Rights-based Development

Course content

A human rights-based strategy is a key approach to development followed by both governments, international partners and humanitarian organisations. 


The course will give an academic review of a human rights-based strategy and what it entails. This will involve an analysis of the linkages between human rights, development, democracy, economic growth and equality. A special focus will be on the closely related issue of statebuilding and peacebuilding in fragile countries.


The course will provide an overview of current human rights issues and a review of how especially economic and social rights are increasingly incorporated in constitutions and legislation and used in social litigation.


The course will also focus on how the key human rights principles of accountability, transparency, participation and equality are used in both development politics and practice. 


Finally, the course will give practical examples of how a human rights-based strategy can be used in management and leadership in both private companies, public institutions and in civil society.




!! The structure of this course will be blended !! 


Bachelor student (2017 programme curriculum): 7.5 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS



Learning outcome


After completing the course, the student shall be able to critically discuss, explain and analyse theories and approaches related to a human rights-based strategy. This shall include knowledge of the linkages between human rights, development, democracy, economic growth and equality; issues related to statebuilding and peacebuilding in fragile countries; and issues related to the development of the international human rights agenda and its application at a national level including in social litigation.



On completion of the course the student shall demonstrate:

  • an ability to closely and critically analyse the academic literature related to a human rights-based strategy. 
  • an ability to extract, formulate, and communicate questions related to the international human rights and their implementation; and 
  • an ability to use both theoretical concepts and practical examples to understand and analyse cases related to a human rights-based strategy. 



Student will be able to adopt and defend different theoretical positions and models drawing upon the literature and empirical cases presented during the course. 

Students will know how to apply theoretical knowledge related to a human rights-based strategy to specific and relevant cases and be able to make informed and analytical evaluations of its application.

The course consists of 14 2-hour sessions with a combination of lectures and active learning through seminar style discussions in small groups.

Preliminary reading list:


Acemoglu, D., Naidu, S., Restrepo, P. & Robinson, J. A., 2019. Democracy Does Cause Growth. Journal of Political Economy, 127(1), pp. 47-100.


Bach, C.F. (2020): Then I would like a dishwasher, please

A human rights-based strategy to development, SAXO Publish, Copenhagen.


Bertay , A. C., Dordevic, L. & Sever, C., 2019. Gender Inequality and Economic Growth: Evidence from Industry-Level Data. Preliminary paper presented at the ASSA 2019 meeting, 4 1.


Bjørnskov, C. & Mchangama, J., 2019. Do Social Rights Affect Social Outcomes?. American Journal of Political Science, 4, Volume 2, pp. 452-466.


Bloom, D. E., Kuhn, M. & Prettner, K., 2018. Health and Economic Growth, Bonn, Germany: The IZA Institute of Labor Economics


Broberg, M. & Sano, H.-O., 2018. Strengths and weaknesses in a human rights-based approach to international development – an analysis of a rights-based approach to development assistance based on practical experiences. The International Journal of Human Rights, 22(5), p. 664–680.


Degett, A., 2019. Why attention to detail matters in the participation revolution. Humanitarian Exchange, Issue 74, pp. 35-38.


Koob, S. A., Jørgensen, S. S. & Sano, H.-O., 2018. Human rights and economic growth - an econometric analysis of the rights to education and health, Copenhagen, Denmark: The Danish Institute for Human Rights.


Langord, M., 2019. Judicial Politics and Social Rights. In: The Future of Economic and Social Rights. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.


Mosel, I. & Holloway, K., 2019. Dignity and humanitarian action in displacement, London: Humanitarian Policy Group/ODI.


Resnik, J., 2019. Courts and Economic and Social Rights/ Courts as Economic and Social Rights. In: The Future of Economic and Social Rights. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.


Rodrik, D., 2003. In Search of Prosperity: Analytic Narratives on Economic Growth.. s.l.:Princeton University Press. (chapter 1).


Rosevear, E., Hirschl, R. & Jung, C., 2019. Justiciable and Aspirational Economic and Social Rights in National Constitutions. In: The Future of Economic and Social Rights. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, pp. 37-65.


Sengupta, A., Sangai, A., Ambast, S. & Gaur, A., 2019. Legislating Human Rights: Experience of the Right to Education Act in India. In: The Future of Economic and Social Rights. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.


Setzer, J. & Byrnes, R., 2019. Global trends in climate change litigation: 2019 snapshot. Policy Report. , s.l.: The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.


UN, 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, New York: United Nations.


UN Human Rights Council, 2019. Universal Periodic Review - Denmark. [Online]  Available at:  https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/DKindex.aspx


UN, 2011. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, New York: United Nations.


Universal Rights Group, 2020. The Human Rights Council in 2019, Geneva: Universal Rights Group


UNOHCHR, 2006. Frequently Asked Questions on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Development Cooperation, Geneva: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.


UNOHCHR, 2012. The United Nations Human Rights Treaty System. Fact Sheet no. 30, Geneva: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


World Bank, 2018. The State of Social Safety Nets. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group.


Young, K. G., 2019. The Future of Economic and Social Rights. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1. Introduction.

Interest in development
Interest in theories on economic growth
Interest in international human rights

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Oral exam with a synopsis
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

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