Global Poverty, Human Rights and Development

Helsinki Summer School 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kindly note that Helsinki Summer School 2021 will not be arranged due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


University-level education (Bachelor, Master, or equivalent), including career professionals, with a strong interest in human rights, poverty and development.

No prior knowledge of the subject matter required.


The course explores the nexus and different dimensions of the crisis of poverty, (under)development and human rights from a historical, institutional and policy-making perspective.

Conceiving poverty alleviation as an essential human rights obligation, this course examines domestic and international variables that have occasioned and exacerbated world poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. The course also formulates and highlights what duties states and international institutions owe to the poor and the victims of global injustice.


The course is led by George Forji Amin (PhD candidate/tutor), International Law, University of Helsinki. Two guest lectures, one by Professor Lauri Hannikainen and the other by Dr Manuel Fonseca, both specialists in International Law at the University of Helsinki.


By the end of the course, participants should be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the correlation between the three concepts (Poverty, Human Rights and Development), especially with regard to global order and global governance.
  • understand reasons behind the failures of development initiatives during the last half century.
  • demonstrate an understanding of theories of development, and current policy debates geared at addressing the crisis of poverty and underdevelopment.
  • understand the role and politics of institutions (international organisations and international financial institutions) in driving the discourse and debates around the three concepts.
  • understand actors (both domestic and international) responsible for the crisis of poverty and underdevelopment, especially in the third world.
  • develop independent opinions on the subject with a possibility to carry out independent research on topics of interest.


  • case study analysis
  • videos, short documentaries and commentaries
  • moot court / group work
  • debate / Panel Talk
  • PowerPoints

For key themes, students will be provided with three relevant articles, to freely choose one. Students are expected to submit a half-page summary of one of the articles prior to some of the sessions. The summaries must be uploaded on the university platform (Moodle).

More instructions will be provided during the first lesson.


Grading scale:
5 = excellent
4 = very good
3 = good
2 = average
1 = poor
0 = fail

Summaries: 40%
Presentation: 10%
Excursion and active participation: 10%
Final exam: 40%


City Centre Campus

Preliminary Course Schedule:

Monday, 3 August 2020
Registration (HSS Info Desk) opens

Tuesday, 4 August 2020
Registration continues
University's Welcome Reception and Opening Party
Get-Together session with all course participants during the Welcome Reception and Opening Party

Wednesday, 5 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: The Birthright Lottery & Understanding Global Poverty, Human Rights and Development

10–12: Introduction to the course, Practicalities
a) Self-Introduction (Getting to know each other)
b) Collection of Pre-course assignment scripts, Introduction to “Global Poverty, Human Rights and Development”
c) Synopsis of course themes
d) Partition of themes for individual presentations in subsequent sessions
e) Tutorial Session: The Birthright Lottery
12–13: Lunch (Free time)
13–15: Lecture: The nexus between global poverty, human rights and development

*Home task (half-page summary of one article from Moodle)

Thursday, 6 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: Human Rights, and the Right to Development
10-12: a) Tutorial Session: Understanding Human Rights’ correlation with Poverty and Development.
b) Group Discussion
12–13: Lunch Together (informal dialogue)
13–15: Lecture: The Right to Development

*Home task (half-page summary of one article from Moodle)

Friday, 7 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: International Trade and Investment, & Theories of Development (Modernisation, Dependency, World Systems Theory…)

10–12: a) Lecture: International Trade and Investment
12–13: Lunch (Free time)
13–15: Lecture: Theories of Development (Modernisation, Dependency, World Systems Theory…)

*Home task (half-page summary of one article from Moodle)

Monday, 10 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: Poverty Alleviation as a Human Rights Issue

10–12 : a) Short Lecture: Marxist Explanation of capitalism and Poverty
b) Group work
12–13: Lunch together
13–15: Lecture: Poverty Alleviation as a Human Rights Issue

*Home task: Documentary to watch and make notes

Tuesday, 11 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: Role of MNCs in Worsening Poverty, & Students’ Presentations

10–12: a) Video documentary on MNCs
b) Poverty in Developed Countries: Focus on Relative Poverty
12–13: Lunch (Free time)
13–15: Student presentations & feedback

* Home task

Wednesday, 12 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: Culture, Religion and development, & Students’ Presentations

10–12: a) Lecture: The Culture of Poverty
b) Lecture: Religion, a problem or a solution?
12–13: Lunch (Free time)
13–15: Student presentations & feedback

*Home task (half-page summary of one article from Moodle)

Thursday, 13 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: Guest lectures on The International Economic Order

10–12: a) Guest lecture: The Politics of the New International Economic Order (Professor Lauri Hannikainen)
12–13: Lunch (Free time)
13–15: Student presentations & feedback

*Home task : To be determined

Friday, 14 August 2020 (4 hrs) Highlight: Academic Excursion
*Home task (half-page summary of one article from Moodle)

Monday, 17 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: Transnational Investment and Land Grabbing, & Guest Lecture
10–12: a) Home task : To be determined
b) Partition of class for debate session (4 groups)
Lecture: Transnational Investment and problematic of Land Grabbing
12–13: Lunch together
13–15: Guest lecture: Global Political Actors that Harm the World (Dr Manuel Fonseca)

*Home task (half-page summary of one article from Moodle)

Tuesday, 18 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: Migration, Global Poverty and Underdevelopment, & The Right to Development

10–12: a) Discussion of home task (Individual perspectives)
b) Tutorial Session: Migration, Global Poverty and Underdevelopment
c) Group work
12–13: Lunch (Free time)
13–15: Video Documentary and Discussion

*Home task (half-page summary of one article from Moodle)

Wednesday, 19 August 2020 (4 hrs) Highlight: Debates
: Guest Lecture: Examining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2000 And Sustainable Goals 2030 (Dr. Chilenye Nwapi, Commonwealth UK)
12–13: Lunch (Free time)
13–15: Moot court Debates
a) Group 1 versus Group 2
b) Group 3 versus Group 4

Thursday, 20 August 2020 (4 hrs)
Highlight: Examination, Course Feedback & Closing

10–12: Examination
12–13: Filling in HSS Course Feedback
13–14: Remarks: Closing & farewell


Compulsory reading

  • Pogge, Thomas W. World poverty and human rights. Polity, 2008. (selected chapters)
  • Sen, Amartya. Development as freedom. Oxford Paperbacks, 2001. (selected chapters)
  • Pogge, Thomas. Freedom from poverty as a human right: Who owes what to the very poor? UNESCO, 2007.
  • O'Neill, Onora. 'Faces of hunger: An essay on poverty, justice, and development'. (1986). (selected parts).

Other key readings

  • Sengupta, Arjun. 'On the theory and practice of the right to development'. Human Rights Quarterly 24.4 (2002): 837–889.
  • Roth, Kenneth. 'Defending economic, social and cultural rights: Practical issues faced by an international human rights organization'. Human Rights Quarterly 26.1 (2004): 63–73.
  • Grindle, Merilee S. 'Good enough governance: poverty reduction and reform in developing countries'. Governance 17.4 (2004): 525–548.
  • Chetwynd, Eric, Frances Chetwynd, and Bertram Spector. 'Corruption and poverty: a review of recent literature'. Management Systems International 600 (2003): 5–16.
  • Woods, Ngaire, and Amrita Narlikar. 'Governance and the limits of accountability: The WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank'. International Social Science Journal 53.170 (2001): 569–583.
  • Waage, Jeff, et al. 'The Millennium Development Goals: a cross-sectoral analysis and principles for goal setting after 2015.' The Lancet 376.9745 (2010): 991–1023.