Readings and Class Discussion on Sustainability and Sustainable Development

Noha Shawki
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Students are asked to read book chapters and/or journal articles about the efforts of international intergovernmental organizations to promote sustainability and sustainable development. The readings are completed prior to the class meeting during which they are discussed. The discussion of the readings will focus on applying the theoretical approaches to the study of international organizations to the study of organizations promoting sustainability.

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Learning Goals

The goal of this activity is to help students apply theoretical approaches to the study of international organizations to specific organizations working on sustainability issues.

Context for Use

This activity is developed for a course entitled "International Organizations". It is a 300-level course in political science/international relations. The class is capped at 15 students, and most of the students enrolled in it are juniors and seniors majoring in political science/international relations. The course is designed as a seminar and has a strong focus on readings and discussions.

By the time this activity takes place, students will have read theoretical articles about international organizations and their role in global governance. Some of the key questions discussed include: What is the contribution of international organizations to global governance? Are international organizations effective? Under what circumstances do they have impact? What is the unique contribution of international organizations to the formation of global public policy? This activity is designed to apply these questions to the efforts and initiatives of international organizations in the area of sustainability and sustainable development. It will take place over two class meetings. One half to two thirds of each of these class meetings will be devoted to this activity.

Description and Teaching Materials

Adil Najam, The Case Against a New International Environmental Organization, in: Paul Diehl (ed.), The Politics of Global Governance. International Organizations in an Interdependent World. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005, pp. 398-414, reprinted from Global Governance, Vol. 9, No. 3 (2003): 367-384

Thomas Weiss, David Forsythe and Roger Coate, The United Nations and Changing World Politics. Westview, 2004, chapters 8, 9, and 10

Teaching Notes and Tips


Assessment will be based on the quality of class discussion: Does it appear that students have completed all readings? Are they able to apply theoretical approaches to the discussion of specific organizations? Are they able to describe and analyze the contribution of international organizations to sustainability and sustainable development?

References and Resources

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP):

Millennium Development Goals:

United Nations Development Programme:

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development: