UCD: Geopolitics

Lecture, Seminar
  • Course description

    Humanitarian professionals operating within complex emergencies are continuously confronted with decisions that warrant a nuanced understanding of contemporary politics, disasters, agendas of humanitarian and non-humanitarian actors and their power dynamics. Effective humanitarian intervention involves the ability to accurately anticipate the level of need, to be able to assess and react to volatile operational environments (especially in a conflict) and the ability to design and implement interventions that are feasible in any given political context. At a systemic level, humanitarian professionals need to be able to follow global trends (such as on conflict, climate change, development) as well as engage in policy debates on humanitarian space, reform of global governance, responsibility to protect, human rights and development. This module introduces students to the salient characteristics of contemporary world politics and situates humanitarian action within its political context.
  • Main themes

    Theoretical Perspectives in IR
    Evolution of Humanitarian Action
    The Humanitarian System
    Poverty and Development
    Responsibility to Protect
    Conflict and its Analysis
    Conflict in the Middle EastSocial Determinants of Vulnerability
  • Learning outcomes

    Upon successful completion of this course students should be able to
    1. Have a clear understanding of the international humanitarian system in its geopolitical context with an emphasis on the power relations between actors
    2. Be familiar with the main approaches and concepts of international relations and geopolitics
    3. Have a demonstrated capacity to identify the root causes of conflicts and complex emergencies in a particular case
    4. Have the ability to apply certain key concepts of International Relations and Geopolitics to concrete disaster situations.
    5. Have the ability to transfer acquired knowledge to other humanitarian situations
    6. Have adequate capacity for (self-) reflection on academic argumentation
    7. Have the basic skills for acting in and reacting in intercultural contexts 
  • Teaching and learning methodology

    The module is lecture based and involves group work, case studies, student presentations and short classroom based activities. Short class debates will be organized on some contested topics.
  • Assessment methods and criteria

    The Geopolitics module will be assessed through a major group assignment (50%) and an end of module exam (50%). 
  • Required reading

    Core reading:
    1. Baylis, Smith, Owen ed. (2011), The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, Oxford University Press, Oxford
    2. Barnett, Weiss (2011), Humanitarianism Contested: Where Angels Fear to Tread,  Global Institution Series, Routledge, Manchester

Last updated: 5 May 2017

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