Course Proposal: Foreign Policy Challenges of Small States

Course Proposal

Title: Foreign Policy Challenges of Small States: A Look at the Contemporary Caribbean

Instructor: Michelle Munroe

Subject area: International Relations, Non-Traditional Security Issues, and the Caribbean

Approx. Level of Course: Advanced Undergraduate

Envisioned approximate size of class: 25


The end of the Cold War symbolizes a major change in international relations, the end of one historical era of U.S primacy and the beginning of another. A few have even labeled the end of the Cold War era as the age of globalization. However, the process of increasing integration of the world in terms of economics, politics, communications, social relations, and culture has also increasingly undermined traditional state sovereignty. As a result, the sustained primacy of the U.S seems doubtful today. It has never been more clear that no single state, no matter how powerful, can deter or prevent ethnic conflicts, civil wars, and human rights abuses. Further, responses to the pervasiveness of transnational threats such as the global financial crisis of 2008, communicable diseases, and terrorism have demanded multilateral engagement. A changing international setting, the presence of new actors, and an increasingly public foreign policy environment has more recently contributed to changes in the nature of American foreign policy. However the foreign policy environment of the often neglected small state has historically been shaped by transnational actors and events. This allows for a study of small states within the current international system, given that the policy constraints faced by powerful and by small states in the current era are increasingly aligned.

This course will explore the impact of globalization on the sovereignty, democracy, and development of small states in general. More specifically, it will focus on small states in the Caribbean region. The point I want to students to take away is that within an increasingly global world small states have not withered away. Rather, small states use their experience working with transnational issues to navigate through an increasingly complex world. Globalization has provided them with challenges and avenues to maintain their relevance and importance within the international system.

We will do select readings from the following:

  • Small States in Global Affairs: The Foreign Policies of the Caribbean Community—Jacqueline Braveboy-Wagner
  • Caribbean Challenges and Opportunities—Kenneth Hall and Chuck-A-Sang
  • Foreign Policy theories, Actors, Cases—Steve Smith, Hadfield and Dunne
  • Understanding the Contemporary Caribbean—Richard Hillman and D-Agostino
  • Globalization: A Calculus of Inequality Perspectives from the South—Denis Benn and Hall

The course will start by exploring the concept of globalization and discussing the ‘rise of the rest’. It will introduce the study of foreign policy and the concept of small states within a theoretical discussion of sovereignty and a changing international system. Using country case studies, it will then move through an introduction of the Caribbean [its location, history, politics, and economics], as well as explore the foreign policy challenges that Caribbean states face [new markets, new actors, new rules], and how these states approach these challenges [multilateral cooperation and regional integration]. The course will end with a look at several foreign policy issues common to the region such as climate change, migration, organized crime, drug trafficking, and diplomatic relations and strategic linkages between the Caribbean and other actors. In the class, students are assigned supplemental readings and will use these readings to lead class discussions. Students will also post weekly blogs on relevant events taking place in the region and on the weeks readings. In this way students gain a firm understanding of the increasing complexity that globalization has brought to foreign policy making, as well as to the strategies that small states in the Caribbean apply; further reinforcing their resilience. In keeping with the goals of the department, students will learn to answer relevant interesting questions using a variety of appropriate and sophisticated methods.


Week Topic Details
Part 1: Introduction to concepts and Foreign Policy Approaches
1 What is foreign policy analysis (FPA)?
2 Theories of FP Part 1 Realism, liberalism,
3 Theories of FP Part 2 Constructivism, discourse analysis
4 FP in the era of globalization Intermestic politics, complex interdependence
5 Geopolitics of FP part 1:

Major, Middle, Small and Emerging powers

Major state and the search for primacy, middle states and multilateralism, small states and the search for security
6 Geopolitics and FP part 2:

Welcome to the Caribbean

Foreign policy culture, overview of the Caribbean and its Foreign Policy Decision Environment
Part 2: Focus on actors and structured involved in FP
7 The role of the domestic environment: part 1 Caribbean political electoral systems, political turmoil, decision-making
8 The role of the domestic environment: part 2 Public foreign policy environment-public opinion, media
9 The role of the external environment: part 1 Political-security issues:


Border disputes, interventions, maritime disputes

Haiti, Guyana, Belize, Suriname, Dominica

10 The role of the external environment: part 2

Economic and social interests

Trade dependence, aid, loans, energy dependence IGOs, NGOs


Part 3 Foreign Policy Issues
11 Climate Change, environmental vulnerabilities Maritime pollution from plutonium transshipping. Natural disaster preparedness
12 Refugees and Migrants Haitian crises
13 Narcotics and organized crime, terrorism Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago. The Bahamas
14 Diplomatic relations and strategic linkages Europe-Caribbean relations, U.S-Caribbean relations, Chino-Caribbean relations, and Canadian- Caribbean
15 Past, Present, Future: FP of small states in the Caribbean



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