Fall 2023 - IS 307 D100

International Ethics: Poverty, Environmental Change, & War (4)

Class Number: 4542

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Oct 6, 2023: Tue, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

    Oct 11 – Dec 5, 2023: Tue, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 10, 2023
    Sun, 9:00–9:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Examines ethical issues of global concern, with a focus on debates about poverty, environmental change, and armed conflict. Introduces students to relevant political and ethical theories, such as cosmopolitanism and nationalism, utilitarianism, theories of human rights, and ethics of care. Assesses various policy responses to these global challenges. Students who have taken IS 319 with this topic may not take this course for further credit.


Globalization, which has created a more interconnected world, has been accompanied by persistent and in some ways deepening patterns of inequality. Disparities in income and in access to a clean and secure environment are especially striking. This course examines a range of ethical debates about these inequalities. We will ask: What obligations do affluent states and their citizens have to ameliorate the suffering caused by extreme poverty in the Global South? In what ways and to what extent are relatively wealthy states and individuals obligated to act? What are the limits of our obligations to reduce suffering beyond our borders? And, in the context of climate change, what are our obligations to future generations? What is the most defensible and fair way to address the problem of global warming? Under what conditions and for what purposes (if any) is it justifiable to use military force, or to wage war? What responsibilities do relatively powerful states have for protecting people in other countries whose lives or livelihoods are in danger because of violence, on-going war, or environmental change?

We will begin our examination of these important issues by looking at a range of contending ethical perspectives on them. We will then turn to the practical question of what should be done to address these problems. We will examine and evaluate various policy initiatives and proposals aimed at addressing global poverty, climate change, and  a range of other pressing global challenges.


  1. To help you gain a deeper understanding of the role that ethical values and ethical disagreements play in international affairs.
  2. To help you develop the skills needed to articulate your ethical viewpoints clearly and coherently, and to defend them in effective ways.
  3. To introduce you to a set of concepts that can help you analyze and ethically evaluate different policy responses to pressing global challenges.
  4. More generally, the course aims to help students develop the analytical and critical skills that are needed to understand contemporary global problems in their complexity, as well as the skills needed to communicate clearly and persuasively about them.


  • Research Essay 35%
  • Midterm Exam 20%
  • Final Exam 30%
  • Participation 15%



Olúfémi O. Táíwò, Reconsidering Reparations (Oxford, 2022)

Other required readings will be available online or on reserve (via Canvas).


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.