Skip to main content

Human rights and development

Gain an informed critique of international human rights law

Understand and investigate the interaction between human rights and law, the economy, society, politics and culture.

Our vision

We undertake research in this field that is not only interdisciplinary, innovative and rigorous, but also seeks to learn from, and apply to, real-life circumstances. The manner and form in which we teach elements of this theme are also driven by experiential learning and actively promoting awareness of the often complex contexts in which development and human rights issues are to be found.

Our work

The field of human rights and development is an emerging and exciting new discipline. It embraces a broad range of global and local issues as reflected in the wealth of experience and expertise of our scholars.

  • Professor David Kinley's research focuses on the interactions between human rights and the global economy, especially the financial sector.
  • Associate Professor Jacqueline Mowbray is particularly interested in the human rights of minority groups, especially linguistic minorities, and in theoretical approaches to understanding human rights and development.
  • Professor Ben Saul focuses on the role of human rights in development, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, the rights of indigenous peoples and the rights of vulnerable refugees.
  • Professor Mary Crock's research examines the treatment and lived experiences of vulnerable migrants, including children and refugees with disabilities in various displacement contexts. 
  • Associate Professor Rita Shackel's work interrogates the gendered, institutional and structural dimensions to address contemporary challenges in human rights and development.
  • Professor Rosemary Lyster approaches human rights and development from the perspective of Climate Justice and disasters, including with regard to climate displaced persons, and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+).
  • Dr Rayner Thwaites's research includes analysis of the effect of rights instruments on legal reasoning in public law. His main substantive areas of research are citizenship, immigration and national security and the relationship between them.

Our impact

The impact of research in this theme is wide and varied. It includes contributions to the fast growing body of scholarship in the area by way of books and articles, but also in policy applications through reports and submissions to governments and international bodies, including the UN, the World Bank and the African Union. Our research is also directly applied through our work for and with private sector organisations such as NGOs, corporations, law firms and other professional bodies, including courts. Some examples of these outputs and impacts include the following:

  • The Oxford Commentary on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2014) by Ben Saul, David Kinley and Jacqueline Mowbray was awarded a Certificate of Merit by the American Society of International Law.
  • Rosemary Lyster’s monograph Climate Justice and Disaster Law (Cambridge University Press: 2015) includes practical examples from around the world on how law can respond to climate disasters to guide the efforts of other countries.
  • Rita Shackel and Lucy Fiske, ‘Making Justice Work for Women: Democratic Republic of Congo Country Report’ (2016).

Our research has also led to novel and highly acclaimed teaching modules and/or offshore programs such as the Himalayan Field School on Development, Law and Human Rights conducted in Nepal, and Climate Disaster Law, and Law Tropical Forests and Carbon both taught at Cambridge University in the UK under the Sydney Law School in Europe program.

Our experts