Introduction to Human Rights

Semester: WS 18/19
Lecturer: Univ.-Lekt. Univ.-Prof. Dr. iur. Manfred Nowak, LLM

This course gave a short overview of the philosophy and history of human rights both at the national and international level as well as the main mechanisms of protecting human rights in international organizations: United Nations, Council of Europe and other regional organizations. Further, we discussed the main problems and challenges to human rights in the 21st century: economic and financial crisis, food and water crisis, armed conflicts, failed states, poverty, climate change, organized crime, terrorism, new authoritarianism, new technologies (surveillance methods, autonomous weapons, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence) and explored the relationship between the arts and human rights.

What aroused my interest was the detailed explanation on the mechanisms happening inside the United Nations. The United Nations is neither a supra-State nor a government of governments. It does not have an army and it imposes no taxes. It depends on the political will of its Member States to have its decisions put into action and relies on the contributions of its Members to carry out its activities. It consists of six organs: the General assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and the Secretariat. As the most representative inter-governmental organization of the world today, the United Nations’ role in world affairs is irreplaceable by any other international or regional organizations. Since today, people still face major issues of peace and development, it is possible by international cooperation that mankind can meet the challenges of the global and regional issues


  • Nowak, Manfred, et al. All Human Rights For All. Vienna Manual on Human Rights. Vienna: NWV Verlag, 2012.
  • Bisset, A. International Human Rights Documents. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.