ATS3330 - State sovereignty, human rights, and the responsibility to protect - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit


Chief examiner(s)

Dr Robert Simpson


Dr Robert Simpson

Not offered in 2018


Twelve credit points of second-year Arts units.


ATS2330Not offered in 2018



Despite its recent inception, the doctrine of 'Responsibility to Protect' (RtP) is now a central part of international political efforts to prevent genocidal violence. RtP rejects a traditional view of absolute state sovereignty, and is instead based on the idea that states are only sovereign so long as they don't perpetrate or allow extreme human rights abuses. In this unit we begin by surveying the recent history of RtP as a guiding framework in international politics, and considering some of the challenges that have arisen around its implementation. We then investigate four sets of questions related to RtP, with both theoretical and practical aspects. First, is RtP a way for powerful nations to exert control over vulnerable nations? Second, are there reasons to doubt the effectiveness of RtP in achieving its aims? Third, what implications does the emergence of RtP have for how we understand the philosophical nature of human rights? Fourth, what are RtP's implications in relation to growing refugee crises in the 21st century?.


Upon successful completion of the unit students will:

  1. acquire a detailed understanding of the theory and practice of the RtP doctrine, and the relevance of RtP and human rights theory in the contemporary European context;
  2. deepen their understanding of theoretical issues that arise in contemporary human rights discourse;
  3. further develop critical reading and writing skills relevant to work in human rights theory and politics more generally;
  4. students taking the class at 3rd year level will deepen their cross-cultural competence, by learning about the impact of R2P on a particular country in Africa or the Middle East.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study