The United Nations in the Post-Cold War Era

The United Nations in the Post-Cold War Era

The United Nations in the Post-Cold War Era

The United Nations in the Post-Cold War Era

Synopsis

The United Nations faces unprecedented opportunities as well as heightened expectations in the wake of the Cold War. With as yet unmet challenges throughout the world, the limits to UN power and effectiveness are being realized. From regional conflicts to areas of environmental degradation, the UN's success will depend on the way in which three dilemmas are resolved- the tensions between sovereignty and the reality of its erosion, between demands for global governance and the weakness of UN institutions (as well as the reluctance of states to commit), and between the need for leadership and the diffusion of power. The authors explore these dilemmas in the context of the UN's historical evolution, including its experience with peacekeeping, peacemaking, and environmentally sustainabledevelopment. They also consider the role of various actors in the UN system, from major powers (especially the United States), small and middle powers, coalitions, and nongovernmental organizations, to the six secretaries-general. The need for institutional reforms and specific proposals for reform are examined. Because multilateral diplomacy is now the norm rather than the exception in world politics, the UN is more central than ever. This new text places the UN at the center of the entirely new set of dilemmas now emerging in world politics.

Excerpt

Students hammer down the Berlin Wall. President Mikhail Gorbachev descends the plane in Moscow after the abortive coup. Chinese tanks roll into Tiananmen Square, and Iraqi tanks cross the desert into Kuwait. Live television cameras cover the bombing of Baghdad and missiles striking Israel. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasir Arafat embrace on the White House lawn. A new flag is raised over a democratic South Africa. These events defined the end of the Cold War as the world had known it for forty-five years, the end of the ideological, political, economic, and military conflict between East and West, between communism and democracy. They produced a fundamental change in the very structure of international politics, which had been defined by the bipolarity generated by two superpowers and their competing alliances.

Less familiar but equally as potent are another group of images. A United Nations official raises the flag for the newly independent Namibia. UN tanks stall on a snowy mountain pass leading to Saravejo. UN doctors and nurses work to save a starving Somali child. UN monitors observe El Salvador's and Nicaragua's elections. A dynamic President Nelson Mandela addresses the UN General Assembly, thanking the body for its support and pleading for development funds. These events illustrate the variety of new activities for the UN in the post-Cold War era.

Indeed, the Cold War's end found the United Nations in greater demand than ever before to deal with peace and security issues as well as environment and development issues, population growth, humanitarian disasters, and other problems. UN peacekeepers have been called on to play roles in defusing conflicts, disarming combatant forces, organizing and monitoring elections, monitoring human rights violations, and overseeing humanitarian relief in many post-Cold War problem areas. In fact, the UN's enforcement powers have been used more in the post-Cold Warera than at any previous time.

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