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Global Challenges: Peace & Justice




Admissions requirements

This is a compulsory first-year course for the students of the cohort 2021. Students of the 2017-2020 cohorts who have not yet completed this course should also enroll.


Global Challenges are major problems confronting humanity and the planet. GCs cannot be singularly solved by one nation, organization, or approach. Addressing global challenges requires sustained multi- and interdisciplinary critical scholarly reflection and collaboration among academics, the public, governmental, and non-governmental organisations to develop deeper understandings of the problems we face and ethical and effective responses.

This course provides an introduction to peace and justice in world affairs. Both concepts have many meanings and are used in many different ways. In this course, we will examine what they have meant in the context of an international order of sovereign states, and how ideas about peace and justice are changing as this international order is transformed by the forces of globalization. We begin by examining the meaning of peace and justice in the Westphalian system of sovereign states, the system through which international life has been organized in the modern era. In this system, states were regarded as the most significant actors in international life, and they were distinguished from other institutions and groups by their sovereignty: they recognized no higher authority, and had independent control over what happened in their territories. Peace in the Westphalian system meant the absence of war between sovereign states, and justice meant equality among states and non-interference in one another’s internal affairs.

Much modern concern with the problem of international peace and justice has worked within these assumptions, either by seeking to control interstate war through understanding its causes, or by designing legal and ethical frameworks that can ensure a measure of peace and justice among states. By the late twentieth century though, this state-centric conception of peace and justice was being challenged by the growing significance of non-state actors as agents shaping world affairs, and as objects of international legal and ethical concern. Substate insurgent groups, transnational terrorist networks, international non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, and international organizations such as the United Nations, are all playing important roles alongside states as agents of war and peace, or justice and injustice. At the same time, individuals and groups have become more visible and significant in international law and international ethics, a change that has arguably qualified and redefined the rights and duties of states. Perhaps the most important expression of this change has been the rise of human rights discourse, which has provided an alternative normative language that rivals state sovereignty as the dominant framing of international justice. These developments lead us to ask whether it still makes sense to understand peace and justice in Westphalian terms. Should we still conceptualise peace as the absence of war between states, when most war now takes place within states, or in the form of asymmetric conflict between states and insurgent groups or terrorist networks? When massive human rights abuses are being perpetrated by a state against its own people, does it still make sense to understand international justice primarily in terms of non-intervention? And given that intervention to protect the innocent in such cases often requires the use of military force, how should we weigh the demands of justice against the desire for peace?

In this course, we will critically evaluate the Westphalian model, asking how peace and justice might be achieved among sovereign states and how much we might realistically expect. We will also ask how far Westphalian norms have been eroded by recent developments in international life, and whether a post-Westphalian international order is a good thing. We will explore these central questions by looking at the most influential ways they have been approached in international relations theory, international ethics, and international law.

Weekly topics (indicative):

Week 1: Introduction – Peace and Justice in a World of Sovereign States
Week 2: Anarchy and Power
Week 3: Institutions and Cooperation
Week 4: Global Ethics
Week 5: International Law
Week 6: Human Rights
Week 7: Conclusion – Peace and Justice beyond Westphalia?

Course objectives


  • Critically evaluate the central explanatory and normative frameworks for understanding international and global peace and justice.

  • To research, develop and defend coherent, well-evidenced, and well-reasoned arguments on key controversies in international peace and justice.

  • To communicate arguments effectively orally, and in writing.


  • To identify the most important ways peace and justice have been conceptualized in modern international affairs, and how they are changing.

  • Distinguish explanatory and normative accounts of international and global peace and justice.

  • Understand the key features of realist and liberal approaches to international peace and justice.

  • To identify and understand the key terms of debates about global justice in international ethics, and to be able to apply the major principles of the just war tradition.

  • To understand the nature and role international law in global peace and justice, and how it is changing.

  • To demonstrate knowledge of the significance of human rights for international and global peace and justice, and the implications of humanitarian intervention for the Westphalian model.

  • To demonstrate knowledge of the differences between political, ethical and legal approaches to international peace and justice.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through a weekly two-hour plenary lecture (Monday) and one two-hour seminar (Wednesday). As with all LUC The Hague courses, attendance at both the plenary lecture and the seminars is obligatory (you can have no more than 2 absences during the whole course on which you should inform your instructor in advance).
The plenary lecture each week will give an introductory overview of each way of thinking about peace and justice, and introduce the topic of the seminar, which will go into more depth on an issue or problem that the approach in question encourages us to think about.

Seminars provide an environment in which students can discuss a topic in smaller groups. The discussion will be moderated by the instructor who will briefly introduce the seminar topic, before raising some important questions based on the plenary lecture and the assigned readings for that week. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion, but students are responsible for shaping its direction. Each seminar has a ‘required reading’ list that must be read in advance of each seminar. Students are also recommended to read some of the items listed under ‘suggested reading’ prior to each seminar and use the extended list as a starting point in their preparation for presentations and essay writing. In weeks 2-6, two groups of two or three students will give presentations debating different sides of an important issue raised by the seminar topic.


  • Seminar participation: 10% (ongoing, weeks 1-7)

  • Group presentation: 15% (weeks 2-6)

  • Essay: 35% (2000 words, week 6)

  • Final Exam: 40% (2 hours, week 8)


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Readings will be distributed before the course. There is no core textbook or obligatory purchase for the course, but there are a number of useful general books covering the course topics from different perspectives.

  • Chris Brown,International Society, Global Polity (London: SAGE, 2015).

  • Yih-Jye Hwang and Lucie Cerna (eds.), *Global Challenges: Peace and War *(Leiden: Brill, 2013).

  • Richard K. Betts (ed.), Conflict After the Cold War, 5th edn (London: Routledge, 2017)

  • Malcolm Shaw, International Law, 7th ed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Course convener: Dr Edmund Frettingham,

For the contact hours of your seminar instructors please refer to the syllabus available via the Blackboard.