LLAW6182 & JDOC6182

General Course Information

1.1 Course details

Course code: LLAW6182 / JDOC6182
Course name: International Organizations
Programme offered under: LLM Programme / JD Programme
Semester: First
Prerequisites / Co-requisites: No
Credit point value: 9 credits / 6 credits

1.2 Course description

The first international organizations, created in the 19th Century, were of limited scope and membership. It was not until after the First World War that international organizations took on a more universal nature in tackling common problems for states. Since then, hundreds of international organizations have sprung up to handle many issues that affect, or are seen as affecting, our daily lives. The body of rules that govern the functioning of these international organizations, as well as the rules that they create, are referred to as the law of international organizations – the subject of this course.

This course has two aims. First, it will provide an in-depth look at this area of law from a traditional perspective. Starting with a general history of international organizations and overview of current international organizations, the course will develop a definition of international organizations, which focuses on international legal personality, and then will develop a framework for classifying international organizations. This course next will explore the sources of power for international organizations, which involves the law of treaties and the doctrines of attributed powers, implied powers, and inherent powers, among other important principles. This course then will compare their structures, decision-making processes (including the settlement of disputes), membership and financing, privileges and immunities, sanctioning abilities, treaty-making powers, and relations with other international organizations, among other aspects. The United Nations, its subsidiary organs and its specialized agencies will be a major focus of the course, though many other international organizations also will be studied. Relevant ICJ, PCIJ and other case law will be given particular emphasis in understanding these powers and functions of international organizations.

Second, with this basic understanding of the law of international organizations, students will be expected to explore contemporary legal debates surrounding international organizations. The course will discuss the problem of responsibility for international organizations and creating limitations on their powers. Indeed, while international organizations first were seen as helping to bring “salvation to mankind,” today they are seen in a less than ideal light, largely due to concerns over their misdeeds and accountability for those misdeeds. The course will explore the problems associated with functionalism – the predominant theory associated with the expansion of international organizations’ powers. The discussion will move on to exploring the possibility of creating limitations and accountability for international organizations through such alternative tools as constitutionalism, judicial review, an emphasis on the rule of law, and global administrative law, to name a few. Other debates to be discussed include the legal status of decisions and resolutions of international organizations in light of the sources doctrine of international law, and whether the differences between international organizations that stem from the differences in their constituent instruments make it impossible to talk of a unified body of law that governs these different entities. Students will be expected to develop their own thoughts on these debates, which they will demonstrate through their participation in class, as well as through the writing of at least four short case comments and either a longer paper on atopic to be chosen by the student in consultation with the professor.

1.3 Course teachers

Name E-mail address Office Consultation
Course convenor James Fry jamesfry@hku.hk CCT 712 By email

Learning Outcomes

2.1 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for this course

CLO 1 Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the law relating to and created by international organizations, as well as how law and politics relate to one another in this dynamic area.

CLO 2 Assess whether international courts and tribunals have helped or hindered the development of international organizations.

CLO 3 Demonstrate critical reasoning and writing skills in in-class debates, a midterm exam and a research paper.

CLO 4 Create new ways of thinking and solving problems associated with international organizations and the laws that govern them

2.2 LLM and JD Programme Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Please refer to the following link:

LLM – https://course.law.hku.hk/llm-plo/

JD – https://course.law.hku.hk/jd-plo/

2.3 Programme Learning Outcomes to be achieved in this course



3.1 Assessment Summary

Assessment task Due date Weighting Feedback method* Course learning outcomes
Mid-term exam 20 Oct 2022 50% 1, 2, 3
Research essay 15 Dec 2022 50% 1, 2, 3
*Feedback method (to be determined by course teacher)
1 A general course report to be disseminated through Moodle
2 Individual feedback to be disseminated by email / through Moodle
3 Individual review meeting upon appointment
4 Group review meeting
5 In-class verbal feedback

3.2 Assessment Detail

To be advised by course convenor(s).

3.3 Grading Criteria

Please refer to the following link: https://www.law.hku.hk/_files/law_programme_grade_descriptors.pdf

Learning Activities

4.1 Learning Activity Plan

Lecture: 3 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks
Private study time: 9.5 hour(s) / week for 12 teaching weeks

Remarks: the normative student study load per credit unit is 25 ± 5 hours (ie. 150 ± 30 hours for a 6-credit course), which includes all learning activities and experiences within and outside of classroom, and any assessment task and examinations and associated preparations.

4.2 Details of Learning Activities

To be advised by course convenor(s).

Learning Resources

5.1 Resources

Reading materials: Reading materials are posted on Moodle
Core reading list: TBA
Recommended reading list: TBA

5.2 Links

Please refer to the following link: http://www.law.hku.hk/course/learning-resources/