Politics 331

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International Organization and Law

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Introduction

 Although the most dominant images of international politics involve war and conflict, most global interactions among states, peoples and groups are peaceful. Indeed, even when war does break out, certain rules, such as humane treatment of prisoners, appear to govern many aspects of the conflict. In part this is because nation-states and other actors have developed a series of rules, practices, laws, and even institutions to help facilitate cooperation. These efforts to promote cooperation are the subject of this course. Students are introduced to the most basic rules, laws and organizations that mitigate international anarchy. 

     Among the issues taken up during the semester are why do international actors cooperate and what circumstances facilitate or inhibit that cooperation? What is the history of efforts at creating world order? What are the sources of international law? How effective are international organizations at carrying out their functions and why? Who has power in such organizations? How do non-governmental organizations also influence these issues and actors? These questions will be investigated through examining a series of  historical and contemporary substantive cases. A significant portion of the course will be devoted, for instance, to the United Nations. In addition, we will address issue areas surrounding security, political economy, human rights and the environment.

Learning Objectives

   Substantively, students are expected to gain a working knowledge of  the institutions and political processes surrounding efforts at facilitating global cooperation. Through readings and class discussion they should develop general knowledge regarding such topics as the United Nations, the World Bank, the European Union, and the role of human rights in international politics. They will also learn about the role that nongovernmental organizations play in world politics.

Students will also work on critical thinking skills in the sense that they will be expected to identify, analyze, and critique arguments made by various authors as well as develop their own arguments. Finally, students will sharpen their research and writing skills by both writing short response assignments to readings and cases, as well as through putting together a term research project.

In addition to these substantive goals, the course will emphasize collaborative learning in the classroom. Students are expected to attend class regularly and come to class prepared to speak about the required readings for that day.