International Organization: The Politics of Global Governance

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

The most pressing issues of our time—climate change, global pandemics such as AIDS and SARS, world hunger and poverty, terrorism, refugee crises, human trafficking, global arms trade and drug smuggling—are what former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan referred to as “problems without passports,” because they transcend national boundaries and cannot be solved by states acting unilaterally. Rather, Annan argued, such challenges require “blueprints without borders.” An international organization may be the most, if not the only, appropriate forum for tackling transnational issues. This course examines international organizations per se, but its main focus is the broader concept of how the international community organizes to address collective problems. Increasingly, states choose to pool sovereignty in supranational institutions like the European Union and to cede authority in certain issue areas to intergovernmental organizations—both global, such as the United Nations, and regional, such as NATO—that then take on a life of their own. At the same time, nongovernmental actors, including nonprofit human-rights organizations, as well as multinational corporations, are interacting—both challenging and collaborating—with states in the international arena. What collective problems exist at the international level? What solutions are states and other actors pursuing? Why do some international organization efforts succeed and many fail? We will investigate these questions through a discussion of the international organization’s role in the areas of international peace and security, human rights, sustainable development, and global justice. Prior coursework in international relations or in related courses is required.