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Accountability in Global Governance


Admission requirements

Participation in the seminar is only permitted if the propaedeutic phase has been passed (60 EC).

To participate in this course, students should have successfully passed the first year courses Introduction to International Relations, Introduction to International Organizations and Politics of the European Union, as well as the second year course Analysing International Relations. If the number of interested students exceeds the limit, preference will be given to students who have successfully completed most of their courses of year 1 and 2 in the IRO program.


This course investigates the dilemmas and prospects of accountability in global governance. Global governance has become increasingly complex: numerous international organizations, civil society and state actors cooperate to address global issues such as peace and security, health crises and economic problems. With transnational authority growing over time, the question of how these actors can be held accountable has become especially pertinent when global decisions directly affect individual human rights.

In this course, we study the concept of accountability and how it can be applied to the context of global governance. We then analyze how accountability works in different empirical fields, for example peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and economic policies, and with regard to different actors. In the last part, we discuss what accountability (or the lack thereof) means for the legitimacy of global governance institutions.

Course objectives

This course is a bi-weekly seminar which focuses on extensive student discussion and student-based learning techniques. Students are therefore expected to prepare for, guide and contribute to in-class discussions. Students of this course will have acquired substantial knowledge of the conceptual, theoretical and empirical debates about accountability in global governance. They will be able to reflect on the core academic arguments concerning accountability in the International Relations literature as well as in other disciplines, such as International Law. In addition, they will have gained in-depth insights and apply the concept of accountability to specific empirical cases through in-class discussions, presentations and individual assignments.
In terms of skills, this seminar will help students developing their critical and analytical thinking in preparation of their final Bachelor thesis. By the end of the course, students will know how to engage with a broad range of scholarly readings and how to present and support rigorous and well-developed arguments. Students will further have learned how to compare different empirical cases within a specific theoretical framework.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Reflection paper(s) (30%)
Students are assigned one or two sessions (depending on the number of students) in which they write a paper to reflect on the readings and the topic of that session.

Group work and case study presentation (30%)
Students are asked to individually or in a group (depending on the class size) prepare and present a brief empirical case study during which they apply the knowledge acquired thus far and engage the rest of the class in an informed discussion.

Final paper (40%)
In the last week of the course, students are asked to write a paper (3,000–4,000 words) on one of the sessions’ topics, applying the insights and concepts they have learned during the course. Grade must be 6 or higher to pass the course.

The final paper will only be graded if the student has attended the seminars.
The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. The resit is only available to students whose mark on the final examined element—the final paper—is insufficient. For the other assignments, no option of a resit is available.

Reading list

The syllabus with a reading list will be made available via Brightspace one week before the beginning of the course. All reading material will be available through Leiden University Library.

Before the start of the course, students should make themselves familiar with the following readings:

  • Pattberg, Philip H., and Klaus Dingwerth (2006). Global Governance as a Perspective on World Politics. Global Governance 12(2), 185-204.

  • Pillinger, Mara, Ian Hurd, and Michael N. Barnett (2016). How to Get Away with Cholera: The UN, Haiti, and International Law. Perspectives on Politics 14(1), 70-86.


See 'Practical Information'


See 'MyTimetable'


Dr. Gisela Hirschmann