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Learn about human rights with online courses and programs

Upholding human rights makes the world better by ensuring fairness, equality, and dignity for all. Its relevance in various professional contexts fosters ethical practices, inclusivity, and social responsibility.

What are human rights?

Human rights are the fundamental rights and freedoms that every individual is entitled to, regardless of their nationality, race, gender, or any other characteristic.Footnote 1 They include the right to life, freedom of expression, equality, and dignity. In practice, safeguarding human rights involves establishing legal frameworks and institutions that tackle major issues such as discrimination in the workplace, lack of access to education, poverty, gender-based violence, and injustice. For instance, in the field of criminal justice, protecting human rights means ensuring fair trials, preventing torture or cruel treatment of prisoners, and promoting rehabilitation rather than punishment. 

Upholding human rights benefits a range of stakeholders. As a whole, societies can experience social cohesion and stability. Similarly, through ethical practices, businesses can instill trust in their employees and enhance their reputation among consumers. Governments that are committed to protecting human rights can strengthen their legitimacy, engage in sustainable development, and promote peace within and beyond their borders. 

Learn how human rights professionals help others lead a fulfilling life with online human rights courses delivered through edX.

Human Rights | Introduction Image Description

Human rights course curriculum

Human rights courses encompass a wide array of complex topics, touching on issues such as racial disparities in healthcare, global development challenges, and the ethical responsibilities of organizations in both the private and public sectors. Specific topics covered may include:

  • Social justice and equality: Learning the principles of social justice, equality, and non-discrimination, and their application in addressing systemic inequalities and promoting inclusivity in civil, political, economic, social, and cultural contexts.

  • History of social justice movements: Reviewing the historical context of social justice movements, including civil rights, women's rights, and labor rights, and their contributions to the advancement of human rights.

  • Democracy and human rights: Examining the relationship between democracy and human rights, studying concepts such as freedom of expression, political participation, and the protection of civil and political rights.

  • International human rights law: Exploring the legal frameworks and instruments that protect human rights at the international level, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international treaties.Footnote 2

  • Foreign policy and human rights: Investigating how human rights considerations shape foreign policy decisions, including topics such as human rights diplomacy, humanitarian interventions, and the role of international organizations.

  • International development and human rights: Honing in on the relationship between international development and human rights, exploring how development policies and programs can and aid in poverty reduction.

  • Gender studies and human rights: Analyzing the intersection of gender and human rights, including topics such as gender equality, gender-based violence, women's rights, and LGBTQ+ rights.

  • Children's rights: Looking at the specific rights and protections afforded to children, examining issues such as child labor, child trafficking, education rights, and juvenile justice.

  • Indigenous rights: Studying the rights and challenges faced by indigenous communities, including issues such as land rights, cultural preservation, and self-determination.

  • Disability rights: Prioritizing the protection of disability rights in and out of the workplace, including accommodations for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities and promoting accessibility.

  • Nonprofit and NGO work: Focusing on the role of nonprofit organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in promoting and protecting human rights, including their advocacy efforts, program implementation, and grassroots initiatives.

  • Human rights advocacy and activism: Emphasizing strategies and methods used in human rights advocacy and activism, including grassroots movements, digital activism, strategic litigation, and the role of media in raising awareness.

  • Fair hiring practices: Discussing the importance of fair and inclusive hiring practices that promote equal opportunities, diversity, and non-discrimination in the workplace. This includes strategies for combating bias and implementing inclusive recruitment processes.

  • Workplace wellness: Detailing the importance of implementing initiatives that promote employee wellbeing, mental health, and work-life balance.

  • Religious freedoms: Addressing the protection of religious freedoms in the workplace and other settings, including the right to practice one's religion, religious accommodation, and preventing religious discrimination. 

  • Transitional justice: Highlighting mechanisms for addressing human rights abuses in post-conflict or transitional societies, including truth and reconciliation commissions, war crimes tribunals, and reparations.

  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR): Assessing the role of businesses in promoting sustainable and socially responsible practices, including environmental stewardship, community engagement, and human rights considerations.

With courses that highlight diversity, equity, and inclusion and related subjects, edX offers learning opportunities to individuals from a variety of backgrounds. Learners can broaden their expertise through a bachelor’s degree or pursue specialization with more advanced options like a master’s degree. Fast-paced boot camps allow learners to refine both hard and soft skills, while executive education courses cater to busy professionals, offering similar opportunities for skill development.

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Explore human rights jobs

Professionals with knowledge of human rights can make a positive impact in various job roles. Some examples of human rights-related careers include: 

  • Human rights advocate: Working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or advocacy groups to promote and protect human rights through awareness campaigns, research, and lobbying for policy changes.Footnote 3

  • Human rights officer: Working for international organizations like the United Nations or regional bodies, monitoring human rights situations, investigating violations, and providing recommendations for action.Footnote 4

  • Humanitarian aid worker: Providing support in crisis situations and conflict zones, delivering emergency relief, and addressing the immediate needs of affected populations, including protection of human rights.Footnote 5

  • Human rights lawyer: Specializing in human rights law, representing individuals or groups in cases related to human rights violations, discrimination, or seeking justice for victims.Footnote 6

  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager: Working within companies to develop and implement ethical business practices, ensuring compliance with human rights standards throughout a organization's operations and supply chain.Footnote 7

  • Social impact consultant: Providing advisory services to organizations, helping them integrate human rights principles into their strategies, operations, and decision-making processes.Footnote 8

  • Development consultant: Working with international development organizations to integrate human rights-based approaches into development projects.Footnote 9

  • Policy analyst: Working in government agencies, think tanks, or research institutions, analyzing and formulating policies related to human rights issues, such as social justice, equality, and non-discrimination.Footnote 10

  • Human rights educator/trainer: Working in educational institutions or nonprofit organizations, educating students, professionals, and the general public about human rights principles, laws, and practices to foster a culture of respect, empathy, and social responsibility.Footnote 11

  • Human resources manager: Working within organizations to ensure human rights principles are upheld in the workplace. These professionals promote diversity and inclusion at the hiring stage and beyond, address issues of discrimination and harassment, and ensure fair treatment of employees throughout the organization.Footnote 12

  • Tech developers: Working at the intersection of technology and human rights, addressing issues like privacy, data protection, AI ethics, and digital rights to ensure technology adheres to human rights standards.Footnote 13

  • Journalist or documentary filmmaker: Reporting on human rights issues, exposing human rights violations, and raising public awareness through investigative journalism or producing documentaries.Footnote 14

Enhance your understanding of humanitarian principles and effective strategies for supporting employees and underserved populations through online human rights courses powered by edX.

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