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IR200: International Organisation: The Institutions of Global Governance



Course Outline

International organisations are created and expected to provide solutions whenever governments face transnational challenges, such as international and civil wars, humanitarian emergencies, flows of refugees, outbreaks of infectious diseases, climate change, financial market instability, sovereign debt crises, trade protectionism, and the development of poorer countries. But their role in world politics is controversial. Some perceive them as effective and legitimate alternatives to unilateral state policies. Others regard them as fig leaves for the exercise of power by dominant states. Others yet are regularly disappointed by the gap between the lofty aspirations and their actual performance in addressing global problems, and want to know the causes of that gap. While some commentators tend to lump all international organizations together, in reality the functioning, power, and effectiveness of international organisations differ widely – across organisations, issues, regions, and over time.

A key aim of the course is to understand these differences and their implications for the solution of transnational problems. The course is designed for students interested in becoming - and professionals who already are - officials in international organizations and governments, journalists, critical citizens, scholars, decision-makers in companies, NGOs and the increasing range of careers that involve frequent interaction with international organizations, and critical citizens. The aim of the course is to provide them with a comprehensive toolbox that will allow them to perform sophisticated analyses of international organizations and the opportunity to see these analytical tools applied to several of the most important international organizations operating today, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the International Criminal Court.

The course will start by introducing the central analytical approaches that help us to understand key aspects of international organisations: their creation and design, their decision-making processes, their impact and policy effectiveness, and their interactions with other international organisations. This analytical toolbox is then used to explain the role of the main international institutions in specific policy domains, including security, human rights, trade, finance, health, environment, migration and workers rights. 

For each of those domains, the course will analyse the construction of global policy problems, the creation or selection of international organisations aimed at addressing them, the way in which policies are negotiated and decided within those institutions (with special attention to the exercise of various forms of power), the impact of the institutions on the behaviour of states and other actors, and their ability to solve the problems that motivated their creation. Students will complete the course with a deeper understanding of both similarities and differences between international organizations and of their effective contribution to the governance of global issues.



Ian Hurd (2014), International Organizations: Politics, Law, Practice, 2nd edition (Cambridge University Press).

Volker Rittberger, Bernhard Zangl, and Andreas Kruck (2012) International Organization, 2nd edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave).

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice


Session: Two

Dates: 11 - 29 July 2016

Lecturer: Dr Mathias Koenig-Archibugi
Dr Ulrich Sedelmeier 

Level: 200 level

Fees: Click here for information

Prerequisites: Candidates must have passed at least one university-level course in the social sciences (politics, sociology, economics, history, law). The course is of particular interest to undergraduate students in politics and international relations, and those with a professional interest in international institutions.

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One written examination, one essay.

Typical credit**: 3 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

How to apply?

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*assessment is optional – see FAQs

**You will need to check with your home institution. Read more about credit transfer here.