International RelationsWestern Social Science

IR 4701E Group Projects

This interdisciplinary course examines the workings and evolution of international relations from 1900 to the present day. The course focuses on key events, major developments and trends, and diverse international actors. Here are some examples of the group projects created by our students.

2015-2016: Pathway to Peace: Canada’s Re-engagement with UN Peace Operations

Group Project Photo 2016

The students of IR4702 spent the 2015-2016 academic year examining the history and evolution of United Nations peacekeeping focusing particularly on Canada’s contributions to that process. The election of a new Liberal government under the leadership of Justin Trudeau in October of 2015 provided the students a timely opportunity to devise policy recommendations in this area. In their report, the students argued that the Trudeau government’s stated desire to re-establish a close relationship with the UN could be achieved by revising Canada’s contributions to UN peace operations. Their three-part report made recommendations in three areas of peace operations: conflict prevention and mediation, peace enforcement, and post-conflict peace operations. These recommendations were presented to a panel of experts of both academics and practitioners - Brock Millman (Department of History, Western), Timothy Donais (Department of Global Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University), and Lieutenant General (Ret’d) Peter Devlin, (Former Commander of the Canadian Army). [Read the Report]


2014-2015: Doing Development: From Campus to Canada

Group Project Photo

In 2014-15, the class examined global development efforts and Canada’s global development policy. This was a propitious time to examine Canada’s global development policy, with the recent move of CIDA into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. 2015 is also the target deadline for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals; these targets have been stimulating reflection and assessment about the success and failures of global development efforts. With planning underway internationally to chart the post-2015 development agenda, the class had an opportunity to assess the history of global development, Canada’s role in global development, and consider options for future Canadian development policy as well as efforts at the international level to promote development. After writing a history of development and articulating their own philosophy of development, the class produced a report with two distinct but complementary parts. The first part assessed Canadian development policies and initiatives over the last ten years through the rubric of aid effectiveness. Students developed a report card in which they evaluated eight aspects of Canadian development, including local ownership, sustainability, politicization and budget size. The second part focused on the University of Western Ontario to determine how development was integrated into the undergraduate curriculum. Having determined that students wanted to learn more about global development but had few opportunities to do so, the class proposed reforms as well as new initiatives which would allow students to develop a global development consciousness and raise student awareness about global development issues. The class presented their report to a panel of experts – Terry Sicular (Department of Economics, Western), Craig Johnson (Department of Political Science, Guelph University) and Jeff Nankivell, Regional Director General for Asia, DFATD. You can read the report here. [Read the Report]


2013-2014: Winning Strategies: Canada’s Election to the Security Council of the United Nations

Group Project Photo

This year the students in IR4701E took up a Canadian topic for the group project: to devise a campaign to get Canada elected to the Security Council of the United Nations. Canada lost its bid for a Security Council seat in 201o, the first time it had failed to win a seat since 1946. The outcome was surprising and elicited disappointment and confusion. Commentaries on Canada’s “defeat” identified various explanations, including specific policies – such as environmental policies and declining involvement in peacekeeping missions – as well as general shifts, notably a detachment from the United Nations in recent years. Some blamed the defeat on a poorly run campaign. There were many contributing factors, but no definitive explanation of the result. The class used the 201o Security Council election as a point of departure to examine Canadian foreign policy, past and present, changes in the international community since 1945, as well as the evolution of the United Nations in order to devise a campaign to get Canada elected to the Security Council. In the end, the class developed two campaigns. The first campaign focused on current foreign policy and demonstrated its relevance to global security; the second campaign adopted a more reformist position, mapping out what they thought of as a relevant, engaged, and distinctive Canadian foreign policy that would reinforce the UN’s mandate to support global security, broadly defined. The students presented their report to two academic experts – Kim Nossal (Queen’s University) and Roland Paris (University of Ottawa) – and Paul Heinbecker, a career diplomat and former ambassador to Germany and permanent representative to the UN, and now a frequent commentator on Canadian foreign policy. [Read the Report]


2012-2013: Around the River Bend: Global Climate Change, Water Security, and the Implications for Canada

IR4701 2012-13

[Read the Report]

During Presentations 2012-13


2010-2011: Beyond the Heart of Darkness: A Diagnosis of the Failed State and Recommendations for Reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo

IR4701 Presenters 2010-11

In 2010-2011, the students of IR4701E studied the causes, forms and evolution of ‘hot’ conflicts of the 20th century, meaning conflicts that have involved violence or force. The conflicts took various forms, including inter-state, civil, ideological, economic, ethnic, cultural and environmental. The class examined case studies and adopted a comparative approach to understand the causes and resolution of conflicts. The second term was devoted to a group project which focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the mid-1990s, Congo (formerly Zaire) was the scene of years of violent conflict, following the upheaval of the Rwanda genocide. At various points, almost half of Africa’s states were either directly or indirectly involved in the various wars in Congo. These wars led to more than 5 million people being killed, many indirectly through disease or starvation. Some have termed this “Africa’s World War.” The shaky resolution of the Congo conflict in 2002 has not resolved the instability in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, nor in the Congo itself. Several insurgencies still rage in eastern Congo, and the prospect of further instability is high. The class brought together 35 graduating students who examined the causes of the conflict and the roots of instability. They also devised policy recommendations to promote positive change that would restore stability to the DRC and its people. The students focused on five issue areas: security, governance, the economy, the judiciary, and human rights. [Read the Report]

During Presentations 2010-11 During Presentations - 2010-11

The class presented their final report to two experts in the study of conflict: Professor Kim Nossal (Queen’s University) and Professor Ian Spears (University of Guelph).


2009-2010: A Blueprint for Peace in Afghanistan

2009-2010 Presentations Final 1 - with speakersIn 2009-2010, the students of IR4701E studied the causes, forms and evolution of ‘hot’ conflicts since 1900; the case studies included global, regional, inter-state, and sub-state conflicts, civil wars, and genocide. The seminar had three particular aims: to understand the causes of conflicts; to trace the course of conflicts; and to determine the goals, instruments and effectiveness of peace settlements. The group project was to draft a proposal to resolve the on-going conflict in Afghanistan. The class split into two ‘teams’. Team A analysed existing international agreements and objectives (outlined in the the Afghan Compact) and proposed ways to make them work more effectively; Team B was asked to conceive of an entirely new proposal that might lead to a more stable and peaceful situation in Afghanistan and minimize the involvement of the international community. Despite some pointed differences, the two teams reached similar positions about the importance of Afghan agency, far-reaching development, and the removal of international forces. [Read the Report]

IR4701E-2009-2010The class presented and defended their findings to three specialists in the study of conflict: Professor Kim Nossal (Queen's University), Professor David Welch (the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the University of Waterloo), and Professor Ian Spears (University of Guelph).


2008-2009: Canada and the World: 2009 and Beyond

The 2008-09 class of IR 4701 with their distinguished guests

In 2008-2009, the undergraduate program in International Relations was completely phased in as IR4701E was offered for the first time. Francine McKenzie (History) and Tom Deligiannis (Political Science) designed the course as a study of Canada’s external relations. The main part of the course was a group project: a review of the Harper government’s foreign policy. The final report –Canada and the World: 2009 and Beyond - examined Canada’s current foreign policy in three categories: Economic Strategy, the Environment, and Security. [Read the Report]