Inside European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium

Cooperation in the Contemporary World: Unlocking International Politics

Why do we cooperate? How can we achieve more lasting forms of cooperation? This course explores the puzzle of cooperation in international politics today.

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About the course

As world leaders seek to find a solution to crises in Syria and Ukraine; economists try to reinvigorate stalling global financial markets and a range of actors gather to find a consensus on climate change – there has never been a better time to understand the puzzle of cooperation. Achieving cooperation on such issues is the defining concern of international politics in the 21st century and this course will introduce you to the range of political strategies that have been employed to meet these challenges.

From institutions that bring together partners in meaningful and lasting agreements to more fragile and limited attempts to open dialogue between adversaries, Cooperation in the contemporary world offers you an insight into the diversity of the forms of cooperation that make up international politics today. We will also explore a number of the major theoretical approaches that can help us make sense of the opportunities for and limitations of cooperation in an increasingly globalised and interdependent world.

Cooperation in the contemporary world offers you the opportunity to learn according to your interests and available time. We’ve split each week into activities which can be completed together or individually. We will explore cooperation through six case study ‘puzzles’ (each lead by an expert from within the University of Birmingham) which reflect the issues and concerns that dominate current international agendas.

Week 1 - Cooperation between Partners
NATO (Professor Mark Webber) and the European Union (Dr Graham Timmins)
Week 2 - Cooperation between Diverse Actors
Climate Change (Dr Fiona Nunan and Dr Sevasti-Eleni Vezirgiannidou) and Peace Building (Professor Paul Jackson)
Week 3 - Cooperation between Enemies
Cold War (Professor Nicholas J Wheeler) and Sino-Japanese Security (Dr Julie Gilson)

So whichever parts you choose, you will experience a practical, interactive and personal encounter with the politics of cooperation in the contemporary world.

This course draws on the insights of leading researchers and practitioners from the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS); Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS); and International Development Department (IDD) within the School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham.

See why cooperation is so important and relevant by following us on Twitter. You can use the hashtag #FLcooperation to join and contribute to Twitter conversations about this course.

You can read more about this course on the FutureLearn blog.


This course is aimed at anyone interested in developing their understanding of cooperation and/or contemporary international politics. It will be of particular interest to those considering or currently studying politics, international development or related fields.

Whilst no prior knowledge is required, we actively encourage the participation of individuals with practical experience within NGOs, the armed forces, aid/donor agencies, government agencies, policy making and think tanks.

Get a personalised, printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised, printed certificate to show that you’ve taken part.