SEMINAR: Peace-building and Human rights - Policies, Institutions, Approaches and Politic

Course content

Despite widespread recognition that the understanding of violent conflict and processes of peace-building requires a multi-dimensional lens, the human rights and conflict resolution fields have frequently been at odds with little effort to ‘reconcile’ contradictory findings and approaches. The two fields have operated as relatively distinct communities both in terms of research and policy/practice. Many instances can be found, where tensions between the two agendas are apparent. One classical example is the fact that the ‘international community’ have increasingly emphasized the need for judicial accountability and measures to address impunity for human rights violations but this is often challenged by national state and political actors arguing that such measures are distorting the peace process, social harmony, and reconciliation. The course will explore dilemmas such as this in the inter-section between human rights and peace-building, and will provide students with both conceptual and practical insights into the main challenges and opportunities in the policies, institutions, approaches and politics related to human rights and peace-building in the 21st century.


Week 1: Introduction - Understanding peace-building and the link between peace-building, conflict resolution and human rights (including sessions on a) the basic concepts of peace-building, conflict resolution and human rights and how they are linked, and b) the different lenses of conflict resolution and human rights and their implications for practice)

Week 2: The institutions and actors involved in peace-building and human rights(including sessions on a) Understanding the key national and regional actors in peace-building and human rights, and b) understanding international actors in peace-building and human rights)

Week 3: Peace-building –  Policies, Institutions, Approaches and Politics (including sessions on a) an overview of the academic, policy, and practical fields of peace-building, and b) practical approaches to peace-building at local and national level)

Week 4: Human Rights in conflict affected states – Policies, Institutions, Approaches and Politics (including sessions on a) international human rights mechanisms and their role in conflict-affected contexts and b) transitional justice in the intersection between human rights and peace-building)

Week 5: The politics of human rights and peace-building (including sessions on a) the politics of human rights and peace-building including discussions of ‘liberal peace’ and universality of human rights, and b) analysis of the process in Denmark to develop a new foreign and security policy, and/or analysis of the refugee crisis in the perspective of human rights and peace-building

Week 6: Participation in international seminar on Human Rights and Peace-Building(including sessions on constitutionalism and global governance in relation to human rights and peace-building)

Week 7: Conclusion (including sessions on the link between theory, policy, and practice and practical approaches to policy engagement, strategic development, and evaluation in human rights and peace-building)

Learning outcome

The objective of the course/seminar is to give students an understanding of:  


  • the linkages between human rights, conflict resolution and peace-building,

  • the policies, institutions, approaches and politics embedded in these fields of policy and practice

  • the dilemmas, challenges and opportunities of international engagement


After the course/seminar the students should be able to:

  • Describe the institutional framework, key concepts and approaches within the fields of human rights, conflict resolution and peace-building

  • Engage in critical discussion on the links between human rights, conflict resolution and peace-building

  • Reflect on the inter-connectedness and/or complementarity between different approaches to human rights and conflict resolution within a peace-building framework and the advantages and disadvantages of applying different approaches in different situations

  • Identify and critically analyze the implications of the politics of human rights and peace-building on the space for change in conflict affected contexts

  • Write a policy input with analysis and recommendations to a real-life stakeholder on a relevant theme that combines insights into human rights and peace-building.

The two session per week will include one theoretical and one session which will be more practical/applied. The practical sessions will create an inter-active space for applying the theoretical knowledge and will compose of group work, reflective exercises and role plays based on real-world cases and current dilemmas.
Guest lecturers include Michelle Parlevliet and Ole Wæver and possibly practitioners and policy makers engaged in large UN missions and MFA policy development

Preliminary reading list (a final list with required and recommended literature will be available in June 2016):

Arthur, P. (2009) How “Transitions” Reshaped Human Rights: A Conceptual History of Transitional Justice. In Human Rights Quarterly, Vol 31.

Babbitt, E.F. & E.L. Lutz (eds.) (2009) Human Rights and Conflict Resolution in Context. Syracuse UP. Specific chapter

Expert review of UN Peacebuilding Architecture (2015).  A/69/968–S/2015/490.

Hearn, S., Bujones, A. K., & Kugel, A. (2014). The United Nations " Peacebuilding Architecture": Past, Present and Future. Center on International Cooperation. (p4-21).

Lederach, J.P. (1995) Preparing for Peace – Conflict Transformation Across Cultures. Syracuse University Press. Specific chapter

Lederach, J.P. (1998) Building Peace in Divided Societies. Syracuse University Press. Specific chapter

Mac Ginty, R. (2014) Everyday peace: Bottom up and local agency in conflict-affected societies. In Security Dialogue.

Manikkalingam, R. (2008) Promoting Peace and Protecting Rights: How are Human Rights Good and Bad for Resolving Conflict. In Essex Human Rights Review Vol. 5 No. 1.

Mertus, J.A. & J.W. Helsing (eds.) (2006) Human Rights and Conflict - Exploring the Links between Rights, Law and Peacebuilding. Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press. Introductory chapter

Miklian, J. (2014) The Past, Present, and Future of Liberal Peace. In Strategic Analysis, Vol 38(4) 493-507.

Mutua, M. (2007) Standard Setting in Human Rights: Critique and Prognosis. Human Rights Quarterly, Vol 29 (3) 547-630.

Parlevliet, M. (2015) Embracing Concurrent Realities – Revisiting the Relationship Between Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, PhD Dissertation, specific chapter

Risse, T., S.C. Ropp, and K. Sikkink (eds) (2013) The Persistent Power of Human Rights - From Commitment to Compliance. Cambridge Studies in International Relations, Cambridge University Press. Specific chapter

Sriram, C.L., O. Martin-Ortega, and J. Herman (2014, Second Edition) War, Conflict and Human Rights – Theory and Practice. Routledge. Specific chapter

The seminar is a master’s level course. It is preferable that students have taken basic conflict resolution and/or human rights courses prior to this course, however it is not a requirement.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individuel written assignment
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Passed/Not passed

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28