention of systematic discrimination based on ethnic and religious affiliation. This course is designed to introduce students to the challenges and complexities of promoting coexistence in Israel—where civilizations, religions, national identities, and ideologies converge. The May course will be structured as a week-long field research visit to Israel and will include meetings with civil society activists, leaders of non-profit organizations and communities, and professional experts, as well as class discussions. An application and program fee are required for this course. All graduate students are eligible to apply; applications from undergraduate juniors and seniors are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Detailed course information can be found on the SP2 Global Courses page.
SWRK 7550/MSSP 7550—International Social Policy & Practice: Perspectives from the Global South
This interdisciplinary course will introduce students to social policy and practice perspectives from outside the United States, and especially from communities in the Global South. The course will familiarize them with global professions and help prepare them for overseas/cross-cultural practice. Through the course, students will identify numerous strategies and skills professionals have used to collaboratively build interventions within human rights, social policy, social welfare, education, healthcare, and sustainable development arenas.
SWRK 7720—Post-Colonial Social Work Practice: International Social Welfare in India
In this course, students examine the global welfare system and its engagement with marginalized communities. This six-week course in Kolkata, India, centers on a sex workers’ collaborative in Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red-light districts. Interviews with the collaborative’s workers and study of their grassroots movement are combined with class discussions and research projects in which students engage with texts on HIV, sex work, feminist postcolonial theory, and international social work.
SWRK 7630—Immigration: Policy and Practice
This course will begin with the history of migration to the United States, as well as legal definitions of newcomers, including obtaining documents for lawful permanent residence, refugee status, as well as grounds for exclusion and deportation, and paths to naturalized citizenship. We will then review how a framework of cultural competence and a strength- or asset-based approach can inform service to immigrant clients. The core portion of the course will then focus first on the intersection of immigrants and health, mental health, employment, crimes, public entitlements, and public education. The course will conclude with family issues relevant to immigrant families: women, children, lesbian and gay, and elderly immigrants. Public policy issues will be integrated throughout, and the course will end with specific suggestions on systems change at various levels. By the end of the course, students should be able to identify strategies for individual client advocacy (micro); agency and community strategies (mezzo); and government advocacy (macro) to empower immigrant clients to become full community participants.
SWRK 7450—Critical Race Theory
This course explores Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT refers to a body of work that emerged during the 1980s and 1990s among legal educators to explain why there seemingly has been racial progress on the one hand, through laws and court decisions that outlaw the most visible symbols of racial discrimination, but growing signs of racial inequality on the other, in education, health, criminal justice, housing, and politics. CRT has spawned and/or influenced new areas of inquiry, such as Latino/a critical studies, queer studies, critical race feminism, and critical white studies. Although social work researchers have begun to use CRT ideas such as intersectionality, the application of Critical Race Theory to the field remains largely unexplored.
EDUC 5406 — International Early Childhood Policies and Programs
An estimated 250 million children under age five in low- and middle-income countries are not meeting their full developmental potential because they are living in poverty, lack proper health and nutrition, or do not receive adequate early stimulation. What are the key challenges for ensuring adequate and effective investment in early childhood development by governments, development partners, and communities? What are the characteristics of effective early childhood policies and programs? The aim of this multi-disciplinary course is to introduce students to international research, legal frameworks (e.g. human rights instruments), policies, and practices related to early childhood development. In the first part of this course, we will review the current status of young children in developing countries and study the evidence for investing in early childhood from human rights, economic, health, and education perspectives. The second part of the course will focus on current issues related to designing, implementing, and evaluating quality, contextually-appropriate early childhood development interventions, especially for the most disadvantaged populations. We will look at strategies around the world to expand access, improve quality, and ensure equity for young children.
EDUC 5480—Education in Developing Countries
In this course, we will actively engage in this debate through a survey of the global development literature in the field of education. We will examine theoretical frameworks and historical perspectives that will allow us to develop a better understanding of what is meant by “development” as well as recognize how these concepts relate to basic educational planning and practice in various contexts. The goal of this course is to improve understanding of how different theories of education and development influence educational policy, priorities, and programs of international, national, and local institutions.
EDUC 7539—Poverty & Child Development
This course teaches what is known about poverty and child development and touches directly and indirectly on human rights. Poverty touches every aspect of children’s lives—from their self-perceptions, to their families, schools, and neighborhoods. Growing income inequality, changes in the labor market, and increasing family instability are challenging the capacities of families and communities to care for their children in the United States and globally. We consider these issues systematically, as well as discussing what the role is of state and local governments, and of non-profit organizations, to address the growing and changing needs of families and communities. We use the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child as a framework from which to consider many of these issues.
PUBH 5250—Health and Human Rights
This course will explore the interplay between health and human rights and enable students to critically apply human rights to public health practice. We will explore the development of health as a human right and how public health research and policy can affect human rights. Students will learn about core human rights principles and mechanisms and the international development agenda. The class will examine topics at the intersection of global health and human rights, including health in conflict settings, HIV/AIDS, harm reduction, sexual and reproductive health, and climate change. Class material will primarily focus on public health challenges in the Global South, but we will also discuss health and human rights issues faced by vulnerable populations in the United States. Students will be assigned several writing assignments to ensure they understand key human rights principles and frameworks and can apply them to a range of public health initiatives.
BIOE 5780—Bioethics and Human Rights
The constitution of the World Health Organization enshrines “the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.” If such a right exists, it is far from being realized. This course explores the moral principles and the political and legal structures that inform a human rights approach to health. What freedoms (e.g., to bodily integrity) and entitlements (e.g., to accessible and affordable health care) does a right to the highest attainable standard of health entail? If countries cannot ensure their citizens’ right to the highest attainable standard of health, what responsibility does the international community bear for intervening? Should undocumented and irregular migrants have the same access to health care as citizens? Finally, what are the limitations of analyzing health and formulating health policy using a human rights framework?
PUBH 5510—Global Health Policy and Delivery
This participatory interdisciplinary seminar course examines contemporary issues in global health policy and delivery. The social determinants of health provide the overall organizing framework for the class. The class will consider evidence that inequalities in education, income, and occupation influence health status. Students will develop skills in policy analysis, policy brief development, and policy impact monitoring. The public policy process will be explored using a variety of contemporary global health case studies that focus on content areas such as maternal health, HIV policy, refugee health, and global healthcare delivery. Finally, we will examine the global health workforce and the impact of widespread global migration of health professionals on receiving and sending countries.
BIOE 5710—Global Health Policy: Justice, Governance, and Reform
This course considers various theoretical approaches to global justice and global governance and analyzes their implications for global health. The course includes two parts. The first part examines accounts of cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and other theories of global justice, critically assessing duties ascribed by each that may be owed universally to all persons or confined within associative boundaries of communities or nations. The second part explores applications to global health governance encompassing consideration of human rights and the operation and accountability of global institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization and national health systems. The course scrutinizes the relevance of global justice for governing the global health realm, evaluating the current global health system and proposals for reforming it
School of Law
Practice Professor of Law
Penn Carey Law School
3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Graduate School of Education
Associate Director, IEDP Program
Graduate School of Education
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
School of Arts & Sciences
Faculty Director - CAP, Lauder Institute
Lauder-Fischer Hall, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304
School of Medicine
Center for Global Health
240 John Morgan Bldg, 3620 Hamilton Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6055
School of Social Policy
Associate Dean for Inclusion
3701 Locust Walk, Caster Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214