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Regular version of the site

International Organizations

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Elective course
4 year, 3 module


Course Syllabus


International organizations (IOs) have been a major focus of academic research and controversy in various subfields of Political Science and International Relations for already several decades. This course provides an analysis of the theory and practice of IOs and their role in global governance. It starts with a brief history of IOs and continues with a presentation of various theoretical perspectives that can be applied to their study. Through the lenses of different theoretical approaches, this part of the course discusses roles and functions of IOs (both intergovernmental and nongovernmental ones), resources that they have at their disposal, as well as issues of their actorness and legitimacy in the conditions of increasing regime complexity in international politics. The course proceeds with a review of activities that IOs undertake in specific issue areas and contemporary sites of global governance: peace and security, finance and development, migration, health. This is done through case studies of bodies such as the UN with its various agencies, the IMF, the World Bank, the IOM, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other referent and non-referent IOs. Specific attention is paid to their interactions with other international and local actors, including regional organizations and private agencies.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • To provide an analysis of the theory and practice of IOs and their role in global governance.
  • To uncover roles and functions of IOs in the conditions of increasing regime complexity in international politics.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • knows history of IOs; understands and differentiates various theoretical perspectives that can be applied to the study of international organizations
  • knows roles and functions of international organizations in global governance
  • analyses how international organizations deal with contestations of their legitimacy
  • knows key activities of international organizations – both at the headquarters level and in the field – in areas of peace and security, finance and development, migration, health
  • analyses interactions of international organizations with other international and local actors, including regional organizations and private agencies
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • International Organizations: Definitions, History and Typologies
  • Roles and Functions of International Organizations (I)
  • Roles and Functions of International Organizations (II)
  • Regime Complexity, International Nongovernmental Organizations and Hybrid Organizations
  • Legitimacy of International Organizations
  • Activities of International Organizations: Peace and Security
  • Activities of International Organizations: Finance and Development
  • Activities of International Organizations: Migration (I)
  • Activities of International Organizations: Migration (II)
  • Activities of International Organizations: Health
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking In-class participation
    Assessment will be based on attendance, preparation of the readings assigned to each tutorial, participation in class discussion with the focus on qualitative contribution to the discussion, ability to answer questions based on the readings, come up with own interpretations and react to comments made by other students. Students are expected to be actively involved in tutorial discussions and in-class group assignments. the mandatory literature assigned to each of the seminars and be ready to apply the information to their own research.
  • non-blocking Presentation
    Each tutorial (starting from the week 2) will commence by a presentation prepared by a small group of students (up to 4 students per group). During the first tutorial, students should propose for approval by the instructor: 1) composition of their groups; 2) topics for their presentations based on the topics/readings for the tutorials; 3) outlines of their presentations. These presentations will function as basis for further class discussion. Therefore, presenters are supposed to cover mandatory and optional readings and, preferably, use other non-assigned sources for their analysis on the chosen topic in order to make a genuinely original contribution.
  • non-blocking Response papers (2 papers)
    Each student will write brief (700-1000 words) response papers on the assigned optional readings for two tutorial sessions of their choice. The papers should not summarize the readings. They should link the readings with broader themes addressed in the course. Each paper should evaluate the main argument(s) in the readings. Papers should also compare and contrast the arguments in the readings. Response papers are due by the tutorial sessions that they are related to (i.e. if a student decides to write a response paper on the readings assigned for the tutorial 2, she needs to submit her paper via email before this tutorial).
  • non-blocking Final paper (2000-2500 words, including references)
    The final paper (with a full list of references) should relate to any aspect of the course. It can be a critical review of the existing literature on a specific topic, or an original piece of research (students should propose the topic and format of the paper for approval by the instructor no later than at the tutorial 4). The final paper should focus on one or several theoretical aspects of the course and analyse this as applied to a case study either of a particular IO or an issue area in global governance. The final paper is due by the tutorial 9. Specific requirements for the final paper: - The final paper should clearly state a research question relevant to theoretical, conceptual and empirical debates within the course and related academic literature; - The final paper should present coherent analysis with a clear argument embedded in relevant theoretical discussions and supported by empirical evidence; - The final paper should include at least 7 items in the list of references (both academic literature and primary sources).
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (3 module)
    0.25 * Final paper (2000-2500 words, including references) + 0.25 * In-class participation + 0.25 * Presentation + 0.25 * Response papers (2 papers)


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Adler, E. (2007). The Spreading of Security Community: Communities of Practice, Self Restraint and NATO’s Post Cold War Transformation. Conference Papers —— International Studies Association, 1–47. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=poh&AN=26960324
  • André Broome, & Leonard Seabrooke. (2012). Seeing like an International Organisation. New Political Economy, (1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1080/13563467.2011.569019
  • Babb, S., & Chorev, N. (2016). International Organizations: Loose and Tight Coupling in the Development Regime. Studies in Comparative International Development, 51(1), 81–102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12116-016-9217-7
  • Barnett, M. N., & Finnemore, M. (2004). Rules for the World : International Organizations in Global Politics. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=671352
  • Bliesemann de Guevara, B. (2016). Myth and Narrative in International Politics : Interpretive Approaches to the Study of IR. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1243387
  • Dingwerth, K., Witt, A., Lehmann, I., Reichel, E., & Weise, T. (2019). International Organizations Under Pressure : Legitimating Global Governance in Challenging Times (Vol. First edition). Oxford, United Kingdom: OUP Oxford. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=2036225
  • Geiger, M., & Pécoud, A. (2014). International Organisations and the Politics of Migration. Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies, 40(6), 865–887. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2013.855071
  • Harman, S. (2011). Searching for an Executive Head? Leadership and UNAIDS. Conference Papers —— International Studies Association, 1–35. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=poh&AN=119958528
  • Kenneth W. Abbott, & Duncan Snidal. (1998). Why States Act through Formal International Organizations. Journal of Conflict Resolution, (1), 3. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsrep&AN=edsrep.a.sae.jocore.v42y1998i1p3.32
  • The Oxford handbook of governance and limited statehood / edited by Thomas Risse, Tanja A. Börzel and Anke Draude. (2018). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.502246375
  • The Oxford Handbook of international organizations / edited by Jacob Katz Cogan, Ian Hurd, Ian Johnstone. (2016). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.473862530

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Best, J. (2007). Legitimacy dilemmas: the IMF’s pursuit of country ownership. Third World Quarterly, 28(3), 469–488. https://doi.org/10.1080/01436590701192231
  • Cooley, A., & Ron, J. (2002). The NGO Scramble: Organizational Insecurity and the Political Economy of Transnational Action. International Security, 27(1), 5–39. https://doi.org/10.1162/016228802320231217
  • Jon Harald Sande Lie. (2019). Local Ownership as Global Governance. The European Journal of Development Research, (4), 1107. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-019-00203-9
  • Koch, A. (2014). The Politics and Discourse of Migrant Return: The Role of UNHCR and IOM in the Governance of Return. Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies, 40(6), 905–923. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2013.855073
  • Lavenex, S. (2016). Multilevelling EU external governance: the role of international organizations in the diffusion of EU migration policies. Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies, 42(4), 554–570. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2015.1102047
  • Nitsan Chorev. (2013). Restructuring neoliberalism at the World Health Organization. Review of International Political Economy, (4), 627. https://doi.org/10.1080/09692290.2012.690774
  • Sara E. Davies, & Simon Rushton. (2016). Public health emergencies: a new peacekeeping mission? Insights from UNMIL’s role in the Liberia Ebola outbreak. Third World Quarterly, (3), 419. https://doi.org/10.1080/01436597.2015.1110015
  • SENDING, O. J., & NEUMANN, I. B. (2006). Governance to Governmentality: Analyzing NGOs, States, and Power. International Studies Quarterly, 50(3), 651–672. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2478.2006.00418.x
  • STONE, D. (2013). “Shades of grey”: the World Bank, knowledge networks and linked ecologies of academic engagement. Global Networks, 13(2), 241–260. https://doi.org/10.1111/glob.12007
  • Zaum, D. (2006). The Authority of International Administrations in International Society. Conference Papers —— International Studies Association, 1–29. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=poh&AN=27207135
  • Zaum, D. (2013). Legitimating International Organizations (Vol. First edition). Oxford: OUP Oxford. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=639308