Department of Political Science


International Organisations: Theory and Practice

Course Code


Course Tutor

Dr Rod Abouharb (Department of Political Science) and TBC


One 3,000 word policy brief (50%) and a 2-hour exam (50%)

Credit Value


About this course

International organisations have become an increasingly common feature of the global political landscape. Institutions shape interstate politics in a wide variety of areas, ranging from trade and investment to the environment and human rights. The purpose of this class is to introduce students the various roles institutions play in contemporary politics. The class is divided into two parts. The first part of the course focuses on the main theories and concepts in interstate cooperation. We begin by discussing the dominant perspective on IOs—neoliberal institutionalism—and its critics, which include realism and constructivism. After developing a working foundation, we will look at a few of the main issues surrounding IOs. These include the design of institutions and problems of enforcement and compliance.

The second part of the class is dedicated to specific issues in global governance. We introduce and analyse major institutions in the domains of the environment, human rights, and global markets among others.

Throughout the course, students will assess how well organisations accomplish their stated goals. Special attention is paid to three core debates: (1) why states enter into institutions; (2) what explains variation in states’ commitments; and (3) whether institutions fulfil their mandates. By the end of the class students will develop an understanding of the difficulties associated with governing global public policy.

*This is a core module for students registered on the MSc International Public Policy programme and is not available as an optional module.