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International & Regional Organisations in World Politics


Admission requirements

Completion of at least one of the World Politics 100-level courses.


International organisations represent one of the most curious phenomena of 20th century world politics. Not only did their numbers increase at a startling rate during that time, they also proliferated geographically and became active in virtually every policy area relevant to global governance. They are now one of the most important aspects of world politics, and yet they are also one of the least understood by the citizens they serve. Recent years have seen a decline in the rate of new international and regional organisations being created, and existing ones such as the ICC are in danger of losing legitimacy as member states threaten to leave them. Instead of formal, treaty-based bureaucratic bodies, states are increasingly relying on regular summits and meetings. When and why do states create international organisations? Do international organisations serve the purposes for which they are built? What implications do international organisations have for the many challenges of world politics such as conflict, democracy, and state sovereignty?

This course, which is part of the core track “Globalisation and Transnational Politics”, will introduce students to both long-standing and contemporary debates about international organisations. Specifically, it will cover conceptualisations of their role in world politics, their activities in and relevance to various policy areas, as well as their institutional design and pathologies. In doing so, the course aims to take a truly global perspective, covering not just the usual big names such as the UN and World Bank, but also regional organisations such as the African Union, which are limited to specific regions of the world and whose activities may challenge standard theories of World Politics.

Course Objectives

After completing this course, students will be able to:


  • Evaluate the major theories that explain international and regional organisations

  • Identify a variety of international and regional organisations, especially those operating in developing regions of the world, and their diverse activities


  • Analyse the institutional design and activities of international and regional organisations by applying explanatory theories

  • Summarise complex theories and concepts in an effective manner for a non-expert audience


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will consist of 14 two-hour seminars and will include a combination of lectures presentations, general discussion, and small-group exercises. Participation is important for the vitality and effectiveness of the course, meaning students should come prepared with analytical questions as well as engage seriously with the ideas of their fellow class mates. Each seminar has a list of required and recommended readings. Required readings are mandatory in order to participate in the seminars; recommended readings are helpful starting points for the presentations and essays but are by no means exhaustive. For the essay, students are obliged to show wider reading beyond the required and recommended readings and must cite these correctly.

Assessment Method

Participation: 15%
Presentation: 19%
Short paper (mid-term): 26%
Final Research Essay: 40%

Reading list

The list of readings will be made available upon commencement of the course.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Densua Mumford,