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HiL > 2010/11 Studiehåndbok > Activism and governance

Activism and governance
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Antall studenter
Øyvind Tønnesson
Karakter A-F
Language of instruction - English
ÅR/BA Internasjonale studier
Telefon: 612 88000

International relations today are hard to imagine without non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In this module the agenda is to examine the role of NGOs and their interaction with states and international organizations, with consequences for state sovereignty and the governance of international relations.

The historical origin of what today is referred to as global civil society lies in the emergence of the League of Nations and the International Labor Organization and the efforts to coordinate various policy areas in the interwar period. Since then, global activism has expanded and broadened, and from the 1980s become subject to closer analysis. The study of such advocacy and activism has introduced in international relations perspectives and understandings that supplement traditional approaches that emphasize power relations and governmental actors. In these approaches, NGOs are identified as agents contributing to agenda-setting, norm change and to the emergence of a global civil society that monitors the action of states and international organizations.

This module addresses this development in three steps. First, the moduleprovides an overview of the development of activism in international politics in a historical perspective, with an emphasis on various forms of activism and how it is conceptualized. Second, the emergence of explanatory frameworks addressing how activists operate and to what effect, are central.The content and function of activism in international politics will be critically examined and discussed, including a questioning of the authority and legitimacy of activists. Third, specific policy areas are assessed, including human rights and gender, security, environment and development and the general question of the role of knowledge in international activism. These empirical examples contribute to assessment of the normative idea of an increasing pluralistic and democratic international politics as an effect of international activism.


Knowledge of

  • the role of NGOs in IR, their activities and results
  • role of international governmental organizations (IGOs) as arenas for NGOs
  • interconnections between NGOs, states and IGOs
  • theories of governance and activism in IR
  • the assessment of activists’ impacts on international politics within various fields

Ability to

  • assess the power and legitimacy of actors in international politics
  • identify actors, examine and discuss their role in specific areas of international politics
  • identify and use sources on activism and governance in international politics
  • comprehend governance dynamics in contemporary international relations

Competence to

  • critically evaluate the role of activism in international politics and the potential of democratization of international relations
  • question authority and legitimacy in international politics in an actor-perspective
Undervisnings- og læringsmetode

This module comprises lectures and tutorials. The lectures present an overview of activism and explanatory frameworks on governance of international relations. In tutorials students use these frameworks to identify topics that show central features and dilemmas in the historical emergence of an international community. Students must research topics of their own, identify actors, relevant sources and literature. Three working requirements constitute the basis for assessment. The module involves the student through oral presentation, discussion and individual assignments.  


International Politics; International Peace Politics (or equivalent)

Emne er obligatorisk for

Ba internasjonale studier med historie


The final assessment is based on two essays and a written exam, weighted as follows:

I.       Essay One (20%)

II.      Essay Two (40%)

III.     Written Exam, two hours (40%)

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