The United Nations - PO555

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
5 15 (7.5) DR A den Boer







This module explores the origins, evolution and role of international organisations in world politics. The aim is to understand how these institutions have developed, why states choose, refuse and fail to use these institutions as a means to achieve their objectives, and to what extent international organisations can promote international cooperation. The module takes the United Nations system as its central focus, but will also consider historical forms of international organisation as well as the processes of global governance. International organisations are involved in a wide variety of issues in contemporary international politics. This module will survey a selection of them, exploring the political differences and questions that arise in international responses to these issues.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

22 hours lecture/seminar

Method of assessment

50% coursework (essay of 2500 words), 50% exam (2hr)

Indicative reading

Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws, The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Thomas G. Weiss, David P. Forsythe, Roger A. Coate, and Kelly-Kate Pease, The United Nations and Changing World Politics (Westview Press, 7th edition, 2013).
E. H. Carr, 'The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations' (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001)
Inis L Claude, Jr., 'Swords into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of International Organisation' (New York: Random House, multiple editions)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On completion of the module, a successful student will be able to:
- Understand the reasons for the historic growth in international organisations.
- Understand the historical evolution of the UN system and its precursors in the twentieth century.
- Appreciate the diversity and scope of UN activities in world politics.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the UN in regulating the use of force.
- Critically assess theoretical perspectives on international organisation.
- Assess the significance of international organisations in world politics.

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