Global Diplomacy – The United Nations in the World (6 Weeks)


Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description

Mode of Attendance: Online Learning

The course offers a well-researched and broad-ranging primer to the United Nations system. Consisting of an introduction to the complex UN family and its history, and a series of ‘snapshots’ of key UN functions, which are used to explore important UN themes and help learners develop important analysis, communication, and policy-based skills.

The course is aimed broadly at people interested in learning more about the United Nations system, assuming a level of interest but no necessary previous knowledge, whilst also offering offering sufficient up to date research and new critical perspectives that it will also be of interest to people with more expertise or academic familiarity with the topic as well.

The main aim of the course is to provide this wide-ranging introduction in a self-contained, but an in-depth form, alongside the important practical skills necessary to understand and discuss UN affairs, and potentially lay the groundwork for greater engagement in future – either in civil society or in further study.

Learners taking this course are:

  • Paralegals
  • Project Coordinators
  • Translators
  • Lawyers
  • Journalists


Week 1


An overview of the MOOC.

1 video (Total 1 minute), 3 readings.

Week 2

The UN Today: what is it?

This week will introduce the idea of the United Nations as a system of more-or-less connected agencies that exist to address a wide range of world problems and provide an overview of how different parts fit together to constitute the modern United Nations system.

2 videos (Total 4 minutes), 1 reading, 1 quiz.

Week 3

Where did the United Nations come from, and why?

This week will provide an overview of the historical circumstances of the beginning of the UN – what early UN agencies were, what were the influential powers and groups at the early negotiations, and what values the UN was founded on, with comparisons to modern-day approaches.

2 videos (Total 5 minutes), 1 reading, 1 quiz.

Week 4

Power in international politics: how does the UN Security Council work?

This week will use the UN Security Council as a primer to the issue of relative power in international institutions. After examining the structure and operations of the Council, it will encourage students to examine the fundamental issues that determine its existence, including the status of the five permanent members, its ability to carry out its function, and the prospects for reform.

2 videos (Total 8 minutes), 1 reading, 1 quiz.

Week 5

What is the place of human rights in international politics?

This week will address the question of human rights at the UN, introducing the basic documents and declarations that underpin much UN activity. It will introduce the wide range of UN declarations on this topic, how they came about, and then examine potential criticisms of modern UN conceptions of human rights.

2 videos (Total 13 minutes), 1 reading, 1 quiz

Week 6

Emergency help: how does the UN respond to crises?

This week will introduce the family of UN agencies involved in humanitarian work, and begin to unpack their relationships with each other and role in responding to conflict.

2 videos (Total 7 minutes), 1 reading, 1 quiz.

Week 7

Where next for the UN? [optional]

In this week, students will have a chance to review and draw together what they have learned over the previous weeks and develop analysis skills when assessing how different priorities. This exercise will also introduce the issue of practicality and organisational politics to it, giving students an opportunity to consider how the issues they have examined might be affected by the process of implementation.

2 videos (Total 11 minutes), 1 reading, 1 quiz.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will I have access to the lectures and assignments?

Once you enrol for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

What will I get if I purchase the Certificate?

When you purchase a Certificate you get access to all course materials, including graded assignments. Upon completing the course, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.

What is the refund policy?

You will be eligible for a full refund until two weeks after your payment date, or (for courses that have just launched) until two weeks after the first session of the course begins, whichever is later. You cannot receive a refund once you’ve earned a Course Certificate, even if you complete the course within the two-week refund period.

Is financial aid available?

Yes, Coursera provides financial aid to learners who cannot afford the fee. Apply for it by clicking on the Financial Aid link beneath the "Enroll" button on the left. You’ll be prompted to complete an application and will be notified if you are approved.

Last updated Oct 2019

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About the School

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues.

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues. Read less
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