IGA 105. The Politics of International Law

Can the Paris Agreement help reduce climate change? Will the WTO prevent a new trade war? Does international human rights law actually contribute to improvement in human rights, and if so under what conditions? Can we use international law to build better norms to limit cyber war? How can we use international law more effectively to help bring about our chosen policy goals? This course will deal with these questions and many more involving the interaction of international law, politics, and policy change. International politics is now so interpenetrated with international law concepts and practices that one can no longer be an effective policymaker working on international topics without a basic familiarity with international law.  The central goal of the course is to familiarize students with a broad range of analytical and policy tools to enable them to think and act critically when drafting and implementing policies related to international law.  The course provides an introduction to some aspects of the method and substance of international law, but this is not a law course.  We cover legal subjects to understand how politics and law interact in shaping international relations today. We will examine substantive areas of international law such as the use of force and the laws of war, human rights, environmental law, trade law, law and indigenous rights, and international criminal law. The course uses cases, role-playing, and simulations to help students learn how to work with international law.


Kathryn Sikkink





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  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2020-2021 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
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