The purpose of this class is to introduce students to international human rights and the movement’s relationship to the field of comprehensive peace education. As a multi-disciplinary field, peace education takes a holistic approach to conflict and education. Essentially, peace education is the creation and transmission of knowledge needed to achieve and maintain peace. It is also about developing the critical and reflective capacities to apply knowledge in order to control, reduce, and eliminate various forms of violence. Using a peace education approach, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related normative global standards will be used as the primary conceptual frameworks to guide our inquiries.
Throughout the course, we will also distinguish between “negative peace” and “positive peace.” Negative peace refers to the practices to limit and prevent war and collective violence. We’ll take a very holistic approach to violence because many of the major human rights violations can be considered as forms of violence. More often than not, the response to serious violations is enacted from a negative peace perspective in order to quell the immediate violence. Unfortunately, negative peace practices do not necessarily get at the root causes of the violations nor do they strive for substantive social change. Positive peace is more concerned with establishing lifelong and life-enhancing human rights values that are a necessary pre-condition for a culture of peace. Positive peace not only attempts to understand the base causes of violence, but it’s goal is fundamental social transformation.
Mirroring this negative/positive approach to peace, the course is set up as a dialectic of tragedy and hope. There are six, two-week themes in the course which cover economic human rights, health and human rights, due process rights, women’s human rights, crimes against humanity, and genocide. For each theme we will stay focused on the particular issue for two weeks. The first week we will explore the tragic dimensions of the issue at hand and note any negative peace strategies at work on the situation. The following week we will stay focused on the theme, this time stressing hope and exploring how human rights and peace workers respond to the situation with front line NGO work, as human rights educators, and as media workers within the human rights movement. The second week will highlight the positive peace approach.
Focusing on human rights as positive peace, students will study the major themes and events in the contemporary human rights movement. Students will be exposed to the international standards, the historical generations of human rights, and the basic conceptions and distinctions of human rights. Students will learn about international human rights organizations, how local NGOs “respond” to violations, and the role of peace education (both formal and non-formal) in promoting human rights and a culture of peace. Throughout the course, students will also be exposed to the issues surrounding human rights and representation and the various representational strategies such as reports on violations, personal narratives, journalism, documentary film, photo reportage, web sites, and other medias. And finally, students will have the opportunity to explore research interests concerning human rights and peace education.