Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

United Nations Law LAW4051

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Law
  • Credits: 30
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

The course will focus on the establishment of the organisation, its legal status, its membership and the functioning of its main organs, including the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Secretary-General and the International Court of Justice-all major players in current international law. It will consider, in particular, the role of the UN in the maintenance of international peace and security and in the coordination of cooperation on pressing global problems such as nuclear weapons, the climate, refugees and conflict.


Weekly 2 hour seminars; Thursdays 11.00-13.00.

Requirements of Entry

Entry into Honours; normally a C pass in Public International Law at the first attempt.  This course is only available to LL.B students

Excluded Courses



6,000 word essay - 75%

In-Class Presentation (including slides and 1,000 word [guideline length] handout for assessment) - 25% 

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

To provide an in-depth analysis of the contribution of the United Nations system to the development of Public International Law; to provide a fuller and deeper understanding of the legal and political factors that govern the functioning of the organisation; to examine current developments in the United Nations; to consider the effect of politics on the functioning of the United Nations; to examine the relationship between the different organs of the United Nations; and to compare the functioning of the United Nations with the functioning of the League of Nations.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of the course the student should (subject specific skills): possess a thorough understanding of the functioning of the United Nations; be able to demonstrate an understanding of the sources of public international law related to the United Nations; be able to demonstrate a knowledge of the law relating to the functioning of international organisations; be familiar with the successes of the organisation as well as its shortcomings; be able to appreciate the causes of the difficulties experienced by an international organisation devoted to maintaining peace and security, including the problems of political interference, budgetary constraints and super-power rivalries; have a comprehensive understanding of the UN organs, as reflected in current developments. Generic Skills: improve oral skills and levels of confidence (because of the participatory nature of the seminar; also moots and other role-playing exercises are planned); develop problem-solving skills (in some seminars problems will be assigned to students who will be required to work in groups and then present their findings to the rest of the class); add to their communication skills; provide students with an opportunity to improve and develop their research skills online.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits