The Human Rights (LLBP2002) module links the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to human rights issues, helping students to link them into their working practice as well as their everyday lives.
What was the programme or module
It is the LLBP2002 Human Rights module, which is taken by 65 level 5 undergraduate students. The module is divided into six thematic topics. Each topic is delivered in blocks of three seminars. The first set of topics covers the International, European and African human rights frameworks respectively. The second set of topics addresses contemporary human rights challenges. This includes the Right to Protest; Freedom from Torture; and the Rights to the Natural Environment. The module aims to engage students with contemporary and current human rights issues around the world in line with different SDGs.
Overview: Each topic on this module makes links to the relevant set of SDGs. These change on an annual basis based on the most current human rights concerns.
Context: The following method was used by a member of staff during the NUS’s SDG Teach In. Given how successful it was, the method has been rolled out to the majority of the topics on the module.
Description: The module has adopted a primarily student led approach to seminars. The students are provided with a reading list prior to each session, which includes primarily case decisions. Each student should be able to explain to their classmates the facts of two cases, the decision of the court, the reasoning and provide a critical viewpoint of this decision. Each reading list makes direct links to SDGs by explicitly including them on the cover page.
The learning aims include the enhancement of the students’ critical analysis skills with a focus on ethical literacy. As part of incorporating the SDGs into the Human Rights curriculum, the students are asked to analyse the current legal framework and suggest improvements or development of the law, in addressing the presented human rights considerations more efficiently in the future.
Evaluation: In light of the SDGs, the students have been able to draw inspiration from alternative non-legalistic solutions to legal problems. Thinking about possible futures, the SDGs are used as an example of how law students perceive social justice and how this will inform them in the future as legal professionals (e.g. policy makers, practitioners, judiciary).
Next Steps: The next step is to include reading on the respective SDGs and include a seminar question on what the students think are the links between a certain human rights challenge and sustainability. For example: ‘The right to protest is considered by the European Court of Human Rights as an integral part of a democratic society. What are the links between the respective case law and SDG 16’?
Why are the SDGs important to this subject?
I think we have a rare opportunity to provide our students with the ethical values embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals, and give them the opportunity to inform their practice as future professionals by these.
For this academic year (2018/2019), SDGs 10, 13, 15 and 16 were taught on the Human Rights module.
What would you recommend to colleagues considering adopting a similar approach?
I would recommend discussing with the students how they would like to engage with the material and the SDGs. In the Human Rights module, after running two topics using two different methods, the students had an opportunity to choose their preferred method. This gives the opportunity to the educator to include the students in the decision making process and address the specific learning needs of each year’s cohort.
Dr Irene Antonopoulos, FRSA
Senior Lecturer in Law
SDGs Law Coordinator
+44 (0) 116 207 8188
This post is one of a series of case studies describing teaching and learning activities linked to the SDGs at DMU.