Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Politics and Paradoxes of International Organisations
Academic Year
Semester 1
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  2000 Words  50%
Semester Assessment Group presentation  15 Minutes  10%
Semester Assessment Policy Report  1500 Words  40%
Supplementary Assessment Policy report  1500 Words  40%
Supplementary Assessment Review  500 Words  10%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  2000 Words  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the history and law of international organisation, including of the main challenges and debates surrounding the development of supranational institutions.

2. Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the UN system and its central organs (SC, GA, ECOSOC, Trusteeship Council, ICJ, Secretariat) and specialized agencies and show the ability to develop own research questions and interests.

3. Demonstrate the ability to distinguish types and institutions of international organisation and to competently employ and critically reflect on available typologies and theoretical frameworks for studying international organisations.

4. Gather, organize, and present advanced knowledge regarding a selected international organization, its key purposes, functions, and practices and develop a set of questions for analyzing contemporary challenges.

5. Analyze and critically evaluate international organisations in relation to sovereignty, both with regard to non-state and regional forms of organisation.

6. Gather, evaluate, and apply knowledge to produce a ‘policy report’, either on UN reform or on a contemporary issue facing one of the key IOs.

Brief description

This module examines the complex web of institutions that states have developed to organise their multilateral and bilateral conduct. It provides a comprehensive introduction to the history, transformation, and scope of action of international organisations at the intersection of law and politics. Following two introductory lectures on the history and types of international organisation that explore the tension between sovereign equality and the need for shared rules, norms, and institutions, the module examines key areas and practices of international organisation such as finance, trade, security, human rights through a number of case studies of international organisations (e.g. UN, WTO, WHO, IMF, World Bank, UNDP, ICC, IOM, and regional organisations such as AU, EU, ECOWAS, NATO). Based on a thorough analysis of the creation, constitution, and functioning of some of these organisations, we will identify a number of overarching themes and paradoxes that characterize the field with a view to discussing the module’s overarching question ‘Who governs the globe?’. Cross-cutting themes include questions regarding the impact, independence, and legitimacy of IO activities in shaping global governance, debates on accountability and democratic legitimation, the inclusion of non-state actors, and pertinent reform attempts.


1. The history of international organisation

2. Forms of international organisation

3. IO case studies

4. Beyond the State I: Regional organisations

5. Beyond the State II: Non-governmental organisations

6. Accountability and Legitimacy

7. Power and Pathology

8. Who governs the globe?

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Students will engage with statistics through an examination of data on state contributions to IO budgets.
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to present their arguments most effectively. They will understand the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to best advantage. They will learn to be clear in their writing and speaking and to be direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and presentations will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication. This is facilitated by group-role play based on teams operating within and beyond the seminar environment.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context in which support and assistance is available from both the convener and fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their report and essay topics. Group work is integral to the seminars and provides opportunities for students to reflect individually and collectively on their performance. The need to contribute to the group discussions in seminars and to meet an assessment deadlines will focus students’ attention on the need to manage their time and opportunity resources well.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the internet, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as Primo, Google Scholar etc). Students will also be expected to make use of the resources that will be available on the AberLearn Blackboard. Finally, they will learn to navigate through the online presence of the UN system and other IOs.
Personal Development and Career planning The discussions in particular will help to develop students’ verbal and presentation and team-working skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay and a report, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards students’ portfolio of transferable skills. In particular, report writing is an essential transferable skill contributing to their employability profile. In addition, both non-state and state IOs form an important pool of potential future employers for students of International Politics.
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one central goal of the module; the submission of an essay and a report will require that students develop independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare seminar discussion points and to briefly present an international organization to their peers will also enable students to develop independent project skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize information and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems.
Research skills Students will be required to identify appropriate sources of both primary and secondary source information and to use them appropriately, understanding their relevant strengths and weaknesses. In particular, research for their policy reports will require careful gathering of data and information, the judicious use of such material in support of a particular set of recommendations. Using and analysing primary sources material will provide a particular set of information literacy skills.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: Collect and understand a wide range of data/information relating to the module Ability to evaluate competing perspectives Demonstrate subject specific research techniques Apply a range of methodologies to complex historical and political problems.
Team work Seminars will consist in part of small group presentation activities where students will be obliged to prepare, present and discuss as a group the core issues related to particular international organisations and link them to overarching themes. Such class room debates and discussions are a vital component of the module learning experience.


This module is at CQFW Level 6