The promotion and protection of human rights faces significant impediments in the Asia Pacific. In contradistinction to other regions, notably Europe, Africa and the Americas, Asia lacks strong regional institutions and legal frameworks, both in general, and with particular reference to human rights. The failure to respect, promote and protect human rights and the process of democratisation, particularly dire in parts of the region, is only compounded by the relative paucity of accessible, appropriate and targeted educational programs for human rights and democratisation professionals. Added to this is the fact that the majority of educational material has been developed in the USA or Europe and most published research on human rights and democracy in the region comes from outside the Asia Pacific. Case material is often remote from the immediate concerns of local populations, and thematic content that is most relevant, for example, the relationship between human rights and democracy or development and poverty is omitted or thinly treated. Curriculum material also pays insufficient attention to the work of non-government organisations in the region, which form the bedrock of human rights activity, and which will constitute the largest sector for graduates’ future employment.
In response to this state of affairs, the University of Sydney, in conjunction with Gadjah Mada University (Indonesia), Kathmandu School of Law (Nepal), Mahidol University (Thailand) (until July 2014), Ateneo de Manila University (the Philippines) (from July 2014) and the University of Colombo (Sri Lanka), is now offering Asia Pacific’s premier regional degree in human rights and democratisation. Uniquely, this degree offers students the opportunity to study both at the internationally renowned University of Sydney and one of four selected universities in the Asia Pacific with particular expertise in human rights and democratisation. By drawing upon, linking and developing existing programs in the region, this new Asia-Pacific Master of Human Rights and Democratisation seeks to relocate regional human rights and democracy studies to local institutions and offer a degree program from the particular perspectives and approaches that are emerging in the region.