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portrait of Professor Peter Willetts

Professor Peter Willetts

Emeritus Professor of Global Politics

School of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of International Politics

Contact Information


Postal Address

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom



Professor Willetts was a pioneer in the study of the transnational relations of non-governmental organisations. His 1982 book, Pressure Groups in the Global System, was the first academic study of the subject published in Britain. He went on to produce two further books, a set of case-studies in 1996 on the influence of NGOS in the United Nations, 'The Conscience of the World' and an overview in 2011 of NGOs and the construction of global governance Non-Governmental Organizations in World Politics. One chapter of the latter book demonstrates the crucial role of NGOs in the creation of the Internet in the 1980s (prior to the existence of the web).

Although he retired officially in 2008, the signature on e-mails from Professor Willetts includes the phrase “Not retired, but on permanent sabbatical”. He has continued with his research interest in NGOs. He contributed a chapter to the Handbook of Research on NGOs, edited by Aynsley Kellow and Hannah Murphy-Gregory, (Elgar, 2018). This updates his earlier work on the role of NGOs at the United Nations, outlining significant changes that have occurred since 2010. He also wrote a short essay as the Foreword to the Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations, edited by Dr Thomas Davies, (2019).

The problem with studying NGOs in the 1980s and 1990s was that mainstream scholars dismissed NGOs as only affecting “low politics” and not the “high politics” of armed conflict and security issues. Professor Willetts realised it was necessary to provide a theoretical framework to assert the place of NGOs in global politics. In the 1980s, he became one of the first constructivists in Britain, arguing that an issue-based approach to mobilisation of support for values was central to the study of politics. In July 1992, he presented a paper on “The Issue of Issues in Regime Theory” to the British International Studies Association, Global Environmental Change Group. This became the basis of his contribution to the Group’s book on The Environment and International Relations, (Routledge, 1996). The ideas were elaborated more thoroughly in Willetts’ 2011 book on NGOs.

Professor Willetts has produced two books on the Non-Aligned Movement and, edited with Barry Jones, a set of theoretical essays on interdependence. He continues to write a review each year on “The Non-Aligned Movement and Developing Countries” for The Annual Register of World Events, which was started in 1758. The next edition due out in mid-2020, covering events in 2019, will contain his forty-first annual contribution.

Peter Willetts joined City, University of London in October 1973, as part of the team teaching International Relations on a multi-disciplinary degree in Systems Science. Working in this context, he moved away from the traditional state-centric approach to the subject and adopted a holistic approach at the global level. This was evident in two ways. Firstly, he focused on global intergovernmental institutions and insisted they could not be understood solely in terms of the policies of their constituent members. Interactions within the UN influence its policy outputs and then feedback to influence governments and societies around the world. Secondly, he argued that countries are not closed political systems and each civil society has transnational relations with other societies and with international organisations. This is demonstrated in his three books on NGOs. When Peter Willetts was promoted to a personal chair in October 1998, it is not surprising that he chose the title, Professor of Global Politics.

In 1998, Professor Willetts transferred to the Department of Sociology, where he established the Human Rights MA Programme, in collaboration with Professor Tony Woodiwiss. This led to Professor Willetts being asked to write the programme specification for a new BSc in International Politics, which took its first students in September 2005. Initially, the degree was provided by a Centre for International Politics, within the Department of Sociology. Then, the university formally established a new Department of International Politics in July 2008. After Professor Willetts retired in September 2008, he continued providing his module on “NGOs, Human Rights and the United Nations System” for two more years. When he stopped teaching, Senate honoured him with the title of Emeritus Professor.


  1. Emeritus Professor of Global Politics, City, University of London, Jun 2010 – present
  2. Professor of Global Politics, City, University London, Oct 1998 – Jun 2010
  3. Reader in International Relations, City, University of London, Oct 1993 – Sep 1998
  4. Senior Lecturer in International Relations, City, University of London, Oct 1988 – Sep 1993
  5. Lecturer in International Relations, City, University of London, Oct 1973 – Sep 1988


Books (6)

  1. Willetts, P. (2010). Non-Governmental Organizations in World Politics The Construction of Global Governance. Routledge, Global Institutions Series. ISBN 978-1-136-84853-7.
  2. Willetts, P. (Ed.), (1996). "The Conscience of the World" The Influence of Non-Governmental Organisations in the UN System. Brookings Institution Press, Washington; Hurst and Co., London. ISBN 978-0-8157-9419-6.
    (Seary, B., Willetts, P., Cleary, S., Hoggart, R., Morphet, S., Connors, J. … Sankey, J., Contributors)
  3. Willetts, P. and Jones, R.J.B. (Eds.), (1984). Interdependence on Trial. Studies in the Theory and Reality of Contemporary Interdependence. Frances Pinter Publishers, London; St Martin's Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-312-41900-4.
    (Smith, S., Little, R., MacLean, J., Smith, M. and Vogler, J., Contributors)
  4. Willetts, P. (Ed.), (1982). Pressure Groups in the Global System. The Transnational Relations of Issue-Oriented Non-Governmental Organizations. Frances Pinter Publishers, London; St Martin's Press, New York. ISBN 0-86187-224-X.
    (Minty, A., Gilmour, D., Ennals, M., Stamp, E., Burke, T., Ashworth, G. … Jaeger, G., Contributors)
  5. Willetts, P. (1981). The Non-Aligned in Havana. Documents of the Sixth Summit Conference and an Analysis of their Significance for the Global Political System. Frances Pinter Publisher, London; St. Martin's Press, New York. ISBN 0-903804-80-8.
  6. Willetts, P. (1978). The Non-Aligned Movement. The Origins of a Third World Alliance. Frances Pinter, London; Nichols Publishing, New York; Popular Prakashan, Bombay:. ISBN 0-89397-044-1.

Chapters (22)

  1. Willetts, P. (2019). Non-Aligned Movement and Developing Countries. In Lewis, D.S. and Slater, W. (Eds.), The Annual Register, Vol. 260. World Events 2018. [Previous contributions have been published in Vols.221-259, covering events in 1979-2017, respectively.] (pp. 361–364). Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest. ISBN 978-1-61540-495-7.
  2. Willetts, P. (2019). Foreword. In Davies, T. (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations (pp. xix–xxv). London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-28550-7.
  3. Willetts, P. (2018). NGOs as insider participants: evolution of the role of NGOs at the United Nations. In Kellow, A. and Murphy-Gregory, H. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on NGOs (pp. 56–94). Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar. ISBN 978-1-78536-167-8.
  4. Willetts, P. (2013). Representation of private organizations in the global diplomacy of economic policy-making. In Ronit, K. and Schneider, V. (Eds.), Private Organisations in Global Politics (pp. 34–58). London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-63486-6.
  5. Willetts, P. (2009). Non-Governmental Organizations. In Kütting, G.M. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems. Conventions, Treaties And Other Responses To Global Issues - Volume II (pp. 229–248). Paris: EOLSS Publications for UNESCO. ISBN 978-1-84826-234-8.
  6. Willetts, P. (2009). The International Monetary Fund. In Kütting, G.M. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems. Conventions, Treaties and Other Responses to Global Issues - Volume II (pp. 148–166). Paris: EOLSS Publications for UNESCO. ISBN 978-1-84826-684-1.
  7. Willetts, P. (2004). Remedying the World Trade Organisation's Deviance from Global Norms. In Griffith, P. and Thurston, J. (Eds.), Free and Fair: Making the Progressive Case for Removing Trade Barriers (pp. 131–140). London: The Foreign Policy Centre. ISBN 1-903558-46-8.
  8. Willetts, P. (2001). Transnational Actors and International Organizations in Global Politics. In Bayliss, J.B., Smith, S. and Owens, P. (Eds.), The Globalization of World Politics (first to sixth editions) Oxford University Press.
  9. Willetts, P. (2000). Die NGOs repräsentieren die Gesellschaft. In Tolmein, O. (Ed.), Welt Macht Recht Konflikte im internationalen System nach dem Kosovo-Krieg ; Gespräche mit Cherif Bassiouni, Thomas Bruha, Ernst-Otto Czempiel, Christopher Greenwood, John Groom, Ingeborg Maus, Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann, Carla del Ponte, Bruno Simma, Peter Willetts (pp. 135–145). Hamburg: Konkret Literatur Verlag. ISBN 978-3-89458-186-2.
  10. Willetts, P. (1999). The Rules of the Game. The United Nations and Civil Society. In Foster, J.W. and Anand, A. (Eds.), Whose World is it Anyway? Civil Society, The United Nations and the Multilateral Future (pp. 247–284). Ottawa: The United Nations Association in Canada. ISBN 0-9699816-7-8.
  11. Willetts, P. (1998). Political globalization and the impact of NGOs upon transnational companies. In Mitchell, J. (Ed.), Companies in a World of Conflict: NGOs, Sanctions and Corporate Responsibility (pp. 195–226). Royal Institute of International Affairs, London; Earthscan, London. ISBN 1-85383-536-6.
  12. Willetts, P. (1996). Who cares about the environment? In Vogler, J. and Imber, M.F. (Eds.), The Environment and International Relations (pp. 120–137). Routledge, London and New York. ISBN 978-0-415-12215-3.
  13. Willetts, P. and Noguera, F. (1992). Public Attitudes and the Future of the Islands. In Danchev, A. (Ed.), International Perspectives on the Falklands Conflict. A Matter of Life and Death (pp. 236–267). Macmillan, London; St Martin's Press, New York. ISBN 0-333-52592-2.
  14. Willetts, P. (1990). Transactions, Networks and Systems. In Groom, A.J.R. and Taylor, P. (Eds.), Frameworks for International Co-operation (pp. 255–284). Pinter Publishers, London; St Martin's Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-312-03182-4.
  15. Willetts, P. (1990). The Political Culture of Non-Alignment: Third World or Global Solidarity? In Shvob-Djokich, N. (Ed.), The Cultural and Scientific Dimension of Non-Alignment Zagreb: Yugoslav Lexigraphic Institute.
  16. Willetts, P. (1989). Interdependence: New Wine in Old Bottles. In Rosenau, J.N. and Trompe, H. (Eds.), Interdependence and Conflict in World Politics (pp. 195–210). Aldershot, Hants; Brookfield VT: Avebury, Gower Publishing Company. ISBN 0-566-07046-4.
  17. Willetts, P. (1988). The United Nations as a Political System. In Taylor, P. and Groom, A.J.R. (Eds.), International Institutions at Work (pp. 21–38). Frances Pinter, London; St Martin's Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-86187-685-3.
  18. Willetts, P. (1986). Economic Co-operation and the Institutional Structure of the Non-Aligned Movement. In Stevanovich, M. (Ed.), The Policy and Movement of Non-Alignment - New Tendencies and Options. Belgrade: Institute of International Politics and Economics.
  19. Willetts, P. (1984). Latin America, the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. In Hopkins, J.W. (Ed.), Latin America and Caribbean Contemporary Record, Vol.II 1982-83, [plus contributions to Vol.III published in 1985 and Vol.IV published in 1986] New York: Holmes and Meier.
  20. Willetts, P. (1982). The Future of the Institutions of the Non-Aligned Movement. In Tadic, B. and Petkovic, R. (Eds.), Non alignment in the Eighties International Round Table, Petrovaradin, Yugoslavia, 28-31 August 1981 (pp. 333–346). Belgrade: Institute of International Politics and Economics.
  21. Willetts, P. (1981). The United Nations and the Transformation of the Inter-State System. In Buzan, B. and Jones, R.J.B. (Eds.), Change and the Study of International Relations The Evaded Dimension (pp. 100–119). Frances Pinter, London; St Martin's Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-903804-83-7.
  22. Willetts, P. The Pattern of Conferences. In Taylor, P. and Groom, A.J.R. (Eds.), Global Issues in the United Nations Framework (pp. 35–72). London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-349-07736-6.

Journal articles (4)

  1. Willetts, P. (2006). The Cardoso Report on the UN and Civil Society: Functionalism, Global Corporatism, or Global Democracy? Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations, 12(3), pp. 305–324. doi:10.1163/19426720-01203006.
  2. Willetts, P. (2000). From “Consultative Arrangements” to “Partnership”: The Changing Status of NGOs in Diplomacy at the UN. Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations, 6(2), pp. 191–212. doi:10.1163/19426720-00602003.
  3. Willetts, P. (1996). From Stockholm to Rio and beyond: the impact of the environmental movement on the United Nations consultative arrangements for NGOs. Review of International Studies, 22(1), pp. 57–80. doi:10.1017/s0260210500118455.
  4. Willetts, P. (1972). Cluster-Bloc Analysis and Statistical Inference. American Political Science Review, 66(2), pp. 569–582. doi:10.2307/1957800.

Reports (6)

  1. Willetts, P. (2016). Delimitation of the Argentine Continental Shelf, (May 2016, updated Sept 2016 ). London: South Atlantic Council, Occasional Paper Number 14.
  2. Willetts, P. (2013). A Report on the Referendum on the Political Status of the Falkland Islands. London: South Atlantic Council, Occasional Paper Number 12.
  3. Willetts, P. (2013). The Voice of Which People? Transnational Advocacy Networks and Governance Networks at the United Nations. City University London.
  4. Willetts, P. (2012). Distributed Sovereignty and the Falklands Islands (Malvinas) Dispute. South Atlantic Council, Occasional Paper Number 11.
  5. Willetts, P. (1993). Transnational Actors and Changing World Order, paper for a United Nations University conference, March 1992, Yokohama. International Peace Research Institute Meigaku, Yokohama, PRIME Occasional Paper Number 17,.
  6. Willetts, P. (1988). Fishing in the South-West Atlantic. London: South Atlantic Council, Occasional Paper Number 4.