Spring 2020 - IS 101 D200

Global Challenges of the 21st Century: An Introduction to International Studies (3)

Class Number: 5842

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    SSCC 9002, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 23, 2020
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby



Introduces the interdisciplinary field of International Studies to all undergraduates and IS majors. Examines the major global challenges of our time, including poverty and inequality, environmental degradation, nationalism, civil war, and armed conflict. Explores the challenge of global governance and global citizenship. Breadth-Humanities/Social Sciences.


This course examines some of the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century, which are related to conflict and security, poverty and inequality, nationalism, development, migration, environmental change, and global health. We will explore the conditions that give rise to these challenges and we will assess different ways of addressing or responding to them. To understand the multifaceted nature of these problems, we will focus on research from across the social sciences; and, we will discuss this research in relation to recent news articles and contemporary events.

The course also provides students with a foundation for understanding international affairs. We will survey central aspects of the contemporary global order and examine some of the key actors in global governance and world affairs.

We will explore the following questions:
• What are the causes and consequences of war and armed conflict; and, how can such conflicts be prevented?
• Why has poverty persisted in different areas of the world and what should be done to reduce it?
• In what ways has democracy been challenged and weakened by globalization and inequality, populism, and conflict?
• How does international human rights law protect individuals from political violence and from other threats to their security, dignity, and well-being?
• Why is it difficult to address environmental problems at a global level? How might progress be made in responding to these challenges?
• What are the most significant challenges in improving global health? What role do international organizations play in addressing these challenges?
• Should infectious diseases, like Ebola or the Zika virus, be treated as “security threats”?

In addition to a two-hour lecture each week, there will be a weekly one-hour tutorial. Tutorials will start in the second week of classes.


After successfully completing this course, students will have developed an ability to:
• Describe and critically analyze the nature and causes of contemporary global challenges related to security, development, environmental change, migration and global health
• Describe and evaluate international responses to these challenges
• Describe and critically analyze key aspects of and processes in contemporary global affairs, including: the state system, capitalism, globalization, and the human rights regime
• Describe and critically assess the roles played by states, intergovernmental organizations, and nongovernmental organizations in addressing global challenges
• Communicate ideas clearly and persuasively in writing


  • Short Essay (900 words) 20%
  • Briefing Note (750 words) 15%
  • Midterm Exam 20%
  • Final Exam 35%
  • Tutorial Participation 10%


Students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin.com in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.



Required readings will be available electronically online or on reserve (via Canvas).

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html