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International and Regional Organisations in World Politics


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

At least one of the WP 100-level core track courses


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”, will introduce students to the ways in which IOs and ROs interact with ordinary people’s lives. Through an interdisciplinary lens (spanning politics, history, anthropology, sociology, economics, etc), it covers both long-standing and contemporary debates about international organisations and how they interact with the lives of ordinary people. Specifically, it will cover conceptualisations of their role in world politics, their diplomatic and bureaucratic activities in various policy areas, how particular groups have been empowered or disempowered by engaging with IOs, and discussion of 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 impact of international and regional organisations in the lives of elites and marginalised communities

  • 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

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


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 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, in-class tests, and small-group exercises.

Assessment Method

Reflections x2 = 20%
Presentation x1 = 10%
Campaign leaflet = 30%
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,