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International Environmental Governance


Admission requirements

This course is for Master students of Public Administration only.


What kinds of rules, agreements, organizations, and processes underpin the global community's efforts to address environmental challenges? How do these institutions arise and interconnect, and how can we design them more effectively? We will explore these questions through foundational theory and current policy dilemmas. Drawing on the instructor’s research areas, we will emphasize, as case studies, forest and biodiversity governance challenges, as well as the role of the World Bank in global environmental governance. However, the course will cover policy areas in addition to these, and students are encouraged to contribute experiences from a range of geographies and policy arenas.

In the first half of the course, we will study the making and composition of international environmental policy. In the second half of the course, we will examine the hurdles that policymakers and other public officials must navigate as they seek to implement environmental goals in their own domestic contexts.

This course aims to provide students with a thorough grounding in the landscape of environmental institutions. Having gained an understanding of the diversity of environmental institutions in use today and promises and challenges associated with each, students will be better equipped for careers and/or further study related to environmental challenges or other policy fields.

Course objectives

  • Gain familiarity with key international environmental institutions and political challenges over the past century, with an emphasis on the past 30 years.

  • Understand key types of environmental institutions (policies, government agencies, international organizations, community-based environmental institutions, among others) and their intersections, functions, and dysfunctions, in an international and comparative perspective.

  • Contextualize and apply concepts, theories, and case studies covered in class through attention to current policy debates.

  • Hone research and policy communication skills through a final research project.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

  • Class sessions will involve a mix of activities, including: lecture from the instructor, open discussion, small-group discussion, and other exercises.

  • Because of the highly interactive nature of the course, attendance is compulsory and participation is essential. Students are allowed one absence without penalty, so long as they email the instructor at least 12 hours before class. Absences without prior notification or beyond the allowable one will reduce students’ attendance/participation grade proportionally to the number of sessions students are required to attend.

  • This is a reading-intensive course. Completing and critically reflecting on the pre-session readings will be critical for students’ successful engagement in the sessions that follow, success on the final exam, and learning more generally. In most weeks, students will be required to submit short written reflections on the readings prior to class.

Course load 140 hours total

  • Class sessions: 14h (7 classes x 2 hours)

  • Self-study: 126h

Assessment method

The final grade is the weighted average of:

  • Attendance and class participation: 30%

  • Reflections on weekly readings: 30%

  • Final exam: 40%

Partial grades for this course can be compensated; the weighted average of all partial grades for this course must be at least 5.5.


  • Students who fail the final research exam will be offered the opportunity to participate in a re-sit.

Reading list



Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams). Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.

Registration for this course is possible from Wednesday 13 December 13.00h

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.

Please note: guest-/contract-/exchange students do not register via MyStudymap but via uSis.


Dr. Gus Greenstein