Karen A. Mingst, Margaret P. Karns & Alynna J. Lyon, the United Nations in the 21st Century (Dilemmas in World Politics)

By Bocanegra, Omar Antonio Anduaga | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Karen A. Mingst, Margaret P. Karns & Alynna J. Lyon, the United Nations in the 21st Century (Dilemmas in World Politics)


Bocanegra, Omar Antonio Anduaga, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


Karen A. Mingst, Margaret P. Karns & Alynna J. Lyon, The United Nations in the 21st Century (Dilemmas in World Politics) (5th ed. 2016), Westview Press; ISBN: 9780813350486; 360 pp. (hardcover).

The United Nations in the 21st Century (1) is an inviting book with a multidisciplinary approach, illustrating the the history of the United Nations since its inception. Its chapters contain historical, legal, and statistical knowledge supported by interesting analysis from an International Relations perspective, while also presenting erudite and relevant information that exposes the U.N. from the inside out. (2) It is rare to find a book that provides such an in-depth interdisciplinary focus, making it a good source of information for multiple fields of study. By using information and analysis transverse to the interest of different audiences, this book leads the reader to approach the study of the U.N. from the widest possible perspective. (3)

This edition of The United Nations in the 21st Century discusses: issues of inclusiveness and the challenges of diversity, (4) cultural practices, (5) and climate-change related advances since Paris 2015; (6) China's role in the world; (7) and different levels of equality-related affairs added to the issues they have analyzed since the previous book. Rather than just praise the U.N. and highlight its accomplishments, the goal of this book is to help the reader understand the past successes and failures of the U.N., acknowledge its present status, and be able to predict solutions (theoretical or practical) to its future challenges.

To support its contents and improve reader understanding, this book provides outside resources such as charts, statistical data, photos, and diagrams. (8) Unlike an encyclopedia summarizing widely known facts, this book delves deep into the analysis and comments within provided resources, including them as part of the reading, not just as a footnote. For someone unfamiliar with the big organogram of the U.N., this is a great source of information to understand the organization as a whole. For those already familiar with the principles this unique institution is based on, the book begins with refreshing reference material, and then provides a starting point of reflection of how the organizations principles operate, and the reforms the U.N. should consider in order to successfully face future challenges. (9)

This is where Mingst, Karns, and Lyon show the value of their work. While ending their introduction on a hopeful, open-ended note, they do not shy from identifying areas where the U.N. needs to work harder, and those in which it has failed. (10) This gives the reader the opportunity to formulate their own opinion: either agreeing with the hope Mingst, Karns, and Lyon present, or fearing the unknown to come. The principle discussion relating to the future of the U.N. is centered around the issue of its capacity to survive in the face of changing times, such as the rise of new global actors, and the political waves that give shape to the world of International Relations. (11)

The book is organized into chapters that analyze the different and most relevant organisms in the family of the U.N. This provides an understanding of not only the most media-covered works and work groups inside the United Nations, but also issues relevant to other faces used by this institution in its international work. It starts by highlighting the actors responsible for giving shape to the day-by-day of the U.N. (12) It continues addressing the challenges and problems that peacekeeping, (13) economy, sustainability, human rights, and human security organisms face in their contribution to this organization. It also discusses the role they should ideally play to foster the goal of survivorship. The conclusions to each chapter attempt to address the very real problem of the need for reformation, which is countered by the political and legal limitations of the U. …

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