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Unit information: Global Civil Society in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Global Civil Society
Unit code POLIM0022
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Rossdale
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit examines the role of civil society in global governance by firstly, analysing civil society organisations’ contribution to good governance through their interaction with national and multilateral organizations. Secondly, the unit identifies the institutional arrangements available for civil society participation in global governance (particularly in the context of international organisations such as NATO, the EU, WTO or the UN) with a focus on the mechanisms to ensure transparency, accountability and representation. Thirdly, the unit assesses civil society organisations’ own legitimacy and representativeness claims with a focus on their ability to facilitate the participation and empowerment of marginalized groups, their financial and political independence and the increasing tension between professionalization and constituency representation. The unit ends with a student-led evaluation of how the outcome of the financial crisis has affected civil society organisations’ role in global governance. The unit allows students to develop an understanding of what civil society is and what it is not; how it is organised; how it relates to global governance; how it engages in policy-making; and what role it may play in fostering good governance. Students will become familiar with key debates drawn for the academic literature and relevant case-studies. Students will engage critically with these debates and seek to identify their own position and viewpoints within those debates


To critically examine the conceptual debates about the role and relevance of civil society in global governance.

To explore the impact of international organisations on civil society organisations.

To critically assess the independence, transparency and representativeness of civil society organisations.

To contextualise the relevance of civil society vis-à-vis other forms of active citizenship such as social movements.

To explore the impact of wider phenomena such as the global financial crisis on civil society organisations.

To facilitate students’ critical engagement with the main normative assumptions while assessing relevant case studies.

Intended learning outcomes

After completing this units students will have acquired:

  1. An understanding of the conceptual debates about the interaction between civil society and global governance;
  2. The ability to critically evaluate the relationships between civil society, legitimacy, participation and transparency;
  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate patterns of civil society participation in different international organisations;
  4. The ability to integrate theoretical and empirical materials;
  5. The ability to synthesise and evaluate arguments drawn from the relevant academic literature in both verbal and written form.
  6. The ability to develop critical discussion skills particularly through seminar participation, group work and seminar presentations.
  7. The ability to write articulately, concisely and persuasively,
  8. The ability to deliver articulate, concise, persuasive and well-paced presentations
  9. Time management skills both in the preparation of the formative and summative assessments and in the delivery of the seminar presentation

Teaching details

Seminars. During the 2-hour seminars the weekly topic will be introduced by the seminar teacher and students will engage in intellectual discussion through individual presentations and by addressing the proposed issues for debate through selected exercises such as group work.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: seminar presentations supported by a handout. The seminar presentation supported by a handout provides formative assessment of (1) the student’s grasp of the substantive issues associated with this unit and (2) the student’s ability to engage with that substantive material in an articulate, concise and persuasive way both verbally and in written form (learning outcomes 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9).

Summative Assessment consists of a 4,000-word essay (100%) (learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9).

Reading and References

  • Florini, Ann M. (Ed.) (2000) The Third Force: The Rise of Transnational Civil Society: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Washington.
  • Kaldor, M. (2003) Global Civil Society: An Answer to War: Polity, Cambridge - JC337 KAL.
  • Keane, J. (2003) Global Civil Society?: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge - JC337 KEA (Also available on electronic book).
  • Keck, M.E. and Sikkink, K. (1998) Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics: Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N.Y.; London - JF529 KEC
  • Scholte, J.A. (2011) Building Global Democracy? Civil Society and Accountable Global Governance: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  • Smismans, S. (ed.) (2006): Civil Society and Legitimate European Governance: Edward Elgar -JN40 CIV.
  • Steffek, J. Claudia Kissling, and Patrizia Nanz (eds.) (2008). Civil Society Participation in European and Global Governance: A Cure for the Democratic Deficit?: Palgrave, Basingstoke - JN40 CIV.