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International and Regional Organisations in World Politics


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Completion of at least one of the 100-level core courses of the World Politics (WP) Major.


International organisations (IOs) and regional organisations (ROs) represent some 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. IOs are significant for the lives of ordinary people across the world. For many marginalised communities, IOs can represent unique opportunities to fight for recognition and influence or they can represent sites of further domination by technocrats and powerful states. When and why do states create international organisations? What implications do international organisations have for the lives of communities across the world, especially marginalised groups? Do international organisations serve the purposes for which they are built or do they have other unforeseen effects?

This course, which is part of the core track “Globalisation and Transnational Politics”, introduces students to the ways in which IOs and ROs interact with ordinary people’s lives. Through an interdisciplinary lens (spanning politics, history, sociology, international political economy, etc), it covers both long-standing and contemporary debates about IOs and ROs. Specifically, students will explore conceptualisations of their role in world politics, their activities in and relevance to various policy areas, how particular groups have been empowered or disempowered by engaging with IOs, and debates about IOs’ institutional design and pathologies. In doing so, the course aims to take a decentred 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 relationship of international and regional organisations with marginalised communities, elites, and states

  • Identify a variety of international and regional organisations, including those operating in the Global South, and their diverse activities


  • Analyse the institutional design and activities of international and regional organisations in light of key theories and concepts

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

  • Reflect on learning experience and positionality in relation to course content


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will run in 14 two-hour seminars and will include a combination of lectures, general discussion, and small-group exercises.

Assessment Method

  • Presentation, 19%

  • Campaign leaflet, 30%

  • Positionality statement, 11%

  • Final essay, 40%

Reading list

Readings will be made known at the start 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,