Friday, August 20, 2010

Course Syllabus for "Actors, Institutions, and Legal Frameworks in International Affairs"

I will be teaching a course this semester as part of the core curriculum of the Penn State School of International Affairs:

Actors, Institutions, and Legal Frameworks in International Affairs
This course introduces students to the various levels of international interaction and exchange (supranational, state-to-state, state-to-private, private-to-private); the sources and limitations of law and regulation at each level; and the variety of actors and institutions characteristic of each level. The course explores the roles, authority, and limitations of the institutions and actors at each level and the implications of these for domestic and transnational governance, development, human rights, commerce, migration, and civil society.   (INTAF 801, 3 credits)

The course presents an interesting opportunity to bridge the gap between law and international relations without losing the coherence of either  Still, this is easier said than done, since lawyers and non-lawyers speak with different vocabularies--in part in aid of precision, in part to solidify field boundaries within a clearly defined linguistic space and in part to erect barriers to entry by outsiders not committed to the preservation of the field.  Lawyers and non-lawyers also privilege different objectives, in part on the basis of the ideologies of their fields.  Lawyers tend to reify law, and presume a law-state connection that focuses on institutionalization of rule systems over  other events.  Others privilege those portions of human conduct that, segregated as a presumptively distinguishable set of conduct vectors, can be used to explain the world. This can range from politics, to economics, class, religion and the like.  Putting these world view systems, then, requires that the student unmask the ideologies of a variety of approaches then then consciously apply them from the perspective of a field-outsider.  This approach may not endear one to academics, but it tends to provide a more balances and critical perspective on the variations of what passes for a presumption-based truth.

That said, I am not sure it is possible to achieve inter-disciplinary coherence generally, much less in a course syllabus. Yet it is worth a try. So, without further hedging, I provide  the relevant  portions of my syllabus, with the hope that those of you so inclined can let me  know what you think.

Actors, Institutions, and Legal Frameworks in International Affairs
Course Syllabus

From the Course Catalog:
This course addresses the principal actors at various levels of interaction in international affairs: supra-national bodies, States, quasi-States, international organizations and institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), transnational corporations, and individuals. Emphasis will be placed on the sources and the limitations imposed by various legal regimes (general and regional international law, national (or municipal) legal systems, internal administrative regulation (for international organizations), and attention given to the roles and authority of actors and limitations on those roles and authority in the domains of development, human rights, international transactions, migration, public health, and civil society generally.
What does this mean?

First, students will be introduced to the range of organizations that populate the landscape of international affairs. In line with the current global framework of hierarchies of political power, that means a focus on the state. The students will consider the state system—that is, the state as a political organization and as an actor among other states and non-state actors. They will be introduced to notions of differences between governors and governed and hierarchies of authority. They will also be introduced to the distinctions between international and domestic law systems, and non-law systems. Together these provide the framework within which international actors operate.

Second, students will learn about each of these entities. Students start with the state. All other international actors are then considered from the perspective of this touchstone entity—quasi-states (e.g. Somalia, Palestine, Kosovo); international organizations (e.g., United Nations); supra-national organizations (regional trade organization, ); transnational corporations (e.g. Nike) and non-economic corporate actors (e.g., Oxfam); and individuals. The focus of this exploration with respect to each of these actors will be similar: how are they constituted, who are their stakeholders, what is the extent of their authority (internal and external), to which other entities are they dependent, how to they operate.

Third, students will consider how each of these entities operates within the global context. They will consider the “rules of engagement” among these institutions. They will also explore the ways in which these institutions communicate with each other (notions of structural coupling), how or to what extent they retain autonomy with respect to internal and external activity), and how their interactions affect policy, culture, economics, and globalization.

Fourth, the context of these investigations will be grounded in the legal frameworks within which these institutions operate, or against which they might function. Students will be expected to acquire a rudimentary knowledge of the international law system, and its distinction from domestic law systems. Students will also explore the quasi-legal nature of governance systems—rules that have the functional effect of “law” but are not produced through the organs of state actors.


Many of the readings for the semester will be drawn from these texts. While they are available at the bookstore, you might consider buying them either used or elsewhere to save money.


José E. Alvarez, International Organizations as Law-Makers, Oxford University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-19-876563-9 (Paperback)

Networked Politics: Agency, Power, and Governance (Miles Kahler, ed.) Cornell University Press, 21009. ISBN 978-0-8014-7476-7 (Paperback).

Materials to be distributed electronically.


Dan Sarooshi, International Organizations and Their Exercise of Sovereign Powers, Oxford University Press 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-922577 (Paperback).

Jan Klabbers, An Introduction to International Institutional Law 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press 2009. ISBN 978-0-521-73616-9 (Paperback).


Generally speaking, the course will be conducted along the lines of a graduate level seminar, consisting of a mix of lectures and presentations led by teams of students. The course will only be as successful as the efforts student teams put into their presentations. Together we will seek to leverage the diversity of experiences and backgrounds among us to derive greater insights from the materials and their application to current issues. Each of you is a valuable resource in this effort. The fundamental goal is to better equip you to work effectively within an increasingly diverse system of institutions and governance organs that now play a significant role in policy, politics, religion, culture and economics.

Seating is assigned. To make seat selection somewhat less arbitrary, the seat you choose on the second day of class will be your assigned seat. I will circulate a seating chart on the second class day for you to fill in.

Class Notes and Recording of Class. Please feel free to get together with your classmates for studying and sharing notes. It is sometimes efficient. Take such notes as you desire. In addition, all of my classes are taped. You may review the tapes from your computers through ANGEL. No personal recording of class.


Student grades will be based on class participation and two take home examinations (both administered through the Penn State ANGEL system).

Participation: you are expected to have completed the readings indicated for each class and to actively participate in class discussions and exchanges. You are expected to be an active and contributing member of your team.

Exams: THE EXAMS ARE OPEN BOOK. You must work alone.

You will have 24 hours to complete the exam from the time you pick it up. Students will be given the option of choosing the time to take the exam.

In calculating the final grade I will ascribe the following weights:

Participation 20%
Mid Term 30%
Final Exam 50%

Academic honesty and integrity is expected under the rules of the DSL Honor Code, available


August 23: Course Introduction
--Course Information & Syllabus memo
--Alvarez, pp. 1-57

August 25: International Institutional Law as Transnational Law
-- Larry Catá Backer, Principles of Transnational Law: The Foundations of an Emerging Field, Law at the End of the Day, March 9, 2007, available
-- Philip C. Jessup, Transnational Law (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956), pp. 1-16.
-- Peer Zumbasen, Transnational Law, CLPE Research Paper 09/2008 Vol. 04(2). Available
-- Craig Scott, “Transnational Law” as Proto-Concept: Three Conceptions, 10(7) German Law Journal 859 (2009). Available at
-- Reza Dibadj, Panglossian Transnationalism, 44 Stanford Journal of International Law 253 (2008). READ PP: 256-72 (PART II).
-- Anders Esmark, The Functional Differentiation of Governance: Public Governance Beyond Hierarchy, Market and Networks, Public Administration Vol. 87(2): 351-370 (2009). READ PP. 353–356

August 30: Strong States and their constitutions
--Larry Catá Backer, God(s) Over Constitutions: International and Religious Transnational Constitutionalism in the 21st Century. Mississippi Law Review, Vol. 27, 2008. Available at SSRN:
--Larry Catá Backer, Economic Globalization Ascendant: Four Perspectives on the Emerging Ideology of the State in the New Global Order. University of California, Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2006. Available at SSRN:

September 1: Weak States
-- Peter T. Leeson and Caludia R. Williamson, Anarchy and Development: An Application of the Theory of Second Best, Law & Development Review 2009.
-- Ken Menkhaus, Governance Without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State Building and the Politics of Coping, International Security 31(3): 74- 106 (2007). READ PP: 83-93
-- Larry Catá Backer, Of Somali Pirates, Global Corporations and the State: Governance Without Government, Government without a State and Military Power, Law at the End of the Day, June 28, 2009
-- Larry Catá Backer, Regulating Global Capital Markets: Somali Pirate Capital Markets, the South Sea Bubble and the Limits of Law, Law at the End of the Day, Jan. 1, 2010.
( )
-- Christopher Jasperro, Somalia’s Piracy Offers Lessons in Global Governance, Yale Global Online, April 6, 2009.
--Team presentations:
Team A—Kosovo
Team B—Palestine
Team C—Congo
Team D—Afghanistan
Team E—Lebanon
Team F—Haiti
Team G—Mexico

September 6: NO CLASS

September 8 International Institutional Law: Autonomy of Actors
--Alvarez, Chapter 2.

September 13: International Institutional Law: IO Law Making
--Alvarez, chapter 3.

September 15: International Institutional Law—Specific Examples
--Alvarez, chapter 4
--Team presentations:
Team A—IAEA Standards, FAO
Team B—Codex Alimentarius, ICAO
Team C—IO Advisory Opinions
Team D—ILO Recommendations
Team F—World Bank Guidelines
Team G—IMF Conditionality

September 20: Dispute Settlement—Non judicial Actors
--Alvarez, Chapter 7.

September 22: Dispute Settlement—Judicial Bodies
--Alvarez, Chapter 8.

September 27: The International Court of Justice
--The ICJ at a Glance
--ICJ General FAQs
--ICJ Advisory Opinion FAQs
--Medellin v. Texas,
--Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, ICJ, July 22, 2010, Gen, List No. 141 (Advisory Opinion). Available

Optional Reading
-- Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Advisory Opinion 2004 July 9 General List No. 131 (July 9, 2004) (available The opinion is very long. Please read Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (Request for advisory opinion) Summary of the Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004 ( and then focus on
1. Jurisdiction: Paragraphs 14-15, 24-25, 36, 38, 40.
2. Consent: Paragraphs 46-47, 49.
3. Legal Basis: Paragraphs 86-89, 102-111 (especially 89 on jus cogens)
4. Application of Law: Paragraph 115 (de facto annexation) versus Paragraph116 (proportionate anti-terrorism measures).
5. Legal Consequences: Paragraphs 148-158.
6. Remedies: Paragraph 159-160.

September 29: The International Criminal Court System
-- ICC Overview.
-- ICC About the Court.
-- ICC – Structure of the Court.
-- ICC Frequently Asked Questions.
-- ICC Activity Report
-- Background Materials (for reference only)
     a. Rome Statute
      b. Elements of Crimes
      c. Rules of Procedure and Evidence
      d. Regulations of the Court
      e. Agreement on Privileges and Immunities
      f. Regulations of Prosecutor
     g. Regulations of the Court
-- Bashir Case: Read by Groups A-D
     a. Summary of Situation in Darfur
      b. Arrest Warrant
      c. Summary of Arrest Charges
     d. Al Bashir case: The Appeals Chamber directs Pre-Trial Chamber I to decide anew on the genocide charge
-- Dyllo Case: Read by Groups E-G
      a. Dyllo Arrest Warrant
      b. Dyllo First Appearance
      c. Dyllo Jurisdiciton
      d. Dyllo Decision Conforming Charges

October 4: International Human Rights Institutions: European System
-- Thomas Buergenthal, The Evolving International Human Rights System, 100 Am. J. Int'l L. 783 (2006). READ INTRODUCTION AND PARTS I & IV.
-- The ECHR System:
     A. ECHR History Information
      B  ECHR Brochure
      C. ECHR Questions & Answers
      D. ECHR FAQs
      E. ECHR Facts & Figures
     G. ECHR Treaty
      I. ECHR Rules of Court
     J. ECHR Addendum to Rules
      K. ECHR General Measures
-- Frank Hoffmeister, Germany: The Status of European Convention on Human Rights in Domestic Law, 4(4) International Journal of Constitutional Law 722 (2006).

October 6 : VISITOR—Class Exercise Human Rights: Analysis and Evaluation of African and OAS Systems in comparison to European System. TEAMS A-C focusing on African system, and Teams D-G focusing on OAS systems. Be prepared to discuss differences in organization, jurisprudence, effectiveness and involvement of other state and non- state actors.

October 11 VISITOR—Class Exercise: ICC Action Against Former President Bush
--Each Team to divide into two groups, one seeking to indict and the other resisting indictment.

October 13 NO CLASS

October 18: States as Private Actors—Sovereign Wealth Funds and SOEs
--Larry Catá Backer, Sovereign Investing in Times of Crisis: Global Regulation of Sovereign Wealth Funds, State Owned Enterprises and the Chinese Experience. Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2009; Penn State Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-2009. Available at SSRN:
--International Working Group of Sovereign AWealth Funds, Generally Accepted Principles and Practices (GAPP)—Santiago Principles. Available for download at
--OECD Guidelines for SOEs. Available,3343,en_2649_34847_34046561_1_1_1_1,00.html.

October 20: Class Exercise—Applying the Norwegian Ethics Rules
--Larry Catá Backer, Sovereign Wealth Funds as Regulatory Chameleons: The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Funds and Public Global Governance Through Private Global Investment (May 4, 2009). Georgetown Journal of International Law, Vol. 41, No. 2, 2009. Available at SSRN:

October 25: International Organizations as Financial Institutions: IMF & World Bank
-- IMF History
-- IMF Overview
-- IMF Governance and Organization
-- IMF Surveillance
-- IMF Lending and Conditionality
      A. IMF Conditionality Statement (SKIM)
      B  IMF Conditionality Statement Addendum (SKIM)
-- IMF Technical Assistance
-- Current Challenges
-- IMF Articles of Agreement (BACKGROUND; SKIM)
--World Bank Overview and History

October 27: Class Exercise: Negotiating a National Agreement with IMF.
-- Pakistan: Request for Stand-By Arrangement—Staff Report; Staff Supplement; Press Release on the Executive Board Discussion; and Statement by the Executive Director for Pakistan (READ PAGES 1-19).
-- International Bank For Reconstruction And Development And The International Development Association And The International Finance Corporation Country Assistance Strategy For The Islamic Republic Of Pakistan For The Period Fy06-09 (April 4,2006) (READ 12-32).

November 1: Regional Trade Organizations
-- Jo-Ann Crawford and Roberto Fiorentino, The Changing Landscape of Regional Trade Agreement, World Trade Organization Discussion Paper No. 8 (2005). READ PARTS I& II pp. 1-16.
--Daniel Lederman, William F. Maloney & Luis Servén, Lessons From NAFTA for Latin America and the Caribbean, Stanford University Press, 2005. PP. 1-27.
-- Welber Barral, Dispute Settlement and Legal Harmonization in MERCOSUR, in Harmonizing Law in an Era of Globalization: Convergence, Divergence and Resistance (Larry Catá Backer, ed., Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2007).
--Larry Catá Backer and Augusto Molina, Cuba and the Construction of Alternative Global Trade Systems: ALBA and Free Trade in the Americas (May 20, 2009). University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2010. Available at SSRN:

November 3: World Trade Organization
-- Understanding the WTO
-- WTO Governance
-- WTO Dispute Resolution
-- WTO Dispute Resolution Chart
-- WTO Viet Nam Accession documentation

November 8: NGOs
--Peter R. Baehr, Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations in International Relations (Palgrave 2009) ISBN 978-0-230-20134-7 (hrdbk) pp. 1- 48.
--Networked Politics, pp. 127-170.
-- We the peoples: civil society, the United Nations and global governance Report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations (2004) (Cardozo Report) READ 7-13; 23-31.

November 10: Criminal and Clandestine Actors—From Mafia to al Qaeda
Networked Politics, pp. 79-124

November 15: Multinational Corporations as IOs
-- Larry Catá Backer, Multinational Corporations as Objects and Sources of Transnational Law, 14 ILSA Journal of International and Comparative Law499 (2008). 

November 17: VISITOR—Class Exercise Designing a supply chain regulatory system for a Multinational Corporation.



November 29: Multinational Corporations as Objects of IO Regulation: OECD and UN
--Larry Catá Backer, Rights and Accountability in Development (Raid) V Das Air and Global Witness V Afrimex: Small Steps Toward an Autonomous Transnational Legal System for the Regulation of Multinational Corporations (June 30, 2009). Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 10, 2009. Available at SSRN:
--Larry Catá Backer, On the Evolution of the United Nations’ 'Protect-Respect- Remedy' Project: The State, the Corporation and Human Rights in a Global Governance Context (June 3, 2010). Santa Clara Journal of International Law, Vol. 9, No.1, 2010. Available at SSRN:

December 1: Class Exercise—Using the NCP Complaint process against a Multinational enterprise

December 6: Introduction to Polycentricity in Governance
--Larry Catá Backer, Private Actors and Public Governance Beyond the State: The Multinational Corporation, the Financial Stability Board and the Global Governance Order,17 Indiana Journal Global Legal Studies (forthcoming 2011). Available
-- Anna di Robilant, Genealogies of Soft Law, 54 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE LAW 499 (2006).

December 8: Complexity: Trade, States, Corporations and Human Rights
--Larry Catá Backer, Globalization and the Socialist Multinational: Cuba and ALBA’s Grannacional Projects at the Intersection of Business and Human Rights (August 1, 2010). Available at SSRN:

1 comment:

smith said...

I read this post. It's an informative post for law students. I really agree with these arguments that the course presents an interesting opportunity to bridge the gap between law and international relations without losing the coherence of either Still, this is easier said than done, since lawyers and non-lawyers speak with different vocabularies--in part in aid of precision, in part to solidify field boundaries within a clearly defined linguistic space and in part to erect barriers to entry by outsiders not committed to the preservation of the field.

Law course