POLS 582: Seminar, International Law and Organizations

Instructor: Dr. Steffenson

Office phone: 753-0972      

Office location: 286, Monat Building, 148 N. 3rd Street


Office hours: Tuesday and Thursdays 3-5 and by appointment. Please note that there will be times when I will need to reschedule office hours or schedule appointments at alternative times. Please check Blackboard for announcements.




This course examines structures of global governance using analytical lenses developed by both political scientists and international legal scholars to understand the scope of international law and organizations and limits of global governance vis-à-vis state sovereignty. We will explore how international relations theories and legalization frameworks explain why state and non-state actors engage in international cooperation through both formal and informal organizations. We will compare institutional models and current case studies to analyze the effectiveness and legitimacy of international organizations in different policy arenas, including regulation of peace and security, human rights, economic development, trade and migration. We will also seek to better understand the relationships between international organizations (such as the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund) and regional institutions (including the EU, ASEAN and NAFTA). Finally, the transatlantic relationship will be discussed in detail as it has become a breeding ground for new institutional structures in the last decade.


Questions that we will seek to answer include:

  • How are the lenses used by international lawyers and political scientists to analyze global governance different? 
  • How do states and non-state actors participate in international institutions? 
  • Do the institutional structures and decision making processes of international institutions matter, or does state power alone shape international politics?
  • Does the increasing scope and depth of international institutionalization suggest further erosion of state sovereignty?
  • What do recent events in international affairs tell us about the effectiveness and legitimacy of international institutions?
  • What predominant lines of thought are likely to affect the future reform of international organizations?
  • How significant are EU-US relations in the broader context of global governance?



Schoenbaum (2006) International Relations: The Path not Taken. Using International Law to Promote World Peace and Security.


Diehl (2005) The Politics of Global Governance: International Organizations in an Interdependent World


Other required reading will be posted on Blackboard under ‘course documents’. Please check announcements for new reading assignments. Please note, there is significantly more reading assigned for the first few weeks of the course as we will be ‘framing’ how to discuss and analyze international institutions throughout the semester. Later in the term class preparation will increasingly involve researching current case studies through media stories and policy reports.




  1. Final exam 40%

The final exam will contain four essay questions designed to cover material presented throughout the entire semester. Well developed answers will need to contain specific references to arguments made by authors and events documents by factual case studies. The questions will be available in advance, and you are allowed to bring an outline to class to write the exam.


  1. Term paper 30%

Papers should be between 10-15 pages double spaced, including at least 7 academic citations (journal articles, books, or working papers are acceptable) not covered by the course reading list. The assignment is to use scholarly arguments and case studies to develop an argument about the legitimacy and effectiveness of governance through international institutions in a policy arena of your choice. Late essays we will be penalized by 10% points (1 letter grade) per day.


  1. Participation 30%

Discussion will be a substantial portion of this course. Participation grades will be spilt into three categories.

·         ‘Responsive and substantive’ in class discussion (15%). In order for participation to be substantive it must be consistent, relevant, informed by lecture or reading material and delivered respectfully. Debate is encouraged and expected, and everyone’s opinion is important.

·         Short presentations (15%). These presentations will be opportunities to present specific country viewpoints or case studies. Short presentations topics will be assigned the week in advance. If you miss class, please check Blackboard for announcements.


  1. Extra Credit ‘Online participation’ through Blackboard (possible 3 % points). Have you seen an interesting article that relates to course discussion? Have a comment or question? Post it in on the Discussion Board in Blackboard. Online participation will be curved. The top five participants (judged by both content and quality) will receive 3% added to their final grades Anyone who participates regularly and is not in the top five will receive 2% added to their final grade. Some participation will result in 1% added to the final grade.

ATTENDANCE POLICY Attendance is not mandatory, but students will lose participation points for non-attendance.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY Cheating- which includes plagiarism- will not be tolerated in class. The NIU Undergraduate Catalog states that ‘Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment written whole or in part by someone else. Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy materials from books, magazines or other sources without identifying or acknowledging those sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without acknowledging them.Students who plagiarize will be reported to the Department of Political Science and be subject to further action by university judicial proceedings.

DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE WEBSITE Students are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu 

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.

ADDITIONAL STUDENT RESOURCES Written work will determine a significant portion of your grade. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the University Writing Center http://uwc.niu.edu


(Please note: If more time is needed on any particular topic, the schedule will be amended accordingly. Check Blackboard regularly for announcements).


Topic: An introduction to the challenges of global governance and history of international institutions


  • Diehl, chapter 1
  • Schoenbaum, chapter 2



Topic: What international institutions do according to scholars of IL and IR


  • Schoenbaum chapters 3-4
  • Diehl chapter 2-3
  • Slaughter, IL and IR Theory: Prospectus
  • Goldstein et al: Introduction: Legalization and World Politics
  • Legro and Moravcsik, Is Anybody Still a Realist?



Topic:  States and the International Order


  • Diehl, chapters 7,14
  • Koskenniemi, International Law and Hegemony
  • Farer, Toward an Effective International Legal Order
  • Kochler, The United Nations Organization and Global Power Politics
  • Smith and Steffenson, The EU and the US
  • Teifer, Adjusting Sovereignty: Contemporary Congressional Executives Controversies about International Organizations
  • Prantl, Informal Group of States and the UN Security Council
  • Thompson, Coercion through IOs





Topic: Actors and Institutions: Constraints, Consultation and Consensus


  • Slaughter, Introduction to the New World Order
  • Diehl chapters 4-5, 15 & 17
  • Kahler,  The Causes and Consequences of Legalization
  • Duncan and Snidal, Hard v. Soft
  • Buzzini, The Development of International Law: Alternatives to Treaty-Making?
  • Levi-Faur, The Political Economy of Legal Globalization




Topic: Sovereignty and Security


  • Diehl , chapters 6- 10
  • Schoenbaum, chapters 1, 5
  • Voeten, The Political Origin of the UN Security Councils Ability to Legitimize the Use of Force
  • Yamashita, Fighting Humanitarian Emergencies: Two Approaches to Elastic Sovereignty and the International Order
  • We will re-revisit Koskenniemi, Farer and Kochler



Topic: Security Council Decisions






Topic: Human Rights and International Courts


  • Schoenbaum chapters 8- 9
  • Ignatieff, American Exceptionalism and Human Rights
  • Collection of Policy Papers on ICC and Tribunal Courts (on Blackboard)




Topic: Justice: Domestic Courts, International Tribunals, and the ICC





Topic: Voluntary and Involuntary Migration


  • Salehyan and Gleditsch, Refugees and the Spread of Civil War
  • Bhagwhati, Borders Beyond Control
  • Widgren, International Migration and Regional Stability
  • Hathaway, Rights of Refugees Under International Law
  • Steffenson, Policy Brief on International Policy Responses to Human Trafficking
  • Hollifield, Migration and the New International Order: The Missing Regime
  • Diehl, chapter 15



Topic: International Aid and Development


  • Diehl, chapters 11-12
  • Schoenbaum, chapter 6
  • Witte el al, Beyond Multilateralism: Global Public Policy Networks
  • Dalgic, The World Bank and Microfinance in the 1990s
  • Stiglitz, What I learned at the World Economic Crisis






IMF Discussion Continued…


 Topic: Introduction to the WTO


  • Diehl. chapter 13
  • Busch, Overlapping Institutions, Forum Shopping and Dispute Settlement
  • Davis, The Choice of Institutions for Trade Dispute Settlement



Topic: Trade Disputes






Topic: Environmental regulation including the Kyoto Protocol


  • Schoenbaum chapter 7           
  • Diehl chapter 16
  • Gillespie, Forum Shopping and International Environmental Law
  • Steffenson, The EU-US Banana Dispute



Topic: Reforming International Organizations

  • Schoenbaum chapter 10 302-305
  • Diehl, chapters 18-19
  • Bradford and Lynn, Global Governance Reform



Final exam.