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PS454/554 - International Law and Organizations

Professor Sarah Henderson
Gilkey Hall 315
Office Hours: M 10-11; T 2-3; W 9-10

The world today is defined by a host of transnational problems that often require concerted collective action: violent conflict, widespread human rights abuses, environmental degradation, and economic development, to name but a few. At the same time, we live in an anarchic world of independent, sovereign states, in which there is no overarching government capable of providing solutions to these problems. The study of international organization focuses on the problem of cooperation in world politics. Under what circumstances does cooperation take place? Can cooperation be institutionalized? What role do formal international organizations play in promoting cooperation across international borders? This course explores both the theory and practice of international organization. After surveying major theoretical approaches in the field, we turn to an examination of the unsuccessful League of Nations, the development of the United Nations as a security organization. We then consider the three prominent issues on the agenda of several international organizations: international peacekeeping, human rights, and trade. The course ends by contemplating the shortcomings and future prospects of international organizations.

Required readings

The following books are available at the OSU bookstore:

  • Charter of the United Nations and State of the International Court of Justice (New York: United Nations, 1995).
  • Seyom Brown, Human Rights in World Politics (New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 2000).
  • Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (New York: HarperCollins, 2001).
  • Thomas G. Weiss, Military-Civilian Interactions: Intervening in Humanitarian Crises (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1999).

Selected articles, book chapters, and readings are on reserve at the Valley Library in a reading packet. A copy of the reading packet will also be left in the Welch Library, Gilkey Hall 302.

Assignments and evaluation

We, as students, faculty, and staff are a community engaged in the exchange of ideas contributing to individual growth and development. Essential to the successful functioning of the academic community is a shared sense of enthusiasm for learning and respect for other persons. As a teacher, I work hard to design classes that will provide you with a well-rounded, liberal arts education. My responsibilities to you are: to come to class prepared; to treat your ideas with respect; to serve as a professional role model and provide guidance and professional advice.

In return, this is how I will evaluate you:

  • Collegiality (20%)

    As adults, it is important that we learn the skills involved in being good colleagues to one another. This is demonstrated by your on-time arrival and attendance at class, your active participation in all class activities, and your completion of assigned readings. Attendance is mandatory for this course; you are expected to come to every class meeting and be fully prepared for each class. During class, you will write short, informal assignments to demonstrate your level of preparedness and your comprehension of the reading and lecture.

  • Take home exams/essays (70%)

    Learning to write and improving your writing skills are two essential aspects of your academic college experience. Therefore, I have a variety of written assignments strategically placed throughout the quarter. You will have two take home exam/essay assignments and one short essay.
    Short essay (3-4 pages) (10%). Due Friday, October 12, 4 PM.
    Midterm exam (30%). Due Monday, October 29, 4 PM.
    Final exam (30%). Due Monday, December 3, 9 AM.

    Class presentation (10%)

    At the beginning of each class session, we will start with a student led presentation. Students are responsible for finding a news item from the past year that relates in some way to the themes of the reading we did for that day. The informal presentation should last about 10-15 minutes. The presenters should also prepare a short handout/overhead of crucial names and terms for the rest of the class.

    In your presentation, you should cover the following questions: what are the major themes of the reading for that day? How do the themes or the topic of the reading relate to events going on currently in the world? In other words, rather than listing off a series of current events, think about preparing a minilecture/discussion in which you educate us about something that illustrates the relevance of the reading assignment.

    Grading criteria

    Evaluation criteria for class presentations

    • Did the presenter demonstrate the connection between the reading and the issue?
    • How comprehensive was the presentation/handout?
    • How organized was the presentation?
    • Did the presenters have presence/poise?
    • Did it inspire questions/interest from students?

    Grading standards for collegiality

  • A      Students who earn an A in collegiality are consistently excellent colleagues. They are always present and prepared for class, and they bring interesting and relevant questions and comments to the discussion of the subject material. However, they are also excellent colleagues because they are good listeners and show a genuine interest in their fellow students thoughts.
  • B      A B student may have missed one or two classes through the term or may have done poorly on one or two of the informal writing assignments, but s/he generally has been an active and enthusiastic participant in the course. Other B students may have been in class and prepared for class every day, but will have occasionally articulated ideas without reference to the direction of the conversation; that is, they actively participated in discussions without listening to their colleagues previous statements.
  • C      A C student is very much an average student. C students will miss up to five classes through the term or will come to class several times during the term without having fully read and understood the assignment material. Other C students will be prepared for class and will come to most class meetings; yet, they hold back, waiting for others to ask the tough questions or take the chance at making the mistake. Still other C students will occasionally dominate a class discussion and use rhetorical tactics that limit other students participation.
  • Lower than a C      Students who earn a D or even an F for collegiality will have missed more than 5 classes or will have come to class frequently without being fully prepared for the class meeting. In the class discussions and activities, lower than average colleagues will avoid participating completely.

Grading standards for written assignments and exams

  1. The student has written an ideal essay; ideal because it directly answered the question, supported its argument with accurate evidence drawn from the lectures and reading materials, and presented the argument in a well-organized, stylistically- and grammatically-correct format that followed the writing guidelines. An A essay shines with original thought and strong, relevant evidence presented in a clear, understandable format. It is obvious that the student has absorbed and thought through the material in a very sophisticated manner.
  2. Student has read and understood the material and has offered a direct answer to the question with accurate evidence drawn from the lectures and the reading materials. It is not an A essay because it leaves a few questions hanging unanswered or overlooks a critical element of the problem. A B essay may contain some spelling, grammatical, or stylistic errors, but generally is quite sound.
  3. Student appears to have read most of the materials and has attempted to address the question, but has not written an answer that clearly, fully, or accurately answers the question. Any one of several elements may have gotten in the way of a good answer, including a lack of relevant evidence, a poorly organized essay, occasional oversimplifications, spelling, grammatical, or stylistic mistakes, or factual errors.
  4. Student has not directly answered the question and appears to have a poor grasp of the lectures and reading materials. Often, an essay of this quality will contain a number of oversimplifications of the course material, grammatical and stylistic mistakes, and factual errors.
  5. Essay strays from the question and provides little accurate and relevant historical evidence. Generally, an F paper will have poor organization, several spelling, grammatical, and stylistic mistakes, and fail to demonstrate an understanding of the course material.

All writing assignments must be

  • typed
  • double spaced
  • 12 inch font
  • paginated
  • with left and right margins set at 1.25 and top and bottom margins set at 1
  • proofread and spell checked
Class policy

In general, I can be helpful if I know of a problem beforehand; if you let me know after the fact, there is little I can do.

  • Late papers and exams (even an hour late) are penalized a grade a day (A/A-/B+, and so forth). This includes weekends. I do not accept papers that are more than five days late; you will receive a zero. If you are sick, you need a notice from a doctor explaining your illness (the fact that you were at the student health center is not sufficient) or you need to contact me before the assignment is due if there is a problem.
  • I do not give extensions.
  • I do not give incompletes.
  • Plagiarism, or representing and using another persons ideas, writings, and work as ones own, will not be tolerated. If you engage in such behavior, I will fail you in this class.
  • Please notify me within the first week of class if you have any alternative needs as a result of a learning disability. This must be accomplished by medical documentation.
  • I have office hours because I am here to help you learn and improve your academic skills, to mentor you through your undergraduate career, and to provide guidance in laying out potential career options after your college career ends. Please stop by my office and introduce yourselves; I want to get to know you.
Graduate Students

Graduate students must complete a two-part research paper addressing the role of an international organization in world politics. The first part of the paper will consider structural issues while the second part of the paper will evaluate the organizations effectiveness in addressing a particular problem. Ideally, students should examine the same organization in both papers. Most international organizations have websites that can provide basic information on structure, mandate, history, etc. You may also wish to consult the Union for International Associations Yearbook of International Organizations ( Please select an international organization by October 12hand in a piece of paper with your name and chosen organization.

Paper Section #1: Institutional Structure (4-6 pages)Due November 6

Choose an international organization and examine its institutional structure (e.g. membership, voting rules, committee structure, decision making system, bureaucracy). What are the strengths and weaknesses of this structure given the types of issues the IO addresses? Be sure to give specific examples to illustrate your points.

Paper #2: Organizational Effectiveness (8-10 pages)Due December 6

Discuss your organizations efforts to address a specific problem in recent years. You should also note the organizations relationship to other global cooperative efforts to address the problem (if any). Evaluate the organizations effectiveness in addressing the problem (be sure to clearly discuss what you mean by effectiveness). What has it done well? What has it done poorly? What are the explanations for these relative successes and/or failures? In particular, what is the role of the organizations institutional structure? What changes could the organization make to be more effective in the future?


Note: reading is to be completed by the day that it is listed.

  • Part I: Introduction to International Organization
    • Sept 25 Anarchy, Sovereignty, and Collective (In)Action
      • No reading
    • Sept 27 Liberalism, Idealism, Utopianism
      • Carr, The Twenty Years Crisis, Chapters 1-4.
    • Oct 2 The Rise and fall of the League of Nations
      • Carr, Chapters 5-8
    • Oct 4 The realist critique
      • Carr, Chapters 9-12
  • Part II: International peacekeeping
    • Oct 9 Introduction to the United Nations
      • Carr, Chapters 13-14
      • Charter of the United Nations
    • Oct 11 The varying faces of peacekeeping
      • Weiss, Forward and Ch. 1
      • William J. Durch, Keeping the Peace: Politics and Lessons of the 1990s. In William J. Durch, ed., UN Peacekeeping, American Politics, and the Uncivil Wars of the 1990s (New York: St. Martins Press, 1996). On reserve.
    • Oct 16 Somalia
      • Weiss, Chapters 2-4
    • Oct 18 Bosnia and Rwanda
      • Weiss, Chapters 5-6
    • Oct 23 Choosing our Battles
      • Weiss, Chapters 7-8
  • Part III: Human rights
    • Oct 25 What are they?
      • Seyom Brown, Human Rights in World Politics, Chapters 1-2
    • Oct 30 Are Human rights universal?
      • * Brown, Chapter 3
    • Nov 1 Monitoring and enforcement
      • Brown, Chapters 4-5
    • Nov 6 Monitoring and enforcement
      • Brown, Chapters 6-8
  • Part IV: Managing the Global Economy
    • Nov 8 WTO: Basics and a proponent
      • What is the WTO?
        • Introduction
        • History
        • Organization
        • Agreements
        • Developing countries
      • America and the World Trade Organization
    • Nov 13 WTO: Skeptics
      • Citizen's Guide to the World Trade Organization
    • Nov 15 Shrimps, turtles, and the WTO
      • "Turtle-Protection Law Overturned by WTO, Environmentalists Angered by Decision." Anne Swardson, The Washington Post; Oct 13, 1998.
      • "United States, Import Prohibition of Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products." Gregory Shaffer, The American Journal of International Law, April 1999.
      • Note: Read these articles with the Citizen's Guide "The Shrimp Turtle Case" in mind.
      • Nov 20 WTO: Wrap-up and discussion
        • The Trade War
        • Note: Please be sure to take a look at the letters that follow the article as well.
        • Enemies of the WTO The "Enemies" article is mostly a response to this Newspaper Advertisement.
      • Nov 22 NO CLASS
  • Part V: Conclusion
    • Nov 27
    • Jesse Helms, "Saving the U.N.." Foreign Affairs 75:5 (September/October 1996), pp. 2-7. On reserve.
    • Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr., Globalization: Whats New? Whats Not? (And So What?) . Foreign Policy, Spring 2000, pp. 104-119. On reserve.
  • Nov 29 The Reform of International Organization
    • Jesse Helms, "Saving the U.N. " Foreign Affairs 75:5 (September/October 1996), pp. 2-7. On reserve.
    • Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr., "Globalization: Whats New? Whats Not? (And So What?) ". Foreign Policy, Spring 2000, pp. 104-119. On reserve.