IR316      Half Unit
United Nations

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jens Meierhenrich CLM 6.07


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations and BSc in International Relations and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This lecture course provides an introduction to the politics, law, and practice of the United Nations. The course’s disciplinary ambit ranges from anthropology to economics, from history to law, and from political science to sociology. Against the background of diverse disciplinary approaches, the focus is on the power and pathologies of this most important of international organizations. To this end, the course highlights major theoretical and empirical aspects of the UN's role(s) in international politics, inter alia, its institutional origins and development; its contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security; the nature and consequences of the UN's promotion and dissemination of norms; the operation of its agencies, programmes, and subsidiary bodies; and the prospects for institutional reform. Substantive issue areas to be discussed include collective security, peacekeeping, international territorial administration, R2P, human rights, development, refugees, and international courts and tribunals. Aside from providing introductions to the UN's principal organs, the course elucidates the UN system by exploring international bodies ranging from the UNHCR to UNDP, from the Human Rights Council to UNESCO, and from the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR) to the UN's many international commissions of inquiry.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 2 hours of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students are required to research and write two essays (1,500 words each). In order to ensure a broad acquisition of knowledge, students should diversify the subject matter of their essays. In addressing a given essay topic, students must seek to integrate theory and history and bring empirical evidence to bear on the research question they have chosen. In constructing their answers, students may examine a number of cases, drawing comparisons among them, or may focus on a single case. Essays must be fully—and carefully—referenced using one of the major conventions consistently. Submissions are due in Weeks 4 and Week 8 and must be made in hard copy. Feedback is to be sought from class teachers, who are responsible for marking essays.

Indicative reading

Bain, William, Between Anarchy and Society: Trusteeship and the Obligations of Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). Bosco, David L., Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Chesterman, Simon, Thomas M. Franck, and David M. Malone, eds., Law and Practice of the United Nations: Documents and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Cronin, Bruce, and Ian Hurd, eds., The UN Security Council and the Politics of International Authority (London: Routledge, 2008). Economides, Spyros, and Mats Berdal, eds., United Nations Interventionism, 1991-2004 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). Farrall, Jeremy Matam, United Nations Sanctions and the Rule of Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). Hurd, Ian, After Anarchy: Legitimacy and Power in the United Nations Security Council (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Jolly, Richard, Louis Emmerij, and Thomas G. Weiss, UN Ideas That Changed the World (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2009). Kennedy, Paul, The Parliament of Man: The United Nations and the Quest for World Government (London: Allen Lane, 2006). Loescher, Gil, The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). Lowe, Vaughan, Adam Roberts, Jennifer Welsh, and Dominik Zaum, eds., The United Nations Security Council and War: The Evolution of Thought and Practice since 1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Mazower, Mark, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. Orakhelashvili, Alexander, Collective Security (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). Roberts, Adan, and Benedict Kingsbury, eds., United Nations, Divided World: The UN’s Roles in International Relations, Second edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993). Thakur, Ramesh, The United Nations, Peace and Security: From Collective Security to the Responsibility to Protect (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Thompson, Alexander, Channels of Power: The UN Security Council and U.S. Statecraft in Iraq (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009). Weiss, Thomas G., What’s Wrong With the United Nations (And How to Fix It) (Cambridge: Polity, 2008). Weiss, Thomas G. and Sam Daws, eds., The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2012/13: Unavailable

Average class size 2012/13: Unavailable

Value: Half Unit

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