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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Postgraduate Course: International Organisations and Institutions (PGSP11530)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe aim of this course is to raise students' awareness of the key roles that international institutions play in global, regional, and domestic policymaking. The first part of the course introduces the main theoretical concepts, methodological challenges and debates that provide explanations for key questions about international institutions: their creation and development over time; the importance of institutional design; the various structures of decision-making in main international institutions; their impact and their interactions with other international institutions. The second part analyses these key questions with regard to specific cross-cutting areas of practice of international institutions and focuses on case studies with examples from a number of major international institutions, such as ASEAN, African Union, Doctors without Borders, International Red Cross, OSCE, Organization of American States, UNICEF, World Bank, World Health Organization, World Trade Organization.
Course description (1) Academic description
This course will examine international organisations and institutions, examining their historical origins, main functions, and the international and domestic political forces that impact on their operations and their effectiveness. International relations scholars have debated the roles and importance of international institutions over the years. These theoretical debates range from the dismissal of international organisations and institutions as international actors to considering them key elements in the the multilateral architecture of global politics.

The course will begin by addressing some overarching theoretical and methodological issues, enabling students with a core set of analytical tools they can apply to the study of specific institutions and areas of institutional practice. We will consider the main theoretical perspectives on the study of institutions - realism, liberalism, functionalism, and social constructivism. We will also investigate methodological questions of endogeneity and non-random selection, which are essential for separating the circumstances under which IOs are established or take action from the effects of their actions.

The course will continue with a series of seminars on main areas of practice for international organisations and institutions. These thematic cases will allow students to understand the broader global architecture of institutional practice in each policy area - such as international development, human rights, international trade, global health, etc. - and also to examine the roles, main activities and effectiveness of the main institutions involved in each area of practice. They will also reflect on institutional failures and their implications for international and national politics. Using knowledge gained from recent institutional research, students will have an opportunity to assess these areas of institutional practice and consider alternatives.

(2) Outline content
The course will begin with an introduction to the main international organisations and institutions as well as the main institutional theories. The course will continue with a focus on main areas of institutional practice and dedicated institutions, such as international development and the Washington Consensus institutions, human rights promotion and protection, environmental protection, global health, etc. The course will end with an exploration of challenges and opportunities faced by international institutions today.

(3) Student experience
Each session will consist of a lecture element and an exercise or student discussion element. Student participation in class is strongly encouraged. In preparation for each seminar and following each seminar, students are encouraged to watch an online video - this extension of the learning process through digital medium aims to enhance and consolidate the learning experience. The mix of engagement integrates the added value of a campus-based education together with the flexibility for students to approach learning in their own time.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical perspective on the principle theories, methodologies and practices underpinning international institutions
  2. Critically analyse and evaluate ways in which multilateralism and international institutions have influenced global, regional and national policymaking
  3. Critically engage with the current challenges and opportunities that international organisations and institutions face
  4. Be able to apply a range of methodological and research techniques to evaluate the history, design and effectinevess of international institutions
  5. Communicate effectively about the main theories and areas of practice of international institutions with peers and academic staff
Reading List
Michael Barnett and Martha Finnemore, Rules for the World: International
Organizations in Global Politics. Cornell University Press, 2004.

W. M. Cole, Sovereignty Relinquished? Explaining Commitment to the International
Human Rights Covenants, 1966-1999. American Sociological Review 70 (3):472-95, 2005.

Paul Diehl, The Politics of Global Governance: International Organizations in an
Interdependent World. Lynn Rienner, 2001.

Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in
International Politics, Cornell University Press. 1998.

Judith Goldstein, Douglas Rivers, and Michael Tomz. Institutions in International
Relations: Understanding the Effects of GATT and the WTO on World Trade. IO 61(1):
37-67, 2007.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills -Identify, conceptualise and define abstract problems and issues.
-Develop critical analysis, and evaluation of issues.
-Make informed judgements in the absence of complete or consistent data.
-Communicate with peers and specialists.
-Exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in activities.
-Make informed judgements on issues not addressed by current ethical codes or practices.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Corina Lacatus
Course secretaryMrs Casey Behringer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2456
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