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The Future of Human Rights Practicum

LW.12794 / LW.12661
Professor César Rodríguez-Garavito
Open to 3L, 2L and LLM students
Maximum of 8 students
Spring semester
5 credits*
No prerequisites or co-requisites.

Course Description


As part of the course, students will be required to attend a global conference on the future of human rights to be held at NYU Law in late April 2022. Under the title “More-Than-Human Rights,” the conference will bring together prominent academics and practitioners from around the world and from different fields – including lawyers, philosophers, life scientists, Indigenous leaders, and social scientists – who will discuss the emerging trend toward the recognition of non-human rights holders, from animals to rivers to forests. An additional two-credit fieldwork option will be available for eight students in the seminar who will develop (1) a dissemination strategy for the conference and (2) a strategic litigation roadmap that will advance this new frontier or rights advocacy and will serve a global audience of human rights lawyers and practitioners.


The traditional human rights paradigm is ill-equipped to deal with the simultaneity, speed, and depth of existential challenges to human rights, like climate change, technological disruption, geopolitical instability, polarization and deepening social inequalities. Against the despair of critics who announce that these challenges spell the “endtimes” of human rights and the defensiveness of traditional advocates who double down on conventional tactics, this course proposes new ideas and strategies for the next generation of human rights lawyers.

This course will examine the ongoing debates about the future of the field and delve into promising innovations that address the aforementioned challenges. Drawing on the instructor’s research and advocacy experience around the world, we will analyze case studies on various topics and regions, including: human rights-based litigation for climate action before national and international courts; new efforts to regulate global digital corporations and hold them accountable for human rights violations taking place in their platforms; innovative Indigenous and socioeconomic rights advocacy in the Global South; creative responses to anti-rights populist narratives in Europe and the United States; and the emerging trend towards the recognition of non-human beings as rights holders.

The course highlights, among other themes, the need for human rights actors to learn from other disciplines, such as journalism, and how they have adapted to and seized new opportunities in an increasingly complex world. Furthermore, course readings and discussions will reflect the need to incorporate insights from other fields that have traditionally received scant attention in human rights, including: ecology, social psychology, systems thinking, and innovation studies.

Application Procedure

Students interested in applying for the Practicum should submit the standard application, resume, and transcript online through CAMS. The JD application period will take place in July. The LLM application deadline is June 24, 2021. LLM students should apply as soon as possible and sign up for interviews in CAMS which begin on June 11, 2021.

If you have questions about the course, please contact César Rodriguez-Garavito. For questions regarding the application procedure for the Practicum, contact Susan Hodges.

* 5 credits include 2 clinical credits and 3 academic seminar credits.