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5 United Nations Courses You Can Audit for Free

In 1945, the United Nations was established as a replacement to the League of Nations. The intergovernmental UN has many responsibilities, including maintaining peace and security, developing good relations between nations, promoting international cooperation, and more. It’s the world’s largest international organization. In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, laying the groundwork for universal human rights and human rights law. The UN system is complex and multi-faceted. Here are five courses exploring the UN and different aspects of its mission:

Social Norms, Social Change

From: the University of Pennsylvania + UNICEF
Time to complete: 4 weeks (13 hours total)

This course explores social norms, which are the rules that hold societies together. Students learn to identify basic concepts and definitions, like conditional preferences, social expectations, and social norms. How they’re different from social constructs like customs is also explored. Over 4 weeks, students will learn why distinguishing social norms is so important for effective policy interventions, as well as how to create new norms and eliminate harmful ones. Many examples are given, such as the norms that lead to behaviors like gender violence and child marriage. “Social Norms, Social Change” is part 1 of a series. Part 2 puts what students learned in part 1 into practice.

No prerequisites are required for this beginner course. The weekly work commitment ranges from 2-5 hours. The course takes 13 hours total spread over 4 weeks.

Global Diplomacy: The United Nations in the World

From: The University of London + SOAS University of London
Time to complete: 7 weeks (12 hours total)

A great choice for anyone interested in the UN, this course introduces the UN “family,” its history, and its key functions. Students will explore major UN themes while developing analytical policy-based skills and communication. Weekly topics include how the UN Security Council works, the place of human rights in international politics, and how the UN responds to crises. By the course’s end, students will have a thorough understanding of the UN, up-to-date research and perspectives, and the ability to discuss the UN.

No prerequisites are required. With a weekly commitment of 2 hours (the first week is just 1 hour), students should complete the course in 7 weeks. The last week (“Where Next for the UN?”) is optional.

The Sustainable Development Goals – A Global, Transdisciplinary Vision for the Future

From: The University of Copenhagen
Time to complete: 3 weeks (about 10 hours total)

One of the UN’s main goals is achieving international cooperation by solving international problems. Launched in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals consist of 17 interlinked global goals – like ending poverty – to build a “better and more sustainable future for all.” In this course, students get a historical overview of sustainability, an intro to the SDGs and how they’re measured, and why they’re relevant to humanity. Students also learn about the stakeholders involved in the SDGs.

As a beginner class, no prerequisites are required beyond an interest in the UN and SDGs. The class takes 3 weeks with a 3-hour weekly study commitment.

International Organizations Management

From: The University of Geneva
Time to complete: 6 weeks (about 18 hours total)

This course takes students through the inner workings of international organizations and the United Nations, and how business and management tools apply to them. Each week focuses on a different facet of international organizations, such as leadership in the UN system, public-private partnerships, and marketing and fundraising. By the course’s end, students will have an understanding of international organizations, the challenges they face, and effective management tools and principles.

“International Organizations Management” is offered by the International Organizations MBA of the University of Geneva, a program geared toward change-makers in NGOs, international organizations, and social ventures. No prerequisites are required. Spread over 6 weeks, the course takes about 18 hours to complete.

The Changing Global Order

From: Leiden University
Time to complete: 7 weeks (about 30 hours)

In this course, students learn how international power relations are changing and how international and regional organizations contribute to global peace and security. Research on the ability of international organizations and actors to prevent and respond to violent conflict is explored, as well as what tools are used. Organizations examined include the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the African Union, and the United Nations Security Council. By the course’s end, students will understand critical concepts and why studying international relations is part of global peace and stability.

“The Changing Global Order” is an intermediate class, but there aren’t any specific prerequisites listed. A basic understanding of international organizations and the UN system will no doubt be helpful. Course sections are spread across 7 weeks for a total of 30 hours.

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.