ASTU 400E: United Nations and Diplomacy

University of British Columbia

Student-Directed Seminar

Facilitator: Dominika Ziemczonek

Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Allen Sens

Facilitator E-mail:

Office: SUB, Room 30G (IRSA office), Wed. 2-4pm

Class Time and Location: Tuesday, 4-7pm – IKBLC, Room 157

Class Blog:

Course Description:

United Nations and Diplomacy is a Student Directed Seminar designed to introduce 3rd and 4th year students to international organizations and parliamentary procedure. The course will explore different bodies of the United Nations by examining their history, mandate and applicable case studies. All students enrolled in the seminar will be required to direct and co-chair a committee at UBCMUN 2011 in January, where they will apply their knowledge of the purpose of the United Nations and the use and format of parliamentary procedure.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Discuss the structure and function of main UN bodies
  • Analyze the current structure for international multilateral engagement

o      Comment on the strengths and weakness of the current United Nations structure

o      Discuss ways to lessen or eliminate some of these shortcomings

  • Direct a committee at UBCMUN with a full command of the conference rules and parliamentary procedure
  • Develop the public speaking and critical thinking skills of all seminar participants

Required Text:

Title: United Nations: International Organization and World Politics

Author: Lawrence Ziring

Edition: 4th edition

A series of articles and reports will also be assigned. These will be distributed to students either hardcopy or electronically on the first day of the course.


Class Participation – 10%*

Reading Response – 5%

Midterm – 20%

Presentation – 15%*

Mandatory Simulations – 15%*

Final Paper – 35%


Many of the assignments in the course will be peer-evaluated, including a small portion of the final paper. Peer-evaluated assignments are marked with an asterisk*.

Midterms examinations, short reading responses and the final background guides will be marked by both the seminar facilitator and Dr. Sens.

Class Participation

Students need to attend all seminars to get the most out of the course. It is expected that students complete the assigned readings and are prepared to discuss and analyze them in class. Participation will be peer-evaluated with input from the course facilitator, and grades will be based on the consistency of student participation and the extent to which responses foster further discussion.

Class participation will be evaluated on attendance, preparedness for class (including doing the assigned readings), and the quality and consistency of participation in class discussions. Class participation will be peer-evaluated three times during the course in four-week intervals worth 8% total. The remaining 2% will be given for attendance. Participation will be evaluated once halfway through the term and again at the end of the semester to track progress and improvements in participation throughout the course.

Reading Response

Students will do one reading response on an assigned article not related to their committee. The reading response will consist of an analysis of the author’s main points, and a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the author’s argument within 250-500 words. The response will be evaluated on overall clarity and depth of analysis.


The midterm will be drafted by both the course facilitator and the faculty sponsor, Dr. Sens. The midterm may be based on all material covered in class, with half of the content based on readings and class discussion, and the other half on parliamentary procedure. The exam will consist of some fill-in-the-blank questions, some short scenario questions, and a couple of written response questions. The midterm will be marked by the course facilitator and reviewed by the faculty sponsor.  Mid-term content will be discussed in greater detail in the weeks prior to the mid-term exam.


Presentations will be completed in pairs on each team’s assigned committee. It is strongly recommended that presentations be given using powerpoint or some other type of visual aid. Presentations must be between 12-20 minutes long. Students will not be penalized for shorter presentations given that they have sufficiently covered all required points.

All presentations should include the following:

  • History, basic function and purpose of the committee
  • Composition and membership
  • May include examples or short case studies of action the committee has taken in the past
  • Some of the most important resolutions, initiatives or projects to come out of the committee
  • Introduction and brief overview of the committee’s UBCMUN topics

o      Current initiatives founded by the committee (if relevant to above topics)

  • Discussion of the main problems, shortfalls, and challenges the committee faces in fulfilling its mandate

o      Presenters may also suggest ways for their committee to overcome these issues at the UN and at UBCMUN

Peer evaluation surveys will be completed by five students (on a rotating schedule) and the course facilitator. The evaluation surveys will assess the presentation aesthetics, depth and comprehensiveness of information, quality of the concluding reflection and the confidence and clarity of the presenters.

Mandatory Simulations

Three simulations will occur throughout the term, and the second simulation (in the ninth week) will be weighted more heavily than the other two. Peer evaluation surveys will be completed by three students (on a rotating schedule) and the course facilitator. Students will be assessed on their knowledge of rules and procedures, their neutrality and their ability to focus and stimulate debate and cooperation.

Background Guide

The background guide is essential in delegate’s preparation for UBCMUN 2011. The background guide introduces the committee, its mandate, and informs delegates of the overall structure and tone of committee session. The background guide also introduces each of the topics and provides a brief history of the issue, cites any relevant resolutions or initiatives, describes and evaluates current trends and suggests tools with which to address the issue. All participants will receive a sample background guide to demonstrate the expected style and depth of research. The first draft of the paper is due three weeks before the final draft is due. This allows all students to have their papers edited by their peers while giving sufficient time to edit, review and polish the papers before their final submission. The early deadline also allows for substantial changes or re-writes to be made if the background guide is inadequate or misdirected.

As this paper is written in committee pairings, each student will complete a partner evaluation to assess their co-director’s overall contribution to the paper.  This evaluation will be worth 10% of the total mark of the term paper. The course facilitator and the faculty sponsor will mark the background guide together.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is recognized as serious academic misconduct at UBC and will not be tolerated. Students who plagiarize will be penalized according to UBC policies on academic integrity. If you have questions or concerns about plagiarism, please review the following resources or speak to the course facilitator or faculty sponsor.

Student Directed Seminars:

This page has been inserted into the course syllabus (outline) at the request of the advisory committee that oversees the program for Student Directed Seminars.

The program of Student Directed Seminars is intended to provide senior undergraduate students with added opportunities to learn in small, collaborative, group-oriented experiences. It is also the program’s goal to ensure participants, as members of a self-directed group, have a high degree of control over their own learning experience. The UBC program is modeled on an established student-directed seminar program at the University of California at Berkeley.

The program works as follows. A student (or group of students) in their third or fourth year of undergraduate study, proposes a course not currently offered at UBC. Proposals go to an Advisory Committee for review and if the proposal looks feasible, the committee encourages further development. The student proceeds to develop a course outline under the guidance of their faculty sponsor (or in some cases, multiple faculty sponsors). Student coordinators also have the benefit of a preparation workshop conducted by the UBC Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth.  The Student Directed Seminar Advisory Committee considers course outlines for final approval. If approved, the student-initiated course is advertised to the general student body.

All upper-level students are eligible to participate and applicants are usually subject to a selection process. Normally the minimum enrollment for each class is eight, the maximum fifteen.  Students are only eligible to receive credit for one seminar as a participant and one seminar as a coordinator.

The Student Coordinator is not an instructor. The coordinator’s role is that of a facilitator. S/he is responsible for organizing the learning resources, such as guest lectures, reading materials, and films to be used in the class.  The Student Coordinator also sets the parameters of course content, structure, and evaluation procedures in conjunction with a Faculty Sponsor. The participants have an important role in refining the details of all of these elements during the first classes of the term.

The entire class is responsible to one another for ensuring that the learning experience has a quality and richness that benefits everyone.  Ultimately the faculty sponsor is responsible for the grades that are submitted for this course.

This course is subject to the normal rules and regulations, as appropriate, which apply to all UBC courses.

More details are available at the following URL:

Please contact Margot Bell, , phone: 604-822-9818 if you have any questions.

Revised August 2010

Week 1 Introduction to the United Nations; Overview of UBCMUN
  • Seminar overview and expectations
  • UBCMUN background and structure
  • Committee Director responsibilities
  • UBCMUN committee descriptions
  • Organizing the United Nations (pg. 11-13;  23-28)
  • De Bono “Six Thinking Hats” (CD)
Week 2 Structure and purpose of the United Nations; Introduction to Parliamentary Procedure
  • Brief history of the creation and role of the United Nations in global affairs
  • Principle and Subsidiary Bodies
  • Introduction to Parliamentary Procedure, it’s use in the United Nations and at UBCMUN
  • The Role of the Secretary-General
  • Urquhart, “The Next Secretary General” (CD)
  • The UN: Legal Framework, Institutional Structures, and Financial Realities (pg. 31-38; 65-72) (P)
Week 3 The United Nations Member States; Parliamentary Procedure
  • Exploring the contributions and relevance of different member states
  • Power of the United States
  • Is the United States’ power in the UN on the decline?
  • UBCMUN rules
  • Security Through Collective Action (pg. 174-200) (P)
  • UBCMUN Rules
Week 4 The United Nations as an International Actor: Involvement in other organizations, law and peace
  • United Nations and its relationship with other international/multilateral organizations
  • United Nations and international law (including ICC, ICJ)
  • United Nations peacekeeping missions and mandates
  • Hurd, “Legitimaxy and Authority in International Politics” (CD)
  • Pickering, “Does the UN have a Role in Iraq?” (CD)
  • UBCMUN Rules
Week 5 UN General Assembly Plenary
  • UN GA Plen. student presentation
  • UN GA Plen. current events
  • Rules review and committee simulation
  • Legal Framework, Institutional Structures, and Financial Realities (pg. 39-55) (P)
Week 6 United Nations Security Council; Rules and Procedure review


  • UNSC student presentation
  • UNSC current events
  • Membership and calls for reform of the UNSC
  • Short committee-rule simulation
  • The UN Political Process (pg. 96-97) (P)
  • Glennon, “Why the Security Council Failed” (CD)
Week 7 UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues; Working Papers and Draft Resolutions
  • UNPFII student presentation
  • UNPFII commissions and ad hoc working groups
  • Overview of working papers
  • Editing, approving and introducing draft resolutions
Indigenous Diplomacy and the Rights of People (pg. 29-36; 64-72) (P)
Week 8 UN Human Rights Council; Voting Procedure; Backgrounder Peer-Review



  • UN Human Rights Council student presentation
  • Powers and membership of the UNHRC
  • Voting procedure for draft resolutions
  • Peer-review of the backgrounder drafts
  • Report of the Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights (CD)
  • Murthy, “New Phase in UN Reforms” (CD)
Week 9 World Health Organization; Rules Review


  • WHO student presentation
  • Short review of central committee rules and procedures
  • Mandatory simulation
  • Brundtland, “Global Health and International Security” (CD)
  • Brown et al, “The WHO and the Transition from International….” (CD)
Week 10 World Bank; Simulation



  • World Bank student presentation
  • Brief discussion of last class’ simulation, strengths and weaknesses
  • Discussion of progress on background guides
  • Promoting Economic Development (pg. 503-509) (P)
  • Stiglitz, “Globalism’s Discontents” (CD)
Week 11 Case Study (TBD); Rules Review (possible short simulation)


  • Case Study student presentation
  • Discuss current news updates on case study
  • Discussion of case study relevance to other committees
  • Rules review and short simulation
Week 12 The Future of the UN; Final Rules Review and Simulation; Conference Expectations


  • Is the UN increasingly or decreasingly relevant in the world?
  • Is UN reform on the horizon?
  • Final Simulation
  • Conference schedule and expectations
  • Frohlich, “The Ironies of Reform” (CD)
  • UBCMUN Committee Chairing Philosophy (CD)
  • UBCMUN Rules

All material is subject to change upon review and discussion by seminar participants in the first two weeks of class.

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