Why Study Human Rights?

The Significance of Human Rights

Human rights are an important focal point in international affairs in the 21st century. Decisions about many crucial issues – how aid funding is distributed, how refugee and migration movements are regulated, when and why states may engage in armed conflict with each other, and the control and distribution of material goods – are guided by human rights theory, and governed by human rights treaties and international human rights law. Human rights influence domestic politics — in the justice system, healthcare, education, and welfare policy — in Australia and in other countries that have signed up to human rights treaties that serve as guidelines and templates for how we structure our social institutions. Human rights also figure in many people’s ethical judgements and personal values. Numerous advocacy groups and well-known charitable organisations build their activities around issues relating to the realisation of basic human rights.

An Interdisciplinary Perspective

The human rights major in the Monash Arts Faculty provides students with an opportunity to understand the theory and practice of human rights through an interdisciplinary perspective. Students majoring in human rights will consider historical perspectives on the development of the post-World War 2 human rights system of international governance. They will grapple with philosophical questions about the moral and political justification of human rights, and about the conceptual nature of human rights. And they will learn about issues in contemporary politics and international relations that relate to the realisation of human rights ideals in today’s world. In moving between these different areas of focus, students will acquire knowledge of a wide cross-section of topics relating to human rights, and they will build skills across several humanities and social science disciplines of study.

Skill-building and Career Pathways

Students majoring in human rights will develop strong analytic abilities and communication skills, and acquire expertise in areas that are of relevance to employers in government, the NGO sector, international development, law, education, and research. Within the context of the Arts Degree itself, the human rights major or minor is a natural complement to studies in law, philosophy, bioethics, international studies, criminology, politics, international relations, journalism, history, development studies, and sustainability. And beyond the undergraduate BA, the human rights major can serve as a pathway to a number of different postgraduate degrees.