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Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
UAB Barcelona Summer School

Contemporary Challenges in International Relations


We live in an increasingly complex, interconnected, and rapidly changing world. A world which generates many challenges. We want to help students to be better prepared to understand our world, analyse it, explain it and intervene on those matters most important to them. The agenda of the course is vast, but we have selected some issues to offer a comprehensive overview of key topics, such as polarization in contemporary democracies, peace and security, gender and armed conflict, human rights, and the multidimensional global geopolitical competition. And we will study this with cases from Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. The sessions will include lectures, in-class debates, small-groups projects, and presentations by the students.


  1. Introduction to International Relations (lecturer: J.P. Soriano). Students will review major characteristics of the current international scenario and will be introduced to some of the key elements of the analytical toolbox of International Relations with three examples: levels of analysis (factors influencing state behaviour), polarity (international power distribution), and leader's personality traits.
  2. Latin America: regional and international challenges in an emerging international order (lecturer: J.P. Soriano). Students will identify and analyse contemporary regional and international challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean. This will be done from a multidimensional perspective, but special attention will be given to political and economic regional integration; regional security and transnational crime; Latin America’s relations with the United States, the European Union, and China; and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the region.
  3. Gender and Armed Conflicts (lecturer: B. Camps-Febrer). The aim of these sessions is to tackle the relevance and impact of gender within all the phases of armed conflicts. Following the work of feminist scholars and activists, we will approach the gendered nature of conflict, from the gendered knowledge production about conflict to the everyday practices of violence and how they are traversed and reproduced by different gender relations. We will learn how the inclusion of gender is an indispensable analytical category that improves the potential for transformation of armed conflicts: from the agency of local women and civil society groups to the global Women, Peace and Security Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  4. The Sustainable Development Goals: development, peace and security challenges” (lecturer: P. Aguiar). On 2015 General Assembly of the United Nations approved the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Its implications are not only focused on the international dimension. It is a call for a substantial change on public policies at all levels. The subject will analyse the origins of the 2030 Agenda and then will make an overview of how SDG’s are being implemented. Furthermore, a process of building indicators of concepts such as Development, Peace or Security has been done, and will also be reviewed.
  5. Polarization: endemic problem of contemporary democracies (lecturer: P. Aguiar). Conflicts are part of human nature. To transform them and move forward, they must be managed in a peaceful and constructive manner.  This requires dialogue, debate, and the confrontation of ideas. This exchange of ideas can take place based on extreme positions: this is polarization and is part of democratic culture. However, for some time now, we have been encountering a perverse dynamic by which dialogue and debate have lost part of their meaning.  It is a growing phenomenon in many consolidated democracies, affecting coexistence and social cohesion. It is what we call “toxic polarization”. In addition, we are going to learn why is happening, how can we identify it and different ways to tackle it.

Courses generally have little or no prerequisite knowledge required for a given topic, however if students face any doubts, we recommend they contact course professors to clarify.

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