Minor Global Poverty, Local Solutions


Broadening minor
Minor code

Debates, Policies and Transformative interventions

Programme which has the coordinating role for this minor:

International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague

Other programmes which are contributing to the minor:

Individual guest lecturers (a.o. Jan Pronk and Jan Breman)


See toelatingsmatrix


Despite enormous increases in global wealth and phenomenal technological progress, global poverty has remained, inequality has increased and the global governance system appears unable to address these major problems. This course will provide students with the tools to understand the persistence of global poverty. It provides insights in the causes of poverty and inequality, the relevant global governance institutions, and the local solutions to exclusion that have emerged across the globe. The explanations will draw on multiple social-science disciplines, including international economics, sociology and anthropology, political science, environmental sciences, and international law. However, the course does not require a background in any of these disciplines.

Learning objectives

Students will be able to:

  • assess global trends in poverty and impoverishment;
  • comprehend and apply various conceptualizations of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion, analyze the multidimensional manifestations of poverty, and have an insight into the position of women and children as particularly vulnerable groups;
  • develop an understanding of the design, potentialities and limits of current poverty reduction schemes and programmes at macro, meso and micro levels;
  • identify alternative strategies, policy interventions and innovative subaltern responses aimed at eliminating poverty on the basis of principles of gender justice and social and economic justice.

Specific characteristics

Proficiency in reading, speaking, and writing in the English language is essential. Exposure to the general media that report on global problems will be important as a starting point for this course.


Maximum number of students that can participate in the minor: 50
Minimum number of students that can participate in the minor: 10

Contact hours: 100 

Overview modules

Module 1: Why Does Global Poverty Persist?

  • Code: T.B.A.
  • ECTS:  3.75
  • Content: This module will provide an introduction to the analysis of global poverty. It will provide insight into the main concepts of poverty and inequality and alternative explanations on the persistence of growing global inequalities. It will give an overview of major trends in wealth accumulation in different regions and how the increase of social problems of inequality and environmental degradation are directly associated with patterns of development.
  • Teaching method: Participatory lectures, movies, tutorials.
  • Teaching materials:  Electronic reader with core articles by ISS staff and other international scholars, movies.
  • Contact hours: 25

Module 2: Why Has Global Governance Failed to Address Growing Exclusion?

  • Code: T.B.A.
  • ECTS: 3.75
  • Content: This part of the course examines global institutions and their limitations in addressing global poverty. Students will get insight into the historical evolvement of, and attempts to reform, institutions like the UN, the World Bank, IMF and the growing importance of regional institutions. It will discuss the role of development aid as well as the critique on aid, different country approaches, and how domestic politics influence these.
  • Teaching method: Participatory lectures, movies, role playing game, tutorials.
  • Teaching materials: Electronic reader with core articles by ISS staff and other international scholars, movies, game.
  • Contact hours: 25

Module 3: Which Local Solutions Have Worked?

  • Code: T.B.A.
  • ECTS:  7.5
  • Content: The third module offers students an insight into the manifold local approaches that have been successful in addressing the negative consequences of global economic and political developments. Case studies from various continents and fields of intervention are discussed, offering constructive perspectives to dealing with poverty and inequality.
  • Teaching method: Participatory lectures, movies, role playing game, tutorials, working groups and group presentations, meetings with international ISS students.
  • Teaching materials:  Electronic reader with core articles by ISS staff and other international scholars, movies, game.
  • Contact hours: 50


Method of examination

Invigilated mid-term exam for modules 1 and 2, invigilated end-term exam for module 3, with a choice out of a range of open questions; take-home essay on a topic selected by the student; group presentation.

Composition of final grade

Exams (2 * 30% = 60%), essay (30%), group presentation (10%)


Substantive written evaluation of all assessment components by the course leade

Personal Experiences

Eelco Kramer

As a history student, I was very much interested in the causes of poverty, inequality and social exclusion. The course Global Poverty, Local Solutions gave me exactly what I was looking for: a better understanding of what poverty actually is and how the mechanisms of social and economic exclusion work. As the course draws on multiple disciplines it teaches a very brought understanding of the current situation of global poverty. In addition, the course examines the role of international institutions and the different local approaches that address global poverty. Beside that, the ISS is a great learning environment with a very nice atmosphere. All together, the course really gave me a better understanding of the world itself and where we, as a global community, stand today.

Marco Voormolen

The Minor course Global Poverty was a great introduction into poverty studies. The small classes allowed lots of room for discussion and own input, as did the interactive projects and games. The researchers and tutors from all over the world are truly passionate about their work and that shows in their lectures. Most Dutch universities are becoming more school-like and restrictive. Not this course: there is a lot of freedom to do what you want and to decide when you want to do it, you are completely free to focus on the sections of poverty studies that you're interested in. In the end: The more you put into it, the more you get out of it! What you want to get out of it, is mostly up to you.

Mohd L. Iqbal

As a sociology student I'm familiar with the concepts of inequality, exclusion and the power play that is inherent in social interactions. I'm familiar with the idea that social-structural forces can dictate the outcomes of individual lives, even at the expense of the individuals willpower. I understood poverty in that same sense, therefore it is not surprising that  the most memorable phrase I encountered was: 'Power and poverty are mutually exclusive'. But what does this really mean, does it pertain to specific actors or ideologies responsible for someone's poverty? Is it about world systems that structurally inhibit poor individuals to escape the maelstrom that is impoverished life (a la Wallerstein)?

On of the objectives of the course is to shed light on this question. It does a good job in giving participants a quick overview of the playing ground that is poverty reduction. The program covers major areas for example the WB, IMF and the WTO and their role in development assistance; it tackles national policy programs like the question between universal or targeted support, for example the Brasilian case of Bolsa Escola; it discusses survival strategies of the poor and how official legislators are slowing down progress because they do not understand these strategies and finally it provides insights in the way we actually see the poor . People participating in this course can expect the academic way of working that incorporates critical thinking and evidence-based arguments. It has to because poverty reduction is not only about pointing the finger but of truly understanding the phenomenon of poverty, the way we see it and the way it ought to be seen.

In the end we should of course not forget that the problem of poverty is not something we can distance ourselves from, poverty is a real thing. The problems poor people face are not a facade or a mirage of their imagination. Therefore I would like to spoil the surprise and share the second-most memorable phrase that I picked up in this course: Poverty is a call to action.

Contact information

Contact person

Name: Erhard Berner
E-mail: berner@iss.nl
Phonenumber: 070 - 426 0598
Room: ISS 4.34

Faculty website


Broadening minor
Minor code
International Institute of Social Studies
Study points (ECTS)
Instruction language

Den Haag


More information follows.