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International Law and Organization

Students at the United Nations Office in Geneva

Introduction and Course Description

Welcome to the Washington DC area and American University’s Washington Semester Program! This syllabus describes policies, requirements, and grading standards for the International Law & Organizations Unit II seminar, so please read this document carefully and in its entirety. If you have any questions about this syllabus or the course, you may contact me by any of the means listed above.

International Law & Organizations (ILO) is a unique study program (8 credits) that combines an 11-week seminar in Washington D.C. with an intensive 4-day study trip to New York City, followed by an 18-day field practicum in Western Europe. This seminar is conducted along with a two-days-per-week internship (4 credits) with a non-profit/international organization, government agency, or law firm. In addition, you may take an elective course (4 credits) or conduct an original research project (4 credits) using unique D.C. resources.

The main objectives of this seminar are to:

  • introduce you to the international law system
  • identify and study the key actors of international law
  • develop a better understanding of important and current issues in international law
  • increase your knowledge of international organizations and such organizations’ roles in today’s world

This program will provide a broad overview of the ever-changing world of international law. Together, we will look at current international law crises and discuss possible solutions to those challenges. Throughout the semester, we will spend time learning about international institutions, such as the United Nations (UN), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), multinational entities, such as the European Union, and regional organizations, including the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union. We will discuss and examine other important topics in international law, including human rights law (e.g. human trafficking), terrorism, the use of force, international environmental law, and international criminal law. Finally, we will seek to understand how international law works in practice, while recognizing its limits and complexity.

Course Format

The Seminar

Class Meetings and Weekly Schedules
We will meet each week, Wednesday through Friday (five to six times), totaling a minimum of eight hours of weekly contact time. The seminar class sessions are composed partly of lectures with the professor, class discussions, and video presentations. However, the distinctive feature and emphasis of the seminar is direct exposure to the developments and systems of international law through briefings with public officials, policy analysts, human rights activists, legal practitioners, and scholars, who are involved in the practice and development of the ever changing world of international law and organizations. Guest lectures and briefings will be held both on and off campus, including during a four day study tour of the United Nations, as well as visits to other organizations in New York, and a two week study tour in Europe, where we will hear from international organizations and institutions of international law.

Scheduling of seminar sessions and guest speakers will vary from week to week. Each week you will receive a new schedule (emailed on Saturdays) detailing specific readings and the theme, place, and time of upcoming sessions. Please note that occasionally a seminar may be cancelled or rescheduled to accommodate speakers’ scheduling conflicts. It is important for you to check the Blackboard site and your email for any last minute scheduling changes. Remember, the key here is FEXIBILITY!

The Internship
Your internship days for this semester are Monday and Tuesday, along with four additional days designed to allow you to put in extra time at your internship to compensate, in part, for the time you will miss due to our travel. You are also strongly encouraged to work at your internship during final exam week, if at all possible.

The Field Practicum in New York and Western Europe

New York City
The trip to New York is scheduled for the second week of February (Feb.7-10). We will travel together with the ILO I group and visit the UN Headquarters, UN agencies, and other organizations located in New York City.

We will travel to Europe in March. We will travel with the other section of ILO and visit Geneva, Strasbourg, Brussels, The Hague, and Trier, tentatively. We will depart on Thursday, March 11, arriving in Geneva on March 12. We will travel to Strasbourg and then to Trier (tentative). We will spend the weekend touring Trier, Germany and environs, and then we will travel to The Hague. We will spend a few days in The Hague, moving on to Brussels, Belgium. We will depart Brussels on March 28 returning to Washington, DC that evening.

Spring Break
Note: American University Spring Break is scheduled for March 7 -14. However, due to our travel to Europe, we will have a regular class schedule during the AU’s scheduled spring break. This means that your spring break will take place later in the semester upon on return from Europe. Your Spring Break will be from March 28 until April 4.

Travel Insurance
The Washington Semester Program does not provide travel insurance that will protect you against theft or luggage loss while abroad. You may wish to purchase your own travel insurance to protect your belongings.

More detailed information and schedules on our New York and European travels will be provided in class.

Texts and Course Materials

Required Readings

There is a breadth of materials available on international law and organizations. I have chosen the textbook listed below, and, in addition, readings from many different sources. My intention is to enable you to experience the diversity of information available, to learn about resources that will allow you to continue learning over time, and to provide materials related to course concepts, ideas, and guest speakers. The assignments and readings for each week will be posted in an electronic form on the Blackboard (Readings) but I will supply a hard copy of the reading assignments as well. Students are responsible for all reading materials assigned and may be tested on the information in those readings on the Midterm or Final Exams.

Dunoff, Ratner, Wippman, eds., International Law, Norms, Actors, Processes, 2d ed. ISBN 0-7355-5734-9

Note on Readings
It is important for you to read the assigned material, not only because it provides background information on international law and organizations, but also because it will help you understand better the subject matter of our discussions and guest speakers’ lectures or briefings. The readings will also help generate questions that you may want to ask me or a guest speaker. If you have any questions about the readings, feel free to ask.

Recommended Readings
Murphy, Sean D., Principles of International Law, ISBN 0-314-16316-6

It is recommended that all of you read the Washington Post and/or The New York Times to stay informed about current events, new developments in international law, or foreign affairs which are often discussed by me or the guest speakers. I also encourage you to read a non- United States source newspaper or news outlet (e.g. BBC News, The Economist, The Financial Times). All of these news outlets are available free online at:,,,

Note: Both the required and recommended texts are available in the American University bookstore. However, those books can also be found and purchased online at or The American University Library should have a copy of both books on reserve.
Also recommended is a Western Europe travel guide of your choice!
Course requirements and grading system

Grading Criteria

Class Participation and Professionalism - 25%
(in-class activities, discussions, speaker or case summaries)

Group Presentation - 10%
Short Paper Project - 10%
Simulation Exercise - 10%
Mid Term Exam - 20%*
Final Exam - 25%*

N.B. (The turnover time for grading exams and papers is two weeks)

Class Participation and Professionalism (25%)
Attendance is mandatory for all sessions, including lectures and presentations on campus, as well as off-site visits. You are expected to come to sessions prepared, and familiar with the reading materials assigned for the week. Although this is not a law school course, you should be familiar with the facts and the holdings of assigned cases, and may be called upon to present this information in class. Posing questions to guest speakers and active participation in class discussions is essential for your learning experience in this seminar.

The valid reasons for missing class or a speaker are personal illness or a family emergency. In a case where you believe that you may have another valid reason to be excused from the seminar or guest speaker presentation, you must seek permission from me in advance. Also, if you are unable to attend an outside speaker’s presentation or seminar, you should let me know by email or phone before, or shortly after the session. Note that if you are absent from the class or guest speaker presentation, you should obtain notes from another student and ask him/her to pick up any materials distributed in class or during the presentation.

I am granting you 2 “excused” absences from my lectures for the term (not speakers!). However, any unexcused absences beyond two will negatively impact your grade. Similarly, skipping a guest speaker’s lecture or on-site visitation without a valid reason will have a bearing on your grade. Finally, sleeping in class or during a guest speaker is a professional concern on many levels and will significantly impact your participation grade.

Ten percent (10%) of the Class Participation Grade is reserved for our trips to New York and Europe. Any failure by a student to observe the standards of conduct or curfews set by the professor and chaperones may results in a reduction of up to 10% of your overall grade. Egregious violations may result in a further reduction at the Professor’s discretion, and potentially being returned to Washington DC before the planned conclusion of the trip.

Throughout the course, I may ask you to keep a “speaker chart,” in which you briefly describe what you learned from each speaker and/or site visit. I will let you know when these charts are due and should reflect your attendance and thoughtful consideration of material presented. Occasionally, you may also be asked to keep a case summary in which you will briefly describe the facts, holding, and reasoning of the judges in a specific legal case.

Punctuality, Professionalism, and Dress Code
Please arrive on time for seminars on or off campus, as late entries are disruptive to others. Remember, presenters are very busy professionals who generously agree to speak with us. For downtown excursions, please give yourself enough travel time so that you arrive on time or a few minutes early. Also, for some of the off campus visits we will need to arrive earlier in order to go through security check points.

Please be prepared to dress in a professional manner for the guest speakers and events. This means no blue jeans, tennis shoes, sandals, or shorts. I will inform you of the dress code for each event/guest speaker in advance.

Students in the seminar should behave in a professional and respectful manner. This means being respectful and thoughtful to guest presenters, peers, and the professor. This seminar is about learning and sharing your ideas, and it is all right to disagree with the opinions of others as long as such disagreement is voiced in a respectful and polite manner.

During the seminar sessions, whether on or off campus, students should turn off their cell phones, pagers, blackberries, etc. I am asking you not to bring laptops (or other electronic equipment such as recorders) to class or presentations by speakers. While they are extremely useful in some ways, they are often distracting to other students, the instructor, and guests. Engagement with the course, the instructor and materials seems to improve generally in classes without laptops.

Group Presentations (10%)
You will be divided into groups of 4 or 5 to prepare briefings for the class on specific international organizations and current issues in international law. These presentations should be a minimum of 30 minutes, but no longer than 1hr in length. The list of topics and group assignments will be made in the first week of classes.

Your group will be responsible for meeting with me at the beginning of the semester to discuss the group presentation and the topic assigned. Each group should also provide supplemental readings to those already assigned by me, to further your classmates’ understanding of your presentation and topic. Please bring copies of the additional reading to me at least a week and a half before your group’s presentation so that copies can be made and distributed to other students or posted on the Blackboard site. You may use PowerPoint or other multimedia, but please inform me about your need for equipment at least one week prior to the presentation. Each group will also have to turn in a 4-5 page “White Paper” as a part of the presentation. Grading will be based on the quality of the presentation and materials, as well as the depth of your understanding of the topic area. You are encouraged to “think outside the box,” and to use creative and innovative ways to present your topics.

More detailed information on Group Presentations will be provided in the class.

Short Paper Project (10%)
Each of you will be asked to write a 5-6 page paper creating an organization or proposing/finding a solution to an international law problem (according to the principles of international law). If you decide to create an organization, you will be asked to state the purpose of the organization, create by-laws, describe what project such organization would undertake and how it will be funded. If you decide to write on an international law issue, you will be asked to provide the background of the conflict/problem, state what parties are involved, describe what has been done so far, and propose solution to the problem including what means you would use.
More detailed information on this Short Paper Project will be provided in the class.

Simulation and Exercise (10%)
The class will also undertake a simulation exercise (hands-on-learning) to be performed in groups of not more than 5 students. Several groups will then work together on a simulation which might be a moot court, a mock arbitration, or international negotiation.

More detailed information on Simulation will be provided in the class.

Examinations (45%)
There will be a Midterm (20%*) and final exam (25%*). Exams may consist of short answer questions, fill-in-the blanks, true or false, multiple choice, and essay questions. More details about the exams, their formats, and requirements will be provided in class.

*Note: At the option of the professor, an additional Quiz on specific topics of study maybe be added. Such a Quiz would make up 5% of the final grade. In this situation, the Midterm or Final exam would count for 5% less of the total grade than indicated above.

Note: Your midterm exam is scheduled for February 24 and final examination for April 29.

Extra Credit Opportunity

You can earn extra credit points, if you wish to boost your grade, by reading one of the books listed below and writing a short book critique/review (4 pages). Such critique/review should be turned in no later than April 30.

Ishmael Beah A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Mahvish Rukhsana Khan My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me

Additional information and resources

Office Hours & E-mails
Because our class schedule changes every week, my office hours will vary as well, but they will be posted on each weekly schedule. If you are not able to meet with me during the office hours, please contact me via email or phone to schedule an office appointment.
Please note that I believe in an “Open Door” policy, so you can always stop by the office to see if I am available. Although I try to respond quickly to your emails or phone calls, at times, if you leave a voicemail message or send an email after 6pm, I may not be able to get back to you until the next business day.

Transportation Costs
Unfortunately, AU does not pay transportation costs while you are in D.C. This means, that you need to get a metro card and be prepared to pay for your own metro expenses when we travel to off campus meetings or briefings. There may also be times when you will have to have lunch downtown (between speakers or events). If such a situation arises, you may obtain a bag lunch from the university by asking one day in advance, if you wish.

General Assignment Policies
All written assignments must be submitted at the beginning of class, on the due date, in printed form (unless otherwise specified). Papers should be in 12 point font, Times New Roman and page numbers clearly marked. You should proofread your papers and cite sources when appropriate. For your citations, use the footnote format and consult Turabian’s Manual for Writers or The Chicago Manual of Style. Please note AU’s academic integrity policies. ( If you have questions about how to cite materials, please see me and/or the Writing Center. Remember, when in doubt, cite!

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact me early in the semester to receive assistance.

Academic Resources
AU provides an academic assistance center, counseling center, and disability services along with a Writing Center on Tenley campus. Please let me know if you would like information on these services or if you need any assistance during the course.
Official American University Holidays – Spring
Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In the event of a declared pandemic (influenza or other communicable disease), American University will implement a plan for meeting the needs of all members of the university community. Should the university be required to close for a period of time, we are committed to ensuring that all aspects of our educational programs will be delivered to our students. These may include altering and extending the duration of the traditional term schedule to complete essential instruction in the traditional format and/or use of distance instructional methods. All faculty members will design alternative means of completing classes. Specific strategies will vary from class to class, depending on the format of the course and the timing of the emergency. Faculty will communicate class-specific information to students via AU e-mail and Blackboard, while students must inform their faculty immediately of any absence due to illness. Students are responsible for checking their AU e-mail regularly and keeping themselves informed of emergencies. In the event of a declared pandemic or other emergency, students should refer to the AU Web site (www. prepared. and the AU information line at (202) 885-1100 for general university-wide information. AND contact their faculty and/or respective dean’s office for course and school/ college-specific information.

Quote from student

"The International Law and Organizations Program was an excellent choice! I highly recommend this program to all students who enjoy learning about international law by actually visiting the organizations studied in class."
Kofi Mensah, University of Vermont