First Stream Courses

The First Stream, consisting of the core programme, is divided in five Thematic Sections and examined for the purposes of the degree. Each Thematic Section (TS) is organised by a professor/lecturer from one of the 41 participating E.MA Universities. The TS responsibles have a key function in the organisation of the First Stream. They set the overall design of the Thematic Section and invite lecturers. 

In principle, during an ordinary week the First Stream components are taught by no more than three lecturers. All TS responsibles express the learning outcomes for each section and week before the section or week starts. Interactive teaching methods and strong student involvement with time for discussions and debates are included in all weeks. Visual teaching methods, films, internet and power point presentations are also used throughout the First Stream.

First Stream courses are mandatory lectures and seminars/workshops aimed at the entire group of students and take place in the mornings from Monday to Friday from 9:15 to 13:00.

Thematic Section 1: Human Rights Institutions, Mechanisms and Standards (8 ECTS)

28 September-23 October 2015 (weeks 2, 3, 4, 5)

TS 1 Responsible: Prof. Felipe Gómez (Institute of Human Rights, University of Deusto)

  • UN Human Rights System
  • The Inter-American System of Human Rights
  • Human Rights in Africa
  • Human Rights in Asia
  • Council of Europe Human Rights Institutions and mechanisms
  • The European Union (EU) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • Human Rights in EU Legislation and Policies
  • Civil and Political Rights
  • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Thematic Section 1 explores both the institutional and the normative elements that compose the international protection of human rights that emerged from the legacies of World War II. The system established by the United Nations (1945) deserves particular attention, since it opened the door to the creation of other systems at regional level. In this sense, TS1 focuses in particular on the protection of human rights under the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union (EU), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU). The difficulties to articulate such a system in the Asian region, given its various particularities, are also studied.

Two major principles have guided the elaboration of TS 1 throughout its five weeks:
1) the indivisibility of all human rights, both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, as essential for the integral protection of human dignity;
2) an intercultural approach to human rights, trying to avoid the too frequent Euro-centric perspective.

Thematic Section 2: Human Rights in Context: Historical, Philosophical, Religious and Anthropological Perspectives (4 ECTS)

26 October - 6 November 2015 (weeks 6, 7)

TS 2 responsible: Dr. Graham Finlay (University College Dublin)

  • Human Rights in History
  • Religions and Intercultural Dialogue
  • Anthropological perspectives
  • Philosophy of human rights and democratisation

Today, human rights discourse is often dominated by lawyers and other specialists and experts in international law. But human rights can only be understood if we put them in the context in which they are produced, protected and defended. To enhance an inclusive approach to human rights, aspects of social science and humanities ought to be included. Thus, TS2 is dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach and deals with history, philosophy and anthropology; the religious dimension is added in the framework of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. Current examples of human rights challenges from all these perspectives will be dealt with during the two weeks. Among the topics that will be analysed with a problem solving methodology are: human rights in historical context, universalism v. relativism, justice, Western v. non-Western approaches, values, identities, democracy.

Thematic Section 3: Democratisation (4 ECTS)

9-20 November 2015 (weeks 8, 9)

TS 3 responsible: Prof. Markku Suksi (Åbo Akademi University)

  • Theoretical and Conceptual Issues
  • Transition and Transformation Processes
  • Political Democratic Systems and Human Rights
  • Electoral Processes and Democratisation (OSCE, EU et al.)
  • Political Participation

Thematic Section 3  focuses on democratisation issues and human rights. The first week is devoted to regime change and democratic consolidation. It starts with an introduction to theoretical and conceptual issues and continues to explore the question of transformation of political systems and countries in transition. Different aspects of human rights in democratisation processes in stable and non-stable democracies, cases of failed or non-democratic states as well as states in post-war transition will be taken up. Aspects of reconciliation, transitional justice, coming to terms with past human rights atrocities and building trust in democratic institutions will also be explored. The second week tackles the issue of electoral processes and democratisation. Political participation and election monitoring are key elements of this TS. Different aspects of political participation and recent developments in the Arab world will receive special attention. The issues of gender, vulnerable groups, indigenous and minority issues as well as different human rights values and the so called “non- western values” approach will be mainstreamed.

Thematic Section 4: Human Rights and Globalisation (4 ECTS)

23-27 November 2015 (weeks 10, 11)

TS 4 responsible: Prof. Wolfgang Benedek (University of Graz)

  • Globalisation of Human Rights and Human Rights in Globalisation
  • Stakeholders in Economic Globalisation (States, International Economic Organisations, Companies, NGOs)
  • Global Business and Human Right
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • WTO and Human Rights
  • Economic Globalisation and Civil Society
  • Information Society and Human Rights
  • Project Week (to be confirmed)

Thematic Section 4  on Human Rights and Globalisation deals with the impact of globalisation on human rights and the role of human rights in mitigating the effects of globalisation. The first week is devoted to an introduction to the role of the State and economic institutions like the World Bank and WTO on globalisation as well as the role of civil society and NGOs. The week also looks at the relationship between business and human rights in the context of globalisation and explores issues of corporate social responsibility. The second week is devoted to learning the basics for the development and management of a specific project.

E.MA Project week

More information to follow.

Thematic Section 5: Human Rights and Security (7 ECTS)

30 November 2015-28 January 2016 (weeks 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)

TS 5 responsible: (TBC)

  • Human Security, Vulnerability and Human RightsMinority Rights
  • International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
  • International Criminal Law
  • Balance between human rights and human security
  • Peace operations and Field Missions
  • Field trip to Kosovo

Thematic Section 5 focuses on the interaction between human rights and security. Most violent conflicts since the Second World War have been of intra-state nature: civil war, state failure and low-intensity violent conflict. The impacts associated with these phenomena include direct human costs – death, injury, human rights abuse, forced migration – the destruction of the infrastructure and the destruction of societal institutions. Civil wars and situations of state failure also contribute to international insecurity, in the form of refugee flows, the trafficking of arms and narcotics, and the spreading of insurgencies. Going beyond a conventional focus upon military threat to territory, many analysts argue that non-traditional challenges – such as human rights abuses, extreme deprivation and epidemics – must now be included on the international peace and security agenda. Therefore human insecurity can form an underlying source of instability. Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the issue has gained renewed urgency. This TS will seek to engage the student with a wide array of knowledge: the new peace and security agenda, the role and functions of security mechanisms at the universal and regional levels, the distinct regimes of international humanitarian law, international criminal law and the laws on refugees. In addition, the impact of the various regimes on vulnerable groups - inevitably the first victims of every conflict - will be studied.

To enable the student to engage with the issues in greater depth, the section will end with a field trip to Kosovo offering an opportunity to examine the extent to which the laws and concepts surrounding the issue of human rights and security operate in a post-conflict situation.

Distinctive features of the First Stream

The European Seminars Series

The European Seminars Series consists of sessions run by representatives of European institutions or experts of European related issues in the fields pertaining to the weekly topic. Some of these sessions will present practice- and policy- oriented content. The Series constitutes an integral aspect of providing professional perspectives but also amplifies the ‘European’ component of E.MA within its international approach.

3 4 October 10.00-12.45 Moot Court (ECtHR)
4 9 October 9.15-12.45 Fundamental Rights in internal EU Policies (TBC)
8 5 November 9.15-12.45 Facing Transitions to Democracy: The European Court of Human Rights (Buyse)