Katherine Michel
Political Science
Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division
  • Human Rights
  • International Relations
  • Peacekeeping
  • Responsibility to Protect
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs

    Human Rights


    Module on human rights in international relations. Intended for community college students and aligned with the requirements for POLS 140: Introduction to International Relations within the California Community College system. Includes lesson plan, required readings, and ancillary materials (lecture slides and worksheets).

    Lesson Plan: Human Rights

    Lesson Plan: Human Rights

    Topic: Key Topics and Contemporary Issues: Human Rights

    Week #: 11

    Estimated Time: 150-180 minutes


    Assigned Readings:

    1. Bellamy, Alex J. 2017. “Protecting People.” In International Relations, Stephen McGlinchey, ed. Adapted by Katherine Michel. (16 pages, core reading)
    2. United Nations. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Available at (8 pages printed, briefing)
    3. Glanville, Luke, David Carment and Joe Landry, and Michael Aaronson. 2014. “Syria Teaches Us Little about Questions of Military Intervention,” “R2P in Syria: Regional Dimensions,” and “Syria and the Crisis of Humanitarian Intervention.” In Into the Eleventh Hour: R2P, Syria and Humanitarianism in Crisis, Robert W. Murray and Alasdair McKay, eds. (12 pages, news piece)
    4. Choose one of the following documentaries (news piece):
      1. Frontline. 2007. “On Our Watch.” PBS documentary. Available at
        1. Note: This documentary has a corresponding optional worksheet resource.
      2. Frontline. 2004. “Ghosts of Rwanda.” PBS documentary.
        1. Note: This documentary is not available to stream online, but is available in many libraries.
      3. Frontline. 2019. “The Trial of Ratko Mladic.” PBS documentary. Available online at


    Total page count: 28 plus 1 online text (36 pages if all printed)

    Online documentary, option a: approximately 55 minutes

    Online documentary, option b or option c: approximately 1 hour, 55 minutes


    Learning Objectives:

    By the end of this lesson plan, students will be able to:

    1. Define human rights.
    2. Identify where and how international law and institutions address human rights.
    3. Analyze the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in select cases.
    4. Evaluate factors contributing to the successes and failures of UN peacekeeping operations.

    Misconceptions of Topic:

    1. Students may have preconceived notions that some states are inherently “good” or “bad” at protecting human rights (e.g., they may broadly see democracies as “good”).
    2. Students tend to think that human rights are universally shared or recognized by countries/cultures/governments.



    Lesson Component


    Lecture: Review learning objectives

    Lecture slides

    Lecture and discussion: What are human rights? How has the international community sought to protect human rights legally?

    Readings 1 and 2

    Lecture slides


    Think-Pair-Share: UDHR

    Reading 2

    Lecture slides

    Lecture and discussion: How has the international community sought to protect human rights institutionally?

    • Formal bodies: OHCHR, UNHRC
    • Informal institution: R2P

    Reading 1

    Lecture slides

    Activity: Responsibility to Protect (R2P)--comparing Libya and Syria

    Readings 1 and 3

    Worksheet 1


    The full resolution used in worksheet 1 is available online at


    Optional documentary about Syria:

    Lecture and discussion: Given that human rights violations continue to occur, what tools does the international community use in response?

    • Institutions to address specific vulnerabilities
    • Peace operations, part one (failures)

    Reading 1

    Documentary (resource 4)

    Lecture slides



    Current data on UN peacekeeping operations is available online at

    Lecture, online video, and discussion: Evaluating UN operations--Why is protecting people so difficult?

    Readings 1 and 3

    Worksheet 2

    Lecture slides


    Online video resource (approximately 5 minutes, from 7:27-12:33):

    Frontline. 2018. “UN Sex Abuse Scandal.” PBS documentary. Available online at

    Lecture and discussion: Given that human rights violations continue to occur, what tools does the international community use in response?

    • Peace operations, part two (successes)
    • Transitional justice measures

    Reading 1

    Lecture slides

    Conclude and wrap-up

    Lecture slides



    Required Readings: Human Rights


    Introducing the readings:

    This unit's readings provide an introduction to human rights. The Bellamy (2017) core reading (adapted by Katherine Michel) offers a broad overview. Among other things, the chapter defines human rights, plots key positions in the debate about protecting human rights, discusses norms of human protection, and provides examples of initiatives related to human rights (e.g., peacekeeping, transitional justice measures). The second reading, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations), connects this unit to the previous unit on international law and provides a basis for students to answer this question (posed in lecture slides): How has the international community sought to protect human rights legally?

    The three short pieces by Glanville (2014), Carment and Landry (2014), and Aaronson (2014) introduce questions surrounding humanitarian intervention in the cases of Libya and Syria. These readings review the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and provide an opportunity for students to assess the applicability of R2P in two cases (see worksheet #1).

    This required "reading" in this unit also includes a documentary (instructor choice), which will provide an in-depth look at an additional case. If the instructor chooses either "On Our Watch," a documentary produced in 2007 about Darfur (see optional worksheet #3), or "Ghosts of Rwanda," the documentary will facilitate discussion of peacekeeping failures. If the instructor chooses "The Trial of Ratko Mladic," the documentary will facilitate discussion of transitional justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

    Ancillary Materials: Human Rights


    • lecture slides
    • worksheet 1
    • worksheet 2
    • worksheet 3 (optional)