International Organizations: Structures and Case Studies

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Course Information
Political Science
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 
  • Interest in political and legal affairs connected with international organizations

The course investigates the concept and functions of international organizations in the contemporary world. In its first part it deals with issues common to all international organizations, e.g. the various categories (NGOs, IGOs, peace-keeping, technical, traditional, supranational etc.), structures, membership, establishment, termination, international status, etc. In its second part the course examines in the form of case studies the major international organizations, such as the UN and the other organizations based in Vienna as well as the European Union. Field trips to the Vienna International Center (VIC), which hosts some of the organizations discussed in class, are included in the course.

Attendance policy: 

IES Abroad Vienna requires attendance at all class sessions, including field study excursions, internship meetings, scheduled rehearsals, and exams. Attendance will be monitored and unexcused absences will affect the student’s grade via the “Participation” component of each course’s final grade.

Excused Absences

  • Excused absences are permitted only when a student is ill, when class is held on a recognized religious holiday traditionally observed by the particular student, or in the case of a grave incident affecting family members.
  • To be granted an excused absence, the student must write an email to his/her professor in a timely manner stating the reason for the absence (and, if appropriate, how long they expect to be away) with a cc to Center administrative staff. In an emergency, the student may call Student Services or the Front Desk. If the student is unable to send an email (too sick, no computer), he/she may call the Student Assistant at the front desk (01/512 2601-11) who will then write the email described above and send it to said parties as stated above, with a cc to the student.
  • If a student is absent 3 consecutive days or more, he/she will need to obtain a doctor’s note and then submit this to the Registrar’s office.
Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • be familiar with the tasks of the major international organizations in the world, including the UN and the UN Family (IMF, World Bank, WTO, UNIDO, IAEA, etc.), the EU and OPEC
  • understand and to legally assess day-to-day cases involving the UN and the other organizations examined in the course
  • form their own opinion on such cases, thus widening their horizon on international affairs
Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures
  • Studies of hand-outs
  • Students’ presentations
  • Discussions
  • Field trips
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Participation in class discussions and students’ presentations - 10%
  • Mid-term examination - 30%
  • Final examination - 30%
  • Term paper - 30%
  1. Common Issues of International Organizations
    1. Definition and categories of international organizations
    2. IGOs and NGOs and their contemporary role in international relations
    3. The special position of transnational corporations
    4. The history of IGOs and NGOs
    5. Establishment of IGOs and NGOs
    6. Membership: acquisition and termination
    7. Decision making processes and voting systems
    8. Legal personality
    9. Financing
    10. Language issues
    11. Dissolution
  2. Case studies of individual international organizations
    1. Universal IGOs: UN, WTO, BANK, IMF, IAEA (history, functions and structure)
    2. Regional IGO: the European Union (history, functions, structure and legislative process)
    3. Special IGO: the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC): history and present role in the oil and gas industry
Required readings: 
  • Rudolf Bernhardt (ed.) Encyclopedia of Public International Law, 4 vols. (Amsterdam 1996-2002)
  • Derek Bowett, The Law of International Institutions (London, 5th ed. 2000 individual chapters tba.)