Right v Might - New online course on international law

Published: 18 June 2014

The University of Glasgow has launched a new online course aimed at helping people to understand international law and its impact and role in society.

The University of Glasgow has launched a new online course aimed at helping people to understand international law and its impact and role in society.

‘Right versus Might in International Law’ is a free six-week programme offered through online learning portal Future Learn and will help subscribers tackle a subject which is often in the news.

Through a series of video lectures, quizzes and suggested reading requiring around four hours per week of study time, the course will provide students with a broad overview of the subject and a certificate of completion.

The programme offers a taster of international law for anyone interested in studying the subject further.

Click here to sign up and find out more

Professor Christian Tams, International Law Chair who is leading the programme, said: “When major foreign policy disputes hit the headlines, international law is never very far away.

“In fact, in official statements, it often plays a surprisingly prominent role. Both the US and Russia have accused each other of violating international law in recent months – in the cases of Syria and Ukraine.

“These are just two examples, but they illustrate that appeals to international law are an important part of international diplomacy. Often, these appeals remain appeals only, and the law seems powerless to affect reality. But international law shapes arguments and provides a frame of reference. Even where it does not control policy, it matters. This is the first premise for our course on 'Right versus Might in International Relations'.  

“The second is this: while international law matters at some level, discussions about international law can be quite frustrating. Partly, this is because debates are dominated by 'legalese' terminology, and partly, there may be room for a more informed public debate. International law is one of those topics on which everyone tends to have firm – but not always informed – views. 

 “Our course on 'Right versus Might' proceeds from these two premises. As instructors, we feel that international law can provide guidance on major conflicts; that its voice needs to be heard, especially during major crises.”

The tutors will discuss six important debates: the ethics of drone strikes, counter-terrorism, piracy, chemical weapons, Guantanamo Bay and investment protection, and for each of them set out the applicable legal framework. 

Prof Tams added : “Our aim has been to highlight the legal sides of some of the high-profile conflicts of recent years: Can States use drones against terrorists? Should international law protect foreign investors? Why does the US operate a military base in Guantanamo, on Cuba? And what can be done if a government uses chemical weapons against its citizens?

“Needless to say, our course does not purport to solve these questions. But it introduces the legal framework, and it hopefully allows us all to have an informed debate.”

The ‘Right versus Might in International Relations’ course is open for registration on Future Learn and commences on 23 June.


First published: 18 June 2014

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