The United Nations and Changing World Politics

The United Nations and Changing World Politics

The United Nations and Changing World Politics

The United Nations and Changing World Politics


Providing a comprehensive and contemporary examination of the United Nations, the authors provide a thematic approach exploring its role in three core issues in international relations: International Peace and Security; Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs; and Building Peace Through Sustainable Development. Historically informed and analytically rich, The United Nations and Changing World Politics introduces the reader to the opportunities and limits of the central international organization. The authors bring to bear both extensive practical experience and scholarly depth in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the UN's performance, as well as providing practical suggestions for improvements. Thoroughly updated to take into account recent experiences, including the Balkan crises, this book is an important resource for readers interested in international relations, peace and war, third world development, and human rights.


Inis L. Claude, Jr. Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia

Since the end of the Cold War, the United Nations has enjoyed--and suffered--a burst of unaccustomed prominence. The organization initially gained attention as sponsor of the successful effort to roll back Iraq's conquest of Kuwait. Euphoric expectations of a global collective security apparatus soon gave way to disillusionment as the United Nations became conspicuously involved in disasters in Somalia and Bosnia. In any case, the United Nations is no longer ignored and neglected; whether it is regarded with utopian idealism or with cynical disdain, it has achieved notable visibility.

The organization's revived prominence has continued largely because of the role it has undertaken in dealing with many of the crises that have erupted within states. We no longer hear the United Nations praised or scorned as a talkshop. Rather, evaluations of the organization now relate mainly to what it does, tries to do, or should do or to what it should be equipped to do as an operating agency in the field. The focus of international relations is no longer exclusively interstate but has become predominantly intrastate, and the most significant activity of the United Nations is no longer that occurring at headquarters but that taking place in trouble spots around the globe.

These changes intensify the need for serious study of the United Nations with a view to development of realistic and sophisticated understanding of the nature of the organization, its possibilities and limitations, its merits and defects, the promise that it holds, and the dangers that it poses. Above all, we need to examine the United Nations in its political context, regarding it as essentially an institutional framework within which states make decisions and allocate resources, arranging to do a variety of things with, to, for, and against each other. Americans, in particular, need to escape the illusion that the world organization is some gigantic "it," beneficent or sinister, and to realize that the United Nations is instead a "we"--ourselves and other states. States acting jointly as well as singly are primary members of the cast in the drama of international politics.

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