Sample: The United Nations and Changing World Politics


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Table of Contents


Tables and Illustrations
Foreword to the Eighth Edition, David M. Malone

What Is the United Nations?
Politics and Power in the First, Second, and Third UN
The Principles of the United Nations
Structure of the Book
Central Themes

Part One: International Peace and Security

1 The Theory and Practice of UN Collective Security
Collective Security
Regional Arrangements
2 UN Security Efforts During the Cold War
The Early Years: Palestine, Korea, Suez, the Congo
Understanding Peacekeeping
Economic Sanctions
3 UN Security Operations After the Cold War, 1988–1998
UN Military Operations, 1988–1993
The Rebirth of Peacekeeping
Moving Toward the Next Generation
Moving Toward Enforcement
Sanctions in the Post–Cold War Era: Humanitarian Dilemmas
Operational Quandaries: Cambodia, the Former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Haiti
Lessons Learned
4 Security Operations Since 1999
The Responsibility to Protect
Stabilized Security Operations
Evolving Security Operations
Whither the Responsibility to Protect?
5 Confronting Contemporary Challenges
Security Challenges
Political Challenges
The Challenges of Reform
Incremental Change

Part Two: Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs

6 The United Nations, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Affairs
Understanding Human Rights
Basic Norms in the UN Era
International Humanitarian Law (Human Rights During War)
7 Applying Human Rights Standards: The Roles of the First and Second UN
Human Rights and the First UN
Human Rights and the Second UN
Human Rights and National Interest
8 The Third UN in Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs: The Role of Independent Experts and NGOs
Experts and the Human Rights Council
Supplemental Human Rights and Treaty Monitoring Bodies
Nongovernmental Organizations
9 Theories of Change
Theoretical Considerations
The International Criminal Court: Knowledge and Learning
Learning and Democracy
Human Rights and Development
A Web of Norms Resulting in Change?

Part Three: Sustainable Human Development

10 Theories of Development at the United Nations
Phase One: National State Capitalism (1945–1962)
Phase Two: International Affirmative Action (1962–1981)
Phase Three: Return to Neoliberalism (1981–1989)
Phase Four: Sustainable Development and Globalization (1989–Present)
11 Sustainable Development as Process: UN Organizations and Norms
The UN Proper
Members of the UN Family?
Norm Creation and Coherence: A Partial History of Ideas
The UN’s Sustainable Human Development Model
12 The UN and Development in a Globalizing World
The MDG Strategy
Implementing the MDGs
A Global Partnership for Development
From the MDGs to the SDGs
Explaining Change

Conclusion: Learning from Change
Measuring Change
Learning Lessons?
Articulation and Aggregation of Interests
Rule Making
Applying Rules
Some Final Thoughts

Appendix A: The United Nations System
Appendix B: Concise List of Internet Sites Relevant to the United Nations
Appendix C: Charter of the United Nations
Appendix D: United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Appendix E: Sustainable Development Goals
About the Book and Authors


Foreword to the Eighth Edition

It is rare for a comprehensive textbook of this nature to evolve into an eighth edition. Why has demand for the approach of these authors withstood the test of time so well?

The volume is structured with great clarity and its tone is one of skeptical inquiry rather than either uncritical admiration for, or instinctive bashing of, the United Nations. It situates the UN in the circumstances that determine its role in international politics: global distribution of power and world order, in a dispensation of sovereign states vying with each other for advantage, while a growing number of other actors in international relations, including those of the third UN so impressively documented in these pages, seek to advance their own interests and views within the UN’s chambers (or to telegraph their messages against the backdrop of the UN’s headquarters).

The United Nations is an organization of member states, which came together under a Charter that was agreed to after contentious debates in San Francisco in 1945. Originally cast as an alliance of countries fighting the Axis powers of World War II, it sought, as the end of that conflagration approached, to channel international relations through a permanent multilateral conference (as occurred in the nineteenth century with the Vienna Conference followed by the Concert of Nations and, in a more a structured form, after World War I with the League of Nations). This permanent grouping of states came to equip itself over time with a large, sophisticated secretariat; a number of specialized agencies, programs, and funds; and a range of affiliations to other international organizations active in fields the UN (at least initially) left to them.

Delegations at San Francisco had lofty ambitions for the UN, and granted its Security Council unique powers under international law to coerce compliance with its wishes. But the scope for action enjoyed by the UN was long qualified in various fields by the intensity of the Cold War. Today the UN is hamstrung by the financial pressures experienced within the industrialized world after years of stagnation or very slow growth following the financial crisis of 2008. The UN has never been good at editing itself. Its activities have tended to be additive and overlapping rather than disciplined and self-denying. And the need for financial restraint nowadays is proving stressful for this and other self-indulgent international organizations.

The UN is sometimes derided as a talking shop. It does host a great deal of speechifying and grandstanding, much of it vacuous. But it was meant to bring the world together, even if in disagreement. It has done this very well since its inception, but with increasing sprawl as more and more issues are addressed by an ever-expanding list of interlocutors, from UN bodies, governments, civil society, and other actors. Results have often been disappointing. But sometimes apparently slow, even failing negotiating processes have, in the long run, produced important results. The human rights field, an argumentative and much fought over one that the UN’s treaties, decisions, institutions, debates, and activities have vastly expanded, is an obvious example of how over time the UN has provided sharper meaning to vague notions evoked in the Charter, and encouraged action all over the world to achieve specific objectives to enhance a range of freedoms and entitlements.

Until recently, the UN’s seventy years have unfolded in clearly demarcated periods: that of the Cold War, during which some of its bodies faced circumscribed potential, notably the Security Council, while others thrived; and the post–Cold War era, during which the council’s potential was unlocked, but with mixed results. Meanwhile, the rest of the UN system started to suffer from bloat, characterized by repetitive debates; outdated North-South confrontations bearing little relation to the growing diversity of the Global South, marked by the emergence of meaningful global powers in its midst, such as India, South Africa, and Brazil; and negotiating habits that increasingly failed to deliver positive outcomes, for example at the Copenhagen climate change negotiations in 2009.

But we may now be entering into a third period of UN endeavor, marked by global economic distress and a return of great power rivalry. This has seen the Russian Federation and the United States not only backing different actors in the Syrian crisis since 2011, but undertaking military operations above Syrian soil that create real risks of an unintended clash between them. While the Security Council’s work on conflicts in Africa, which takes up about 85 percent of its time and accounts for a similar range of its decisions and reports, remains largely consensual, sharp disagreements over Libya, the Ukraine, and Syria could contaminate the rest of the Security Council’s agenda unless handled more successfully in the future than in the past.

While human rights have emerged as the third pillar of the UN—as often described by Secretaries-General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon—the relevance of the UN’s work on development has seemed increasingly questionable. Beyond the setting of global goals, which had some mobilizing effect, it has become clear that the UN has had little to do with the success of development efforts since the turn of the millennium. These have been domestically driven, albeit supported in many cases by the improved mix of policies often advocated at the international level. The impressive gains in many developing countries over the past fifteen years, notably marked by accelerating growth in Asia and Africa (while Latin America focused more on social development and protection), stand in contrast to the dismal performance of the industrialized world since 2008. They underpinned the overall attainment of a number of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and targets.

Starting in 2012 with discussions at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, and with input from a variety of sources, UN member states developed a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), more than doubling their number (from eight to seventeen) and agreeing on 169 targets flowing from them—without yet having developed indicators by which their attainment could be measured. UN delegations seemed unfazed by widespread criticism beyond their own rarefied circles that no government could cope with a prescription of this scope and detail, ultimately leaving it to governments to pick and choose which targets to adopt as priorities, and to cherry-pick in reporting on themselves.

Exhaustion and ill humor also marked negotiations toward a new agreement on climate change after implementation of the legally binding Kyoto Protocol largely disintegrated in slow motion following its first commitment period (2008–2012), having proved hopeful but unbalanced. Member states, negotiating seemingly nonstop throughout 2014 and 2015, produced ever more bracketed text over which disagreement was often fierce. They were only rescued from this unproductive track by China and the United States, neither of which had committed to implementation of the Kyoto Protocol’s emission reduction provisions. Washington and Beijing agreed on a voluntary-commitment approach backed by specific pledges from each, an approach that came to be adopted by other countries throughout 2015. In part because of the relentless pressure and diplomacy applied to all countries by the French hosts of the summit on this issue, on December 12, 2015, agreement was reached in Paris on a new global course. The agreement picked up on that of China and the United States, marked by indicative voluntary commitments by virtually all countries to limit and reverse their carbon footprint over coming decades, with these commitments to be reviewed every five years, with the aim of improving on them. While disappointing to many, the outcome involved commitments from all the major players, even if not in binding terms, a major improvement on the Kyoto Protocol. It is likely that pressure will only grow on capitals the world over, for domestic as well as international reasons, to curb carbon and other noxious emissions, thus validating the modest first steps taken in Paris.

Of note is that on both climate change and the SDGs, when UN processes fail to provide a convincing prescriptive approach, governments are left to offer and adopt à la carte approaches to a vast menu of policy options and outcome objectives (as much to their own people as at the international level). To some of us, this seems a sensible outcome, as economic, social, and development policies need to be internally driven, while seeking, however selectively, to attain a number of international standards and emerging norms.

Meanwhile, humanitarian action, on which the UN had for many years played second fiddle to the International Red Cross system, became a growth center both for UN organizations and for the Security Council in the immediate post–Cold War period, absorbing large amounts of funding nominally targeted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s country donors, with UN agencies, funds, and programs competing for humanitarian roles of various sorts. This remarkable increase in humanitarian assistance since the end of the Cold War has helped significantly drive down mortality rates in war-torn countries in the course of the past two decades, reflected, for instance, in significant reduction in child mortality rates even in war-torn countries. And yet, humanitarian assistance is rarely turned into sustainable development gains, and with a resurgence of civil wars over the past decade, humanitarian distress around the world is again on the rise, highlighted by the fact that the number of forcibly displaced persons in 2015 was the highest since the end of World War II.

Within the UN itself, attention focused on a growing imbalance of power within the UN Security Council, whose five permanent members (P5) had come to dominate not only its decision-making, but all aspects of its work. This domination includes the selection of the next secretary-general, who will succeed Ban Ki-moon on January 1, 2017, with attention for the first time focusing primarily on women candidates. The risk to the permanent members that now comprehensively control the action and decision-making in the council is that others may simply abandon the game or selectively withhold consent for the preferences of the P5, for which they need only seven votes to block action. Key decision-­making may migrate to other forums with outcomes merely brought to the Security Council for its formal imprimatur and for access to its binding legal powers.

Pressure has grown for a more transparent and open selection of the next secretary-­general. Ideas include the demand for candidates to introduce themselves and their ideas to the wider membership and the possibility of several candidates being recommended by the Security Council to the UN General Assembly rather than the single candidate that has been customary since 1945. There is increasing focus on the role of the General Assembly in electing the secretary-­general, currently a pro forma one but potentially a more dynamic process, rather than solely on the role of the Security Council in recommending a candidate (or perhaps one day, several candidates). Unless the council proves more consultative in response to widespread unhappiness in the General Assembly and civil society over its limited agency in this key election, it is not inconceivable in decades ahead that the General Assembly could fail to provide the necessary votes to confirm the candidate recommended by the Council and elect instead another of its own preference, thus triggering UN constitutional tensions.

In sum, this splendid volume, so ably structured and rooted in deep knowledge of the institution, makes clear that the UN is an aging institution. At seventy, it is experiencing trouble both in its working methods and in its ability to adapt to new global geopolitical and economic dispensations that no longer conform to the familiar Cold War, post–Cold War, and North-South divides, much as national representatives sometimes seem to want to cling to these. Each chapter of the book is rooted in authoritative scholarly literature, and features sharp, lucid analysis. It elegantly spans the academic disciplines of law, public policy, political science, development studies, and international relations. It will helpfully support teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels in any of these fields and across them.

I am honored, through these brief lines, to be associated with this remarkable, enduring venture.

David M. Malone
Rector of the UN University
Undersecretary-General of the United Nations
Tokyo, Japan
December 2015



“The most casual observer of the international scene can see that the problem of world order has not been solved.”

—Inis L. Claude Jr., Swords into Plowshares

When the twentieth century began, multilateral relations and international organizations were in their infancy. Experiments with public international unions, conference diplomacy, and the expansion of multilateral relations beyond Europe remained fledgling. The first experiment with universal multilateralism, the League of Nations, sought to manage the challenges posed by the increasing lethality of warfare and institutionalize the evolving norm of the illegality of aggressive war. Although this first great experiment failed, it laid the foundation for its successor, the United Nations (UN). Under the leadership of the United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (U.K.), the twenty-six countries allied to fight fascism during World War II signed the Declaration by United Nations on January 1, 1942, thus beginning the second great experiment in universal international organization, an experiment that continues today.[1] In 1945, when the fifty-one original member states signed the formal UN Charter in San Francisco, the war against fascism and irrationalism was being fought and won. The price of a third world war was too great, as the nuclear era had begun with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the United States barely six weeks after the ink dried on the UN Charter.

The UN system was born plural and decentralized, and was never intended to approximate a formal world government. It was born of pragmatism and a pressing need to change the way states conducted their international affairs. The founders saw the UN as a way of harnessing state power for the management of pressing global problems: in the words of one analyst, “Its wartime architects bequeathed us this system as a realist necessity vital in times of trial, not as a liberal accessory to be discarded when the going gets rough.”[2]

The primary purpose of the UN is to maintain international peace and security, and addressing socioeconomic issues (such as human rights and development) are ways to indirectly prevent war by promoting economic prosperity at home and abroad. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, among others, believed strongly that the origins of World War II lay in the economic and social misery of the 1920s. Those conditions gave rise to aggressive fascism in Europe. And so, even as the world conflagration continued, the U.S.-led United Nations alliance began putting in place a broad UN cooperation system that included the United Nations Rehabilitation and Relief Administration (1943), Food and Agricultural Organization (1943), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank (1944), International Monetary Fund (1944), and other economic and social agencies.

The United Nations and Changing World Politics is about the competition to shape and determine values as well as the distribution of resources within the international community of states. Thus, its focus is the nature and dynamics of world order and global governance. This begs the question of what the United Nations actually is. Who are the actors that constitute the “United Nations” and what values and principles do they prefer? What determines which values and preferences will prevail and why? What are the central principles, rules, and norms that frame and shape this competition? After all, no world government exists to authoritatively set the rules of the world or to serve as the final arbiter of disputes. Absent a world government, governance takes place through the United Nations.

What Is the United Nations?

Many journalists and other observers often use such phrases as “the UN failed” (to stop ethnic cleansing in the Balkans) or “the UN was successful” (in checking Iraqi aggression against Kuwait). This phraseology obscures a complex reality. The UN is many different things. It is a broad and complex system of policymaking and administration in which some decisions are made by member states and others by professional civil servants who are not instructed by states. Moreover, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), corporations and private individuals pressure state and UN officials and seek to influence decision- and policy-making processes. Analytically, the UN is really three different, yet interactive, entities that often cooperate but also can work at cross purposes. Each of these entities represents complex interests, some of which strive to maintain the status quo and others of which seek substantive change. This is why the story of the UN is one of simultaneous continuity and change.[3]

The First UN

The first UN is an institutional framework of member states that bring their different aspirations, values, ideologies, and capabilities to the table. For centuries, much of international relations centered on the relations and interests of states. States have found it in their self-interest, as well as their collective interest, to act multilaterally to confront shared problems. States have organized and agreed to certain norms, rules, and procedures that govern their relations. States with more capabilities, including the capability to structure the rules to reflect their values and preferences, tend to have a greater say in the first UN. As such, political will and capability often determine which values and preferences will prevail and why. The first UN, then, is primarily an intergovernmental organization (IGO), an arena in which member states may pursue or channel their foreign policies diplomatically and multilaterally.

A view of some of the flags of member nations at United Nations Headquarters. In the background is the Secretariat Building. June 9, 1959, United Nations, New York.(UN Photo 68478/MB Photo)

A view of some of the flags of member nations at United Nations Headquarters. In the background is the Secretariat Building. June 9, 1959, United Nations, New York.
(UN Photo 68478/MB Photo)

At the same time, UN structures and processes also frame and even constrain the exercise of state power. The UN Charter is the closest thing there is to a global constitution. When state actors comply with the Charter and use UN procedures, their policies acquire the legitimacy that stems from adherence to international law. They also acquire the legitimacy that stems from collective political approval. This is especially true when it comes to using military force in international relations. Normally, policies that are seen as legal and collectively approved are more likely than not to be successful. The weight of collective political approval also may induce recalcitrant state authorities to accept a UN policy, decision, or program. It is better to have UN approval than otherwise.

At the first UN, several organs are populated and controlled by representatives of member states. This means government officials are responsible to and represent specific countries. These organs include the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Human Rights Council (HRC), and the list goes on. Since member states provide direction to their representatives, it is not surprising that these various entities are inherently politicized. State representatives decide; and when UN decisions involve force, economic resources, or considerable diplomatic pressure, those necessities essentially borrowed from member states. The clash of values and interstate rivalries that are present in world politics are also manifest in the first UN. Moreover, in the context of the Security Council, the concert of the five permanent (and veto-wielding) members—the P5—is required. This check was intended by the institution’s founders, and it is embodied in the Charter. The General Assembly and other official UN bodies that make most of the important “UN” decisions are made up of states.

Without political agreement in the first UN, “the UN” is severely restricted in what it can accomplish. This was the case in 1945, and since then it has not been altered in any fundamental way. At times the United Nations is placed on the back burner, as it was for much of the Cold War. Major states bypassed the world organization on important international security issues, instead favoring action outside it. At other times the first UN was front and center, as it was during the 1990s with a major collective security action (Iraq in 1991) and a surge in peacekeeping and peace-enforcement operations. The post–September 11, 2001, era has seen the efficacy of the first UN in security matters wax and wane depending on the extent to which important states—especially the United States, China, and Russia—can agree on policy decisions. State decisions about power and policy constitute the primary force driving events at the UN. When important states show a convergence in policy, then the UN can be allowed to act.

The Second UN

The secretary-general and the international civil service constitute the second UN, which is the system of decision- and policy-making by UN officials who are independent and not completely instructed by states. This second UN is an important actor in its own right because the UN bureaucracy provides expertise, knowledge, and independent diplomatic skills. It helps member states reduce the transaction and information costs associated with multilateral action and can help clarify preferences and alternatives. It offers the possibility of neutrality and adds to a sense of legitimacy in numerous situations. While the second UN cannot function well if its actions and decisions stray too far from the preferences of powerful member states, it can exercise some agency and engages in mediation and education. It also performs an important monitoring function that provides state representatives with the quality data necessary to make good decisions. The second UN can also push and prod member states, reminding them of their obligations under the Charter and other areas of international law.

The second UN is uniquely positioned because it is the guardian of UN principles and values. It certainly does not have the sole voice on how to interpret their meaning and the application of the Charter, but it does have some legal and moral authority. The Charter confers some independent authority on the secretary-general, who may address the Security Council and makes an annual report on the UN’s work to the General Assembly, focusing attention on certain problems and possible solutions. Numerous UN organizations, funds, programs, and specialized agencies are staffed by independent personnel paid by regular UN budgets, and others are financed through voluntary contributions. Authority—and the influence flowing from it—also may be transferred by intergovernmental bodies to independent UN personnel. The UN Security Council may decide to create a peacekeeping force but then turns over many specifics and mechanics to the secretary-general. Within the broad confines of this system, UN personnel exercise considerable influence as relatively autonomous actors not controlled by states. Their authority is not supranational but can be significant. They cannot instruct states how to act, but they may be able to induce states to behave in certain ways. Moreover, they can improve the lives of millions of people by cooperating and coordinating with states and NGOs.

The Third UN

Another dimension of the UN is the network of NGOs, experts, corporate executives, media representatives, and academics who work closely with the first and second UN.[4] Their presence is often ignored when thinking about the theory and practice of the world organization.[5] With the backing or the blessing of important member states, the second UN often will bring in independent experts to serve on ad hoc commissions or as advisers or envoys. Technically, these individuals are not formal employees of the second UN, but they may become influential because they usually have extensive prior work experience with member states and/or UN agencies. These quasi-representatives of the UN and the services they perform reflect how the second UN can innovate and extend the influence of UN symbols and prestige.

Nearly four thousand NGOs have some form of consultative or observer status within the UN, which means their competency has been formally recognized and they are permitted to participate in international conferences. NGOs perform two basic kinds of roles within UN politics. First, NGOs represent an important lobbying force for policies or changes in existing policy developed by the first and second UN. They do this by providing, collecting, and disseminating data and through advocacy. They facilitate relationships with state and IGO officials and also provide ordinary citizens with a vehicle for meaningful participation in UN affairs.

Second, NGOs play a subcontracting role in delivering humanitarian and development aid. The first and the second UN often turn to NGOs to provide assistance, expertise, and educational services during routine field operations to foster development and in complex emergencies. NGOs also perform a crucial monitoring role, especially related to detention facilities in conflict situations. NGOs monitor and assess the status of human rights and humanitarian principles as well as progress on development indicators or environmental conditions. They also help set, and measure progress toward, socioeconomic benchmarks. Increasingly, private NGOs are active and sometimes influential in their interactions with the intergovernmental system.

Politics and Power in the First, Second, and Third UN

The first, second, and third UN cohere into what is commonly referred to as “the United Nations.” Throughout this text, the distinction between these three UNs will be noted, as appropriate. When UN forums controlled by states reach decisions, the first UN is in play. Similarly, when the secretary-general or a high commissioner (or their subordinates) decide and act, the second UN is engaged. When independent experts and NGOs influence, pressure, or educate state and IGO officials or provide services, the third UN is at work. The relationships among the various UNs are interactive and dynamic. Reports from the secretary-general or his staff may influence the first UN. NGOs may influence important member states in taking a particular stance. The second and third UN rely on states for funding, visas, and protection. Relationships are not always constructive or free of conflict. The second UN, although in theory independent from state control and responsible only to the Charter, is often stymied and even marginalized by member states. Also, loyalty to the UN Charter does not make officials from the second UN immune from making poor choices or performing suboptimally. NGOs can complicate UN politics. For example, faith-based NGOs have been extremely influential in shaping UN policy related to women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, international development, and human rights and the defamation of religion.[6] This brings them into conflict with the more secular and progressive elements of the United Nations.

UN politics involves the exercise of power. Since power is needed to make and implement policy, member states of the first UN naturally seek allies. Academic and diplomatic observers have put forward varied generalizations about the political alliances, coalitions, or blocs within the United Nations. During the Cold War era the countries of the West—that is, the Western industrialized democracies that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), sometimes joined by Israel—were frequently grouped as the First World. The “developing countries,” basically all of the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, have been examined under the rubrics of the Third World, the Global South, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), or the Group of 77 (or G77, for the original constellation of 77 states, which has now grown to some 135 members). The “socialist countries,” when the Soviet Union and its bloc existed, were also called the East and the Second World. The West and the East, in a curious bit of mathematical geography, were added together to constitute the North, or the developed countries, in juxtaposition to the Global South, or the developing countries. The North-South conflict represents the difference in values and preferred outcomes between the more wealthy states and the developing ones.

Although these distinctions roughly correspond to the bulk of voting patterns during the Cold War, they have become considerably less useful over time. Not only did the bloc of European socialist states and the Soviet Union cease to exist, but also some of this terminology was never accurate: Cuba was hardly nonaligned, and the socialist countries were not nearly as economically developed as the West, with some at levels comparable to the Third World. In the past, it was conventional to speak of the Third World as if it were homogeneous, with little hesitation in grouping Singapore’s and Chad’s economies or Costa Rica’s and North Korea’s ideologies. Now, it is quite common to point out that developing countries consist of a series of crosscutting alignments reflecting the heterogeneous character of their economies and ideologies.[7] On a few issues, however, developing countries do show truly common interests. In such instances the North-South divide continues to be salient. For example, during the 2006 negotiations to create the Human Rights Council, a classic North-South divide could be observed on many questions. Frequently, however, developing countries subdivide along different lines according to the issue before the UN: between radicals and moderates, between Islamic and non-Islamic, between those in the region and outside, between maritime and landlocked, between those achieving significant economic growth and otherwise. Also, the emergence of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) association signifies a formidable political alliance that challenges the dominance of Western values and preferences at the UN.[8] The organization of the powerful countries of North and South into the Group of 20 (G20) defies categorization, but their decisions weigh heavily on international deliberations in light of the group’s geopolitical weight.[9] Within the Western group there have always been numerous differences, which regularly come to the fore. Divisions among and within all groups over the pursuit of war against Iraq in 2003 were a clear example of this phenomenon.

Structurally, the UN recognizes five regional groupings of states: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America-Caribbean, and Western Europe and Others (including the United States). Membership on important councils, such the Security Council, the ECOSOC, and the HRC, is decided on a geographical-distribution basis. These regional groupings are responsible for selecting which of their member states will stand for election, so intraregional politics as well as intracouncil politics are at play. Moreover, powerful member states, such as the United States, Japan, and Germany, are known to wield their financial influence to induce the political support of developing countries for council policies.[10]

The second UN, while made up of independent officials, is not immune to politics. UN officials have their own preferences and interpretations of UN values and principles and use UN symbols and procedures to achieve them. Organizational heads may align with certain states. The head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at one point aligned with a number of developing countries, leading to the withdrawal of certain developed states. Such heads are also in constant need of financial and human resources, and the departure of the United States and a few others from UNESCO has severely constrained that part of the UN on at least two occasions. While the secretariat is supposed to comprise neutral, competent professionals, it is a human institution fraught with rivalries and inefficiencies. World order is not value free, and there are competing visions about how to construct it. Any discussion of UN “reform” invariably affects the way that the UN bureaucracy conducts its business.

The politics of the third UN are also dynamic as civil society actors compete for influence and resources. NGO interactions with the first and second UN have greatly expanded since the mid-1990s and the role of NGOs in UN politics is now institutionalized.[11] NGOs are diverse in terms of their orientation and tactics and are partners with the UN in field operations. The commissioning of NGOs in the peacebuilding work of the UN has real policy consequences on the ground in such places as Bosnia, Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sierra Leone.[12] NGOs can complicate traditional forms of diplomacy and also be a catalyst for policy and change.

In sum, the United Nations is a world organization that comprises member states, UN personnel, and independent experts and NGOs. These three parts of the UN are wrestling with the twenty-first century’s most pressing problems of insecurity, abuses of human rights, and lack of sustainable human development. These latter three substantive issues encompass the central challenges to improving the human condition.[13] They are also the central focus of this book.

The Principles of the United Nations

The institutional framework of the UN rests on several organizing principles: the sovereign equality of its member states, the peaceful settlement of disputes, the nonuse of force in international relations, and nonintervention in the domestic jurisdiction of member states. These principles influence the political dynamics at the UN. When states join the UN, they agree to respect these principles and to take separate and joint action to assist in the main purposes of the UN: maintaining international peace and security and promoting economic and social cooperation. This includes promoting and protecting human rights and humanitarian principles. The UN Charter is a bridge between the older Westphalian norms of sovereignty and nonintervention with relatively newer norms, such as the pacific settlement of disputes and the prohibition of the threat and use of force in international relations.


The legal foundations of sovereignty are centuries deep. When the Peace of Westphalia essentially ended European religious wars in 1648, powerful political circles accepted that the world should be divided into territorial states. Before that time, dynastic empires, city-states, feudalistic orders, clans and tribes, churches, and a variety of other arrangements organized persons into groupings for personal identity and problem solving. From about the middle of the fifteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth, the territorial state emerged, first in Europe and then elsewhere, as the basic unit of social and political organization that supposedly commanded primary loyalty and was responsible for order, and eventually for justice and prosperity, within a state’s territorial boundaries. European rulers found the institution of the state useful and perpetuated its image; then politically aware persons outside the West adopted the notion of the state to resist domination by European states.

Other groupings also persisted. In nineteenth-century Europe, Napoleon sought to substitute a French empire for several states and European imperialism thrived. Colonialism persisted in Africa until the 1960s—some would argue it continues today. Despite these exceptions and the endurance of clan, ethnic, and religious identities, most of those exercising power increasingly promoted the perception that the basic political-legal unit of world affairs was the state: an administrative apparatus with a supposed monopoly on the legitimate use of force over a specific geographical area, with a stable (nonnomadic) population. Frequently, the territorial state is referred to as the nation-state. This label is not totally false, but it can be misleading because nations and states are not the same. A nation is a people (a group of persons professing solidarity on the basis of language, religion, history, or some other bonding element) linked to a state. Legally speaking, where there is a state, there is a nation, but there may be several peoples within a state. For example, the citizens of Switzerland (officially the Helvetian Confederation) are, by legal definition members of the Swiss nation, but in social reality the Swiss state includes four peoples: the Swiss-Germans, the Swiss-French, the Swiss-Italians, and the Swiss-Romansch. The confusing notion of a multinational state also has arisen alongside divided nations (East and West Germany between 1945 and 1989, and North and South Korea today) and states with irredentist claims (Serbia and Russia). The members of the United Nations are territorial states (with the exception of the Vatican), but this only begs the question of who is a national people entitled to a state. Many persons in existing states, from Belgium to Sri Lanka, from the United Kingdom to Canada, have not fully and finally settled this issue.

The emergence of the territorial state was accompanied by the notion that the state was sovereign. Accordingly, the sovereignty of all other social groupings was legally subordinated to the state’s sovereignty. Political and legal theorists argued that sovereignty resided in territorial states’ rulers, who had ultimate authority to make policy within a state’s borders. Those who negotiated the two treaties making up the Peace of Westphalia wanted to stop the religious wars that had brought so much destruction to Europe. They specified that whoever ruled a certain territory could determine the religion of that territory. State sovereignty was an idea that arose in a particular place at a particular time and then became widely accepted as European political influence spread around the world. The argument was about legal rights, but it was intended to affect power. All states were said to be sovereign equals, regardless of their actual “power”—meaning capability to influence outcomes. They had the right to control policy within their jurisdictions even if they did not have the power to do it. Framed in the language of the abstract state, sovereignty enhanced the power of those persons making up the government that represented the state.

Sovereignty was designed to produce order, legitimize existing power arrangements, and stop violence between and within states over religious questions. But did state sovereignty become, on balance, an idea that guaranteed international instability? Was it necessary to think of relations between and among states as anarchical—not in the sense of chaos but in the sense of interactions among equal sovereigns recognizing no higher rules and organizations? Of course, the more powerful states, while agreeing that all states were equally sovereign, repeatedly violated the domestic jurisdiction of the weaker states—what Stephen Krasner has dubbed “organized hypocrisy.”[14] State sovereignty, originally designed to produce order and to buttress central authority within the state, led to negative external consequences, the main one being that central authority over global society and interstate relations was undermined. All territorial states came to be seen as equal in the sense of having ultimate authority to prescribe what “should be” in their jurisdiction. No outside rules and organizations were held to be superior to the state. Only those rules consented to, and only those organizations voluntarily accepted, could exist in interstate relations based on the logic of the Westphalian system of world politics.[15] Thus states were legally free to make war, violate human rights, neglect the welfare of citizens, and damage the environment.

State sovereignty is not a physical fact, like energy or a doorknob. It becomes a social fact when it is widely accepted and becomes part of the dominant psychology. The process of “socially constructing” the notion of sovereignty means that it has evolved to mean different things in different eras. At one time, sovereignty meant a state had the ultimate and absolute right to govern, even if that meant practicing slavery or systematically persecuting women or minorities. Today, such state behavior invites at least international opprobrium and sometimes even intervention.

Who should govern and by what means are the kinds of questions raised at the UN. For example, by 1992 the state had disintegrated in the geographical area known as Somalia, which is to say that the governing system for the territory did not function. With no effective government to represent the state, should the UN be the organization ultimately responsible for ending disorder and starvation and helping to reestablish the state? If disputes within a recognized state, such as the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, lead to mass murder, mass migration, and mass misery, should the UN be ultimately responsible? Or, as was the controversial case in Kosovo in 1999, should another multilateral organization—to wit, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—override claims to sovereignty by Serbia (the successor state to Yugoslavia) if the Security Council is paralyzed? If the UN is responsible and decides to act, should the UN delegate its authority to specific states to determine the means of protecting civilians, even if it involves supporting opposition forces intent on overthrowing a brutal dictator, as in Libya in 2011? If states fail to take action in relation to major violations of international criminal law (individual responsibility for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing), should the International Criminal Court (ICC) have the right to prosecute and convict the individuals responsible?

Governments act in the name of states to determine how to manage certain transnational problems. On occasion they have agreed to let an international organization have the ultimate say as to what should be done. For example, more than forty states in the Council of Europe have consented to the European Convention on Human Rights. Under this treaty, the European Court of Human Rights has the ultimate say as to the correct interpretation of the convention, and the court regularly issues judgments to states concerning the legality of their policies. If one starts, as do European governments, with the notion that states are sovereign, then these states have used their sovereignty to create international bodies that restrict their own authority. Among these states, the protection of human rights on a transnational basis is valued more highly than complete state independence. States have used their freedom to make policies that reduce their freedom. Initial sovereignty, linked to territory, has been used to restrict that sovereignty by an international body acting primarily on the basis of transnational considerations. This European situation is atypical of interstate relations and the nature of interstate relations is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.

There are a few other examples of supranational authority in world politics. Although much noise arises in the United States about the right of the dispute panels of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to dictate policy to states, this international grant of authority is modest. States ultimately decide whether to apply sanctions for violations of WTO rules. Power, especially economic power, influences the efficacy of sanctions authorized under such rules. So, when WTO’s Dispute Settlement Panel (DSP) rules that a U.S. policy violates WTO strictures, sometimes the United States changes its policy, sometimes it does not, and sometimes Washington engages in protracted negotiations with other states that make it difficult to decide whether the United States is complying with the DSP ruling. In any case, the purportedly most powerful state has agreed to abide by rules and decisions of an international organization in pursuit of mutually beneficial, regulated free trade.

Most states, and none more than those that have achieved formal independence since the 1950s, sometimes value state sovereignty more than supranational cooperation to improve security, protect human rights, or pursue sustainable development. For many, it is a matter of national identity and pride, and also protection against large bully or “rogue” states. Older states also sometimes highly value state sovereignty. Edward Luck has pointed out the example of American exceptionalism and traditional skepticism about inroads on its authority within the UN.[16] Or as Richard Haass puts it in an understatement, “Americans have traditionally guarded their sovereignty with more than a little ferocity.”[17] Jack Goldsmith, an official in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, and afterward a member of the Harvard Law School faculty, regards most international laws and organizations, including the concept of war crimes, with great skepticism, seeing them as limits on what a president thinks is needed to protect American homeland security.[18] China, too, argues that only the state, not outside parties, can determine what is best for the Chinese people, whether in the realm of security, human rights, or sustainable human development. By 2015 the United Kingdom was showing irritation with the intrusive decisions of both the European Union and the Council of Europe, and a more traditional and less cooperative nationalism could be found in public opinion polls and electoral outcomes. In short, international cooperation exists at various levels but usually falls short of being anything like permanently and irrevocably supranational. International organizations normally lack the formal capacity to override independent state decisions on an ongoing, broad, and settled basis. This is certainly true of the United Nations.

At the same time, as the peoples and states of the world become more interconnected and interdependent, materially and morally, demands increase for more effective international management even at the expense of state sovereignty. Indeed, the “responsibility to protect” civilians has emerged as a mainstream concern.[19] Demand is growing for better transnational management of pressing problems, especially in cases of humanitarian disasters, climate change, and pandemics. [20] More effective global governance is necessary, even if there remains strong resistance to a global government. This dynamic plays out daily at the United Nations.

In many parts of the world, existing states are under pressure from within because a variety of groups—usually loosely called “ethnic,” although they often are based on religious, linguistic, or other cultural characteristics—demand some form of sovereignty and self-determination. Many demands cause problems, but conflict is particularly pronounced when self-determination takes the form of a demand for a people’s right to construct a new state. In these cases, the idea of accepting the territorial state as the basic unit of world politics is not at issue, at least in principle. What is at issue, and unfortunately fought over frequently, is which groupings of people should be recognized as a state, and in what territorial boundaries. Kosovo and Palestine are cases in point. So was the Tamil area of Sri Lanka or the Biafra area of Nigeria. The question of Kurdistan remains unresolved with regard to Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Less toxic cases arise with regard to Scotland, Catalonia, and Québec. There has never been agreement in the abstract concerning who is a national people entitled to the right of national self-determination.

State sovereignty persists in the perceptions of most political elites. It is reaffirmed in principle at each annual meeting of the UN General Assembly. But state sovereignty, linked to the power and independence of those who govern in the name of the state, is not the only value in world politics. Other values can challenge state sovereignty, including enhanced security, respect for human rights and humanitarian principles, and sustainable human development. The precise boundaries of state sovereignty are elusive and the leaders of the second UN are often tasked with testing those boundaries. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then secretary-general, argued in 1992 that the time of absolute sovereignty had passed. In Foreign Affairs he wrote, “The centuries-old doctrine of absolute and exclusive sovereignty no longer stands, and was in fact never so absolute as it was conceived to be in theory. A major intellectual requirement of our time is to rethink the question of sovereignty.”[21] His successor, Kofi Annan, was even more outspoken on the subject:

State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined—not least by the forces of globalization and international cooperation. States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their peoples, and not vice versa. At the same time individual sovereignty—by which I mean the fundamental freedom of each individual, enshrined in the charter of the UN and subsequent international treaties—has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights. . . . This developing international norm in favour of intervention to protect civilians from wholesale slaughter will no doubt continue to pose profound challenges to the international community. In some quarters it will arouse distrust, skepticism, even hostility. But I believe on balance we should welcome it.[22]

Indeed, Annan was instrumental in leading international efforts to reconceptualize sovereignty as the responsibility to protect (R2P). Subsequent chapters discuss the development of R2P as a guiding international principle, but for our purposes here, R2P means responsible sovereignty. According to Ban Ki-moon, Annan’s successor, “Properly understood, R2P is an ally of sovereignty, not an adversary. Strong States protect their people, while weak ones are either unwilling or unable to do so. Protection was one of the core purposes of the formation of States and the Westphalian system. By helping States meet one of their core responsibilities, R2P seeks to strengthen sovereignty, not weaken it.”[23]

World politics consists, in large part, of managing the contradictions between conceptions of state sovereignty, on the one hand, and the desirability of advancing other values on the other. These contradictions are not the only ones in world politics, and managing them is not the only pressing need, but they constitute the fault lines that permeate much debate at the United Nations.

The Peaceful Settlement of Disputes

Upon joining the UN, member states are obligated to settle disputes nonviolently, using agreed-upon mechanisms of conflict resolution. Disputes may be territorial or involve differences regarding who controls the government or represents the state. Conflicts also may arise over resources or property. Member states use a variety of methods to resolve their conflicts. Traditional diplomacy is usually the preferred means, but states also may adjudicate disputes using international law and courts. When formal legal remedies are not available or desirable, member states turn to mediation and arbitration. Mediation is a nonbinding form of conflict resolution, whereby a skilled mediator attempts to find a solution that is acceptable to the involved parties, rather than deciding questions of legality or who is right or wrong. Arbitration is quite similar but more formal in that the parties agree ahead of time to be bound by the arbiter’s decision.

Independent commissions of inquiry and international claims and compensation bodies are also useful tools. [24] Independent commissions may be appointed by the UN Security Council or the Human Rights Council to investigate a conflict and to reduce the risk of conflict escalation. International claims and compensation bodies assist in the reconciliation process by helping parties recover from damages and loss. One of the central roles of the second UN is to assist member states in peacefully settling their disputes. UN personnel are routinely called upon to use their “good offices” to negotiate conflict among member states. By employing their relative neutrality, expertise, and the prestige of their office, UN personnel can help mediate conflicts and use UN symbols to help de-escalate conflict situations.

The Nonuse of Force

For about a century leading up to 1919 and the League of Nations, traditional international law considered resorting to war to be within the sovereign competence of states.[25] If state officials perceived that their interests justified force, it was used. But increasingly state authorities, not just ivory-tower academics or pacifists, have agreed that changing patterns of warfare require international attempts to avoid or constrain force. Interest in peace and security has been combined with an interest in state authority, power, and independence. The result is international norms and organizations that continue to depend on state authority and power even as those norms and organizations try to restrain the threat and use of military force.

State actors originally thought that their best interests were served by absolute sovereignty and complete freedom in the choice of policy. Many then also learned that this was a dangerous and frequently destructive situation. From the viewpoint of their own interests, limiting the recourse to and the process of force was highly desirable. That led to the part of international law called jus ad bellum (law regulating recourse to war) and also jus in bello (law regulating the conduct of war). International laws and organizations were developed to contribute to state welfare even as they limited state freedom.[26]

Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter effectively bans the threat or use of force in international relations. The only exceptions are in cases of individual self-defense/collective self-defense (Article 51) or when authorized by the UN Security Council using the enforcement provisions under Chapter VII. The general prohibition against the threat and use of force is revolutionary because aggressive war is outlawed and using military force is limited. Even in cases of self-defense or collective defense, the use of force must be necessary and proportional to the threat or attack. The idea was that states could avoid the dangerous consequences of violent conflict by limiting when force could legitimately be used and then even if violence does break out, limiting war’s harmful effects.

Since the formal creation of the UN in 1945, nonetheless, member states have threatened and used force repeatedly. As the following chapters show, the UN Security Council has had limited success in confronting uses of military force, especially by veto-wielding powers protecting themselves or their allies. Change does not occur overnight nor is it necessarily progressive. But the UN Charter, following the experiment of the League of Nations Covenant, has changed the narrative. The politics involving the use of the force in the UN era have centered on interesting legal claims of self-defense rather than the sovereign right of states to act to their perceived national interests. States have gone to great lengths to be invited by some national or regional authority to intervene militarily. Some member states have invoked the notion of anticipatory self-defense, claiming they do not have to wait until attacked before responding with force. Other states have made claims to a form of extended self-defense claiming the right to use force to protect their nationals abroad. Many developing states, especially during the colonial era, argued they had a right to delayed self-defense, in that they are entitled to use military force to rid themselves of colonial rule or foreign occupation. The use of force, long after the initial attack had occurred, was justified in the name of national liberation or self-determination. Some states and nonstate actors have attempted to carve out yet another exception to the general prohibition against the threat and use of force. When confronted with genocide, crimes against humanity, and gross violations of human rights and humanitarian principles, the use of military force may be legitimate in order to preserve human dignity. Much of UN politics centers on how and when military force should be authorized and how to respond to unauthorized or questionable uses of military force.


The principle of nonintervention is a companion to both sovereignty and the nonuse of force. Prior to the UN, nonintervention was seen as an essential complement to sovereignty. Respect for sovereignty meant states had a duty to respect the domestic jurisdiction of their counterparts. Under the Westphalian system, what fell within the domestic jurisdiction of states was quite broadly defined.[27] If states systematically, as a matter of policy, discriminated against racial minorities, women, or indigenous populations, it was an internal matter. If a state conducted a brutal counterinsurgency campaign within its territory, even in a colony, that fell under a state’s domestic jurisdiction. However, whether a matter is solely within the domestic jurisdiction of a state is largely dependent on world politics. At one time, states practiced slavery and formal colonialism. These practices are no longer permitted today. The Permanent Court of International Justice in the “Nationalities Decrees in Tunis and Morocco” (1923) viewed matters not regulated by international law as the “exclusive” jurisdiction of states. The extent of this jurisdiction varies with the development of international relations and, thus, is relative.[28]

Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter—undoubtedly its most quoted provision—indicates that “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of measures under Chapter VII.” Unfortunately, the Charter does little to clarify what matters fall within the domestic jurisdiction of states. The principle of nonintervention is also complicated by disagreements as to what behavior constitutes “intervention.” For some states, the mere discussion of a state’s human rights record constitutes intervention, while others see such discussion as a legitimate part of world politics. Most see the use of military force as intervention, but many disagree about whether providing weapons or financial and political support to groups in another state constitutes intervention. Does the use of sanctions and incentives to induce states to change their domestic policies amount to intervention?

What matters are deemed internal and what behaviors constitute intervention are determined by contemporary world politics. This means nonintervention has no set definition. Legal scholars have attempted to define intervention as “dictatorial interference.”[29] They generally hold that the threat and use of force constitute intervention, as do nonforcible means of coercion, such as sanctions and international judicial pursuit. The discussion, scrutiny, and usual horse-trading involved in world politics do not. Political definitions of course can differ from legal ones. In 1965 during the height of the decolonization process, the UN General Assembly sought to prohibit armed intervention, as well as “all other forms of interference” in both the internal and external affairs of states.[30] The resolution also attempted to limit what outside states could do to influence internal struggles for self-determination and national liberation. The resolution says that no state should “interfere in the civil strife of another state” and all states shall “respect the right of self-determination and independence of peoples and nations, to be freely exercised without any foreign pressure and with absolute respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Consequently, all States shall contribute to the complete elimination of racial discrimination and colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.” Understood in the context of the decolonization process, the member states of the General Assembly were expressing their preferences and concerns about how states compete with each other to shape political outcomes. Many developing states, having fought hard for their sovereignty and the right to determine their internal affairs, are still reluctant to weaken the principle of nonintervention, however ill-defined.

The principle of nonintervention is subordinate to the Chapter VII enforcement provisions of the UN Charter. When the Security Council identifies events occurring within the jurisdiction of a member state as a threat to international peace and security, then nonintervention gives way to the authority of the UN. According to Article 2(5), member states are obligated to support the UN and not assist states against which the UN is taking enforcement action. With the advent of the UN system, sovereignty and nonintervention are no longer sacrosanct principles of world order. They are conditioned by other principles: the nonuse of force, the pacific settlement of disputes, and respect for international law and obligations contained in the UN Charter.

This commentary makes clear that the core UN principles not only are important for building a world order and global governance worthy of support, but also are themselves subject to debate. Their application is an essential element of international politics. The contested nature of these principles is not unusual. If we take the United States and its constitutional principles for comparison, we find ongoing debates over federalism and states’ rights, the meaning of “equal protection of the laws,” the scope of congressional war powers, whether free speech in the First Amendment regulates campaign contributions, the proper understanding of religious freedom, and so forth.

Structure of the Book

The UN is responsible for maintaining international peace and security and its history is filled with the trials and tribulations of collective security since World War II.[31] Part 1 of this book details the evolving efforts of the United Nations to directly combat security threats. Chapter 1 introduces the theory of collective security and explains how international cooperation is fostered through key Charter provisions involving the pacific settlement of disputes, enforcement, and respect for regional arrangements. Chapter 2 examines UN security efforts during the early part of the Cold War and shows how the UN innovated with the creation of peacekeeping. It also examines the early use of economic sanctions as a public policy tool. Chapters 3 and 4 explain the renaissance in UN security activities from 1988 through the present, including the expansion of peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations, and the evolution of the international norm, the responsibility to protect (R2P). Chapter 5 discusses the contemporary political dynamics at the UN and reviews reform proposals that would make it better able to address the challenges of failed states, terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Part 2 introduces UN efforts to promote and protect international human rights and humanitarian principles, not only as a strategy for maintaining international peace and security, but as something intrinsically valuable to individuals and worthy of pursuit in world politics. Chapter 6 traces the origins of UN actions on behalf of human rights and humanitarian principles. Chapter 7 focuses on how the UN has helped create and implement these rights and principles through various multilateral and intergovernmental bodies. Chapter 8 centers on UN developments in the field of human rights, exploring the role of independent experts and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Chapter 9 analyzes theories of change as they relate to international human rights protection and the value of democracy.

Part 3 describes the efforts by the UN to build consensus around the idea of sustainable human development. Chapter 10 examines the evolution of thought about development and explores international attempts to build a humane capitalist world order. Chapter 11 focuses on how the UN formulates public policy related to human security and explains the complexities of international environmental protection. The role of the United Nations in promoting development and human security in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the focus of Chapter 12. The UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the SDGs are provided in the appendices.

Central Themes

Several themes are woven throughout this book. First, the story of the UN is one of continuity and change. A fundamental continuity is that the political will of the first UN, especially of the great powers, is always necessary for the UN to be effective. Power matters, and the way member states use their power has an impact on the efficacy of the UN in managing global problems. Another continuity is that world politics are dynamic, leading to ups and downs in UN responses to major issues. These fluctuations mostly depend on the policies of member states and the skill of their leaders. At the same time, most changes at the UN are undramatic and certainly not transformational. Rather, they are incremental and nonlinear. Setbacks happen, and once-effective strategies need to evolve to adjust to new realities. It is impossible to assess what might have happened had the UN acted or not. What is possible is to trace how and why the UN was created and how it has adapted in a constantly changing political, economic, and social environment.

Second, history is important. The present and the future have a history. When seemingly new issues arise, they always have a background that affects their management or disposition. When former colonies are asked to support some proposed UN action to protect human rights inside abusive states, they are often reluctant to do so—recalling their domination by powerful Western states in the past. When U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell spoke at the UN Security Council in early 2003 about whether Iraq had complied with previous council resolutions demanding disarmament, many commentators referred back to the council of 1962, at which U.S. permanent representative Adlai Stevenson dramatically confronted the Soviet Union over the issue of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. In 2003 the United States did not have the same kind of compelling evidence—the “smoking gun”—presented some forty years earlier. Still, UN history was part of the drama of Powell’s presentation. These events will in turn shape future UN efforts at disarmament and nonproliferation. History does not necessarily determine the future, but history provides insights and frequently circumscribes policy options and prescriptions. The history of the UN in authorizing military force, deploying peacekeeping forces, coordinating humanitarian assistance, and promoting sustainable development affects new policy decisions and directions. Knowing this history is essential for understanding UN politics.

Third, public international law as an institution exerts real influence on real political struggles. Like all public law, international law is not simply a technical subject independent of politics, but is itself part and parcel of world politics. International law is formulated through a political process, frequently revolving around a variety of actors in a variety of UN forums. Consequently, public international law interacts with world politics, sometimes shaping it greatly and sometimes only slightly or not at all.

Much of world politics centers on the networks of actors of the first, second, and third UN who are focusing on and tackling the same problems. The proliferation and diversity of actors complicates analysis and creates additional challenges. The creation of the United Nations in 1945 ushered in hopes that a new and effective world order could be created based on security, freedom, and welfare; however, today, it is clear that the 193 governments of the first UN do not always agree on those values, much less how to pursue them. Add the various armed groups outside of the UN system (many supported by member states), such as the Islamic state in eastern Syria and western Iraq, Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, Al Qaeda, and religious and nationalist militias, and pessimists might conclude that the contents of the UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and 1949 Geneva Conventions seem like meaningless historical footnotes. The armed nonstate radicals reject not only international human rights and the laws of war, but also plurality and religious and cultural diversity. Nevertheless, the UN framework represents a relevant vehicle for trying to manage these thorny challenges. For as Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld famously once said, “The purpose of the UN is not to get us to heaven but to save us from hell.”


[1] Dan Plesch and Thomas G. Weiss, eds., Wartime Origins and the Future United Nations (London: Routledge, 2015).
[2] Dan Plesch, “How the United Nations Beat Hitler and Prepared the Peace,” Global Society 22, no. 1 (2008): 137–158; and Dan Plesch, America, Hitler and the UN: How the Allies Won World War II and Forged a Peace (London: Tauris, 2011).
[3] Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws, eds., The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
[4] Thomas G. Weiss, Tatiana Carayannis, and Richard Jolly, “The ‘Third’ United Nations,” Global Governance 15, no. 1 (2009): 123–142. This is a major theme in the capstone volume from the United Nations Intellectual History Project by Richard Jolly, Louis Emmerij, and Thomas G. Weiss, UN Ideas That Changed the World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009).
[5] William DeMars and Dennis Dijkeul, eds., The NGO Challenge for International Relations Theory (London: Routledge, 2014); Joel Oestereich, ed., International Organizations as Self-Directed Actors: A Framework for Analysis (London: Routledge, 2012); Molly Ruhlman, Who Participates in Global Governance: States, Bureaucracies, and NGOs in the United Nations (London: Routledge, 2014); Peter Willetts, Non-Governmental Organizations in World Politics (London: Routledge, 2011); and Nora McKeon, The United Nations and Civil Society (London: Zed, 2009).
[6] Jeffery Haynes, Faith-Based Organization at the United Nations (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014).
[7] Soo Yeon Kim and Bruce Russett, “The New Politics of Voting Alignments in the United Nations General Assembly,” International Organization 50, no. 4 (1996): 629–652. See also Evan Luard, A History of the United Nations: The Years of Western Domination (London: Macmillan, 1982).
[8] Cedric de Coning, Thomas Mandrup, and Liselotte Odgaard, eds. The BRICs and Coexistence: An Alternative Vision of World Order (New York: Routledge, 2015); Peter Ferdinand, “Rising Powers at the UN: An Analysis of the BRICs in the General Assembly,” Third World Quarterly 35 (2014): 376–391; David Petrasek, “New Powers, New Approaches? Human Rights Diplomacy in the 21st Century,” International Journal of Human Rights 10 (2013): 6–15.
[9] Andrew Cooper and Ramesh Thakur, The Group of 20 (G20) (London: Routledge: 2013).
[10] James Raymond Vreeland. The Political Economy of the United Nations Security Council: Money and Influence (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
[11] Kerstin Martens, NGOs and the United Nations: Institutionalization, Professionalization and Adaptation (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 2.
[12] Henry F. Carey, Privatizing the Democratic Peace: Policy Dilemmas of NGO Peacebuilding (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
[13] Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws, eds., The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
[14] Stephen D. Krasner, Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999).
[15] Despite the notion of the sovereign equality of states, all sorts of unequal relations have existed and have even been formally approved. In this sense the unequal relations in the UN, such as the five permanent members of the Security Council possessing the veto, follow many examples of inequality—despite the centrality of sovereignty. See Jack Donnelly, “Sovereign Inequality and Hierarchy in Anarchy: American Power and International Society,” in American Foreign Policy in a Globalized World, ed. David P. Forsythe, Patrice C. McMahon, and Andy Wedeman (New York: Routledge, 2006), 81–104.
[16] Edward Luck, Mixed Messages: American Politics and International Organization, 1919–1999 (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1999).
[17] Richard N. Haass, The Opportunity: America’s Moment to Alter History’s Course (New York: Public Affairs, 2005), 41.
[18] Jack Goldsmith, The Terror Presidency (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008).
[19] International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility to Protect (Ottawa: ICISS, 2001). See also Gareth Evans, The Responsibility to Protect (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2008); Alex Bellamy, Responsibility to Protect: The Global Effort to End Mass Atrocities (Cambridge: Polity, 2009); Thomas G. Weiss, Humanitarian Intervention: Ideas in Action, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Polity, 2016); and Ramesh Thakur, The United Nations, Peace and Security: From Collective Security to the Responsibility to Protect (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
[20] For a discussion, see Thomas G. Weiss and Ramesh Thakur, Global Governance and the UN: An Unfinished Journey (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010).
[21] Boutros Boutros-Ghali, “Empowering the United Nations,” Foreign Affairs 72, no. 5 (1992–1993): 98–99.
[22] Kofi Annan, “Two Concepts of Sovereignty,” Economist (September 18, 1999).
[23] Secretary-General SG/SM/11701, July 15, 2008, Department of Public Information.
[24] Ian Brownlie, “The Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes,” The Chinese Journal of International Law, 8, no. 2 (2009), 267–283; John R. Crooks, “The U.S. and International Claims and Compensation Bodies,” in The Sword and the Scales: the United States and International Courts and Tribunals, ed. Cesare P. R. Romano (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 297–319.
[25] For an insightful and readable overview, see Stephen C. Neff, War and the Law of Nations: A General History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
[26] Adam Roberts and Richard Guelff, eds., Documents on the Laws of War, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
[27] R. J. Vincent, Nonintervention and International Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974).
[28] Summaries of Judgements, Advisory Opinions, and Orders of the Permanent Court of International Justice (United Nations, 2013), 7, accessed February 14, 2015, available at
[29] Lassa Oppenheim, International Law: A Treatise, vol. 1 (London: Longmans, 1920), 221; R. J. Vincent, Nonintervention and International Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), 13.
[30] UN General Assembly Resolution 2131, Doc A/6014 (December 21, 1965).
[31] Dan Plesch and Thomas G. Weiss, eds., The Wartime Origins and the Future of the UN (New York: Routledge, 2015); Vaughan Lowe, Adam Roberts, Jennifer Welsh, and Dominik Zaum, eds., The United Nations Security Council and War: The Evolution of Thought and Practice Since 1946 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Chapter 1

The Theory and Practice of UN Collective Security

The primary purpose of the UN is to maintain international peace and security through what is broadly referred to as collective security. Collective security is premised on the idea that security is in the interest of all states, and threats to security often require a coordinated international response. States agree to confront security threats and to share in the costs of maintaining or enforcing the peace. The primary mechanisms for collective security in the UN Charter are the commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes (Chapter VI), peace enforcement (Chapter VII), and the respect for regional arrangements (Chapter VIII).[1] This chapter explores the theory and practice of collective security at the UN by examining the requisites for successful collective security, and the roles of the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and secretary-general in supporting the arrangements. It concludes with an examination of the role of regional intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) in maintaining international peace and security.

Collective Security

Initially, collective security was conceived as being guaranteed by the Chapter VII enforcement provision of the UN Charter. This conception of collective security can be traced through a long history of proposals that deal with war and peace.[2] The central thread is the same: all states would join forces to prevent one of their number from using coercion to gain advantage. Under such a system, no government could conquer another or otherwise disturb the peace for fear of retribution from all other governments. An attack on one would be treated as an attack on all. The notion of self-defense, universally agreed on as a right of sovereign states, was expanded to include the international community’s right to prevent war.[3]

The apparent simplicity of the logic of collective security contrasts with the difficulties in its application. In theory, successful collective security depends on three factors: consensus, commitment, and organization.[4] Consensus refers to the recognition by members that a threat to international peace and security exists. Members of a collective security arrangement, especially the most powerful members, must agree that a threat to the peace or a breach of the peace has occurred, or they must at least stand aside (i.e., abstain) when others wish to act. When the UN was founded in 1945, the central concern was states invading other states and grabbing territory. After World War II, the land grab was rare and the violent conflicts that did arise instead centered on who controlled governments, decolonization, and related civil strife. States provided arms and aid to governments they liked and provided assistance to opposition groups in states they did not like. Some states funded nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in other states that promoted democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, though this was seen by others as fomenting rebellion and subverting the recognized governments. Did such actions disturb the peace or threaten stability? Deciding which behaviors constitute a threat to international peace and security is one of the central challenges for the UN. Since 1945, states have not been consistently willing to characterize all uses of force, outside of self-defense, as a threat to or breach of the peace.

If and when member states agree that some use of force is unacceptable, they must then agree on what to do about it. Should states impose economic sanctions, use military force, or a combination of both? This is where commitment factors in: Once a course of action has been decided on, then states must be committed to that course of action and have contingency plans if it falters. They must be willing to bear the costs and sacrifice their national interests for the collective good—or define their national interest as coterminous with general peace and stability.

Finally, if the first two conditions can be met, then there must be organization. That is, agreed-on mechanisms, rules, and procedures must exist for carrying out a course of action. If sanctions are imposed, how will member states enforce them, detect cheating, or evaluate their political and social impact? If military force is approved, which states will conduct the operations, and how will they be monitored? These kinds of policy choices are complicated and represent the kind of questions member states wrestle with at the UN. The record of the world organization in collective security is determined in large part by its ability to meet the conditions of consensus, commitment, and organization in practice.

The Security Council and Collective Security

Chapter V of the UN Charter designates the Security Council as the organ primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security. Unlike in the League of Nations, all UN member states are legally required to abide by Security Council resolutions that constitute decisions that relate to enforcement actions.[5] The Charter originally specified that the Security Council would have eleven members, but in 1965 the council’s membership was increased to fifteen to better reflect the expanded UN after decolonization. In this “first UN” intergovernmental body, the most powerful states are accorded special responsibilities and privileges. The five permanent members (the P5) are the United States, the Soviet Union (now Russia), the United Kingdom, France, and China. Each state of the P5 has veto power. They pay more of the bills, and no decision can be made on nonprocedural questions unless they concur or at least agree to abstain. The veto power ensures that no enforcement action can take place against one of the great powers. Such an action could start a major war—the very thing that the United Nations was established to forestall. By preventing action against a permanent member, the veto saves the organization from wrecking itself in operations against its most powerful members. Enforcement actions can be undertaken only with great power consensus, the first key element for collective security.

The remaining ten members are elected to two-year terms by the General Assembly. When electing the nonpermanent members, the assembly tries to maintain a geographical balance by including representatives of the four major regions of the world: usually three from Africa, two from Asia, three from Europe, and two from Latin America. After expanding in 1965, the Security Council altered its decision-­making process, reducing the mathematical weight that the permanent members hold in the voting. Nine affirmative votes are now needed to pass a resolution.

The presidency of the council revolves monthly among council member states and plays a critical role in setting the agenda and smoothing the way to a vote. Some disagreement during the formal voting process has been reduced by efforts to gain consensus before any vote, though this process may lead to soft or unclear resolutions or statements. The president meets with the secretary-general to identify the parties to a dispute, negotiates with the permanent members to try to ensure that the veto will not be used, and consults with the elected members of the Security Council and other relevant groups or actors. Accordingly, unified decision making is facilitated, and disunity in the council can be reduced.[6] Sometimes a president decides to push a particular theme for a month—for example, protection of civilians or peacebuilding.

The General Assembly and Security

The Security Council is not the only organ of the first UN with a role in maintaining international peace and security. The General Assembly, where every member state is represented, serves as a more open forum for discussion of security matters. Under the UN Charter (Articles 10 and 11), it may consider and make recommendations regarding the maintenance of international peace and security. The General Assembly’s role in international peace and security increased for a time with the passage of the Uniting for Peace Resolution in 1950. This resolution, which can be initiated either by the General Assembly or the Security Council, was first enacted to allow the assembly to address North Korean aggression in South Korea. This was a reaction to the Security Council’s inaction after its initial condemnation of aggression and approval of assistance to South Korea. The absence by the boycotting Soviet Union (protesting Taiwan’s occupation of the “Chinese seat” on the council in spite of the 1949 military victory by the Chinese communists under Mao Zedong) had permitted the initial call for assistance and linked the UN to the subsequent military action against North Korea and its allies. But once Moscow ended its boycott and entered the fray, the Security Council was paralyzed by the Soviet veto. The Uniting for Peace Resolution was not used again until 1956, when permanent members were involved in two crises. The General Assembly approved UN actions in the Suez crisis because effective action in the Security Council had been blocked by France and Britain; earlier that year, the assembly had censured Moscow’s use of armed force in Hungary. Another use was in 1960, after the Security Council became deadlocked over the Congo operation primarily because the Soviet Union and the United States supported different sides in the conflict.

The Uniting for Peace Resolution has been invoked ten times, the last being against Israel in 1997 for its policies in the occupied territories. Although several NGOs from the third UN called on the General Assembly to invoke the resolution in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, no state on the Security Council or in the General Assembly has formally called for its consideration in recent years. Given its sporadic use, the efficacy of the Uniting for Peace Resolution for enhancing the General Assembly’s role in international security is subject to considerable skepticism.

When the Security Council is paralyzed, the General Assembly can at least be a sounding board for international views. It has overwhelmingly condemned Syria’s war on its own people in five different resolutions since 2011 and even called upon Syrian president Assad to step down. In 2014 the General Assembly passed a resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea with only twelve member states voting against it. However, the assembly can only make nonbinding recommendations, including statements of condemnation, relating to international peace and security. Only the Security Council can make decisions that are binding on member states.

The Secretary-General and Security

The second UN also has an important role in the maintenance of international peace and security.[7] The Charter spells out some of these actors: the executive head of the organization (the secretary-general) and the professional staff (the secretariat). Selected by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council, the secretary-general is effectively the chief executive officer (although the Charter specifies “chief administrative officer”). Today’s professional and support staff number approximately fifty-five thousand in the UN proper and an additional twenty thousand in the specialized agencies. These figures represent substantial growth from the five hundred employees in the UN’s first year at Lake Success and the peak total of seven hundred staff employed by the League of Nations.[8] In matters of peace and security, several departments are involved including the undersecretaries-general for political affairs, humanitarian affairs, and peacekeeping operations. Depending on the number of peace operations under way at any moment, somewhere between ten thousand and one hundred thousand UN soldiers, police, and other special personnel have served under the secretary-general.

Beyond organizing and directing staff, the secretary-general plays an instrumental role in the mediation of disputes, negotiations between or among warring parties, and deployment of UN-sponsored forces. This role reaches beyond that assigned to any other international official—although many ask whether the role is more “secretary” or “general.”[9] An important mechanism in this regard is the appointment of special and personal representatives or envoys of the secretary-­general, who undertake missions in conflict areas.[10] This step is approved by the Security Council and is often taken when the council is divided and unable to act.

Additionally, Article 99 of the UN Charter makes it possible for the secretary-­general to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security,” although it has only been invoked three times. If the council is unwilling to act, as one UN staff member said, there is no point in diving into an empty swimming pool. Even without formally invoking Article 99, the secretary-general can still press his views behind the scenes with various states. His personal judgment and readiness to run risks and take initiatives are crucial to fulfilling the job description.

The secretary-general’s actions are closely scrutinized by governments. Depending on the political climate, criticism can be scathing, and it certainly affects the UN Secretariat. Secretary-General U Thant was stridently criticized by the West for pulling UN troops from the Sinai in 1967, just as Trygve Lie, the first secretary-general, and Dag Hammarskjöld had been criticized by the Soviet bloc for their respective actions in Korea and the Congo. U Thant was also criticized by Washington for his clear opposition to the U.S. presence in Vietnam. More recently, secretaries-general Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and Kofi Annan have been criticized for their actions in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Somalia, and Iraq. The eighth occupant of the job, Ban Ki-moon, assumed office in January 2007 and has been criticized for his lack of leadership in the area of international peace and security.[11] The ninth secretary-general will assume office in January 2017 and should expect, as with many visible policy positions, criticism to go with the territory. However, since the time of Trygve Lie and the Korean War, the secretary-general has rarely issued a harsh public judgment concerning armed conflict involving P5 states, since he is not effective if he loses the confidence of any state with the veto. The secretary-general walks a tightrope, needing to appear independent and not simply a pawn of any or all of the P5 states, even while maintaining their confidence and support. If from time to time he must speak out in a critical way, it cannot be to the point that he becomes persona non grata to any of the Big Five.

Legal Basics

Most Security Council and General Assembly resolutions constitute recommendations, legally speaking. When dealing with peace and security issues, the council usually acts under Chapter VI, not Chapter VII. Chapter VI deals with the pacific settlement of disputes. Under this part of the Charter the council suggests to parties how they might resolve their disputes. Traditional peacekeeping, even though UN personnel may be lightly armed, takes place under Chapter VI. UN peacekeepers do not shoot their way into situations; they proceed with the consent of the parties, usually to supervise some cease-fire or other agreement. But the theory of the Charter’s operation always entailed the notion that persuasion under Chapter VI should be seen against the more coercive possibilities under Chapter VII. If the parties cannot agree, upon pacific urging of the Security Council under the purview of Chapter VI, they might face sanctions under Chapter VII.

One of the great complexities facing the UN in the twenty-first century is that although the Charter was written for states, much political instability and violence arise today either from violence within states or from violence across state boundaries by nonstate actors (NSAs). This is further complicated by state actors funding and supporting NSAs. The problems in Somalia and Liberia, to name just two, arose from the absence of a functioning state and a government capable of speaking in the name of the state. In Sri Lanka, armed Tamils sought to violently carve out a new state in the north of that island. In Libya and Syria today armed factions vie with the existing regime for control of the government. Particularly after September 11, 2001, the importance of transnational NSAs, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and other militant groups has become obvious.

This reality has implications for contemporary meanings of Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter, which prohibits the UN from intervening in the domestic jurisdiction of a state. In the context of failed states or humanitarian crises generated by state and nonstate actors, can the UN and its member states intervene in matters previously considered to be part of domestic jurisdiction? It is fairly well settled (both in the Charter and in practice) that if the UN Security Council decides (under Chapter VII) that an internal situation constitutes a threat to international peace and security, then the UN can intervene. The fault line in the politics of the first UN today is who can act and how when the Security Council will not.


Collective security, whether to confront traditional forms of interstate aggression or to address instability occurring materially within the territory of a state, requires organization. However, although Article 43 obligates states to conclude an agreement with the Military Staff Committee (MSC), a subsidiary of the Security Council, whereby military forces are made available to the UN, no state has ever concluded such an agreement. Most states do not agree on that kind of delegation of power resources. The Cold War pushed the MSC to the back burner and eventually Article 43 became a dead letter. In 2004 the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (HLP), and in 2005 then secretary-general Annan in his publication In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All, recommended that the MSC be formally abolished.[12] At the 2005 World Summit, the General Assembly recommended that the Security Council review the composition and mandate of the MSC. Hence, the body exists in theory, but in practice the council and secretary-general are left with the task of constructing military forces mostly anew for each crisis in which a UN military presence is contemplated. It is hard to believe that large-scale UN peace operations, which, after all, started in 1956, still remain on such shaky and ad hoc organizational ground.[13]

The UN, thus, has been forced to resort to a “sheriff’s posse”[14] approach to responding to crises—as in Korea, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, East Timor, and Libya. In effect, the UN delegates its Chapter VII authority to others. The legal foundation for such a delegation is strong, especially since the Chapter VII authority is broad and over fifty years of state practice demonstrates a clear pattern of tasking member states, the secretary-general, regional organizations, and international criminal courts to carry out Security Council decisions. While the authority and the competency of the council to delegate are broad, it is not allowed to delegate two kinds of powers.[15] First, the council cannot delegate the authority to determine whether a threat to the peace or a breach of the peace has occurred. Second, it cannot delegate unrestricted command and control of enforcement to others. That is, the council must maintain oversight.

As we will see in later discussions of Iraq and Libya, Security Council control of delegated collective security enforcement operations has proven more problematic in practice than in theory. Nevertheless, the UN has entered into a “contract” with the United States or other major powers or regional organizations to enforce UN policy in countering either aggression or threats to peace and security. In the former Yugoslavia following the Dayton accords, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) became the UN’s agent. This is not so different from the Rhodesian situation in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Security Council authorized the British navy to enforce the mandatory economic embargo in Mozambican territorial waters. This approach has the advantage of efficiency, which is no small matter when lives are on the line. But it has the drawback of the loss of UN control over its own decisions, diminishing the organization’s capacity for oversight of what is done in its name.

Gaps Between Theory and Practice

Experience with UN collective security indicates considerable gaps between ­theory and practice. First, some states have refused to join a collective-­sanctioning effort because they have already defined their friends and enemies. During the Cold War, the United States would not have joined in a UN effort at collective security against one of its NATO allies, nor would the Soviet Union have done so against its Warsaw Pact allies. In an exceptional move, the United States did oppose the British, French, and Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956 and eventually helped to roll it back by diplomacy. But the United States never seriously considered UN sanctions against its allies in 1956, precisely because it wanted to maintain their cooperation in the Cold War. Friends and allies might have shifted a bit after the Cold War, but the desire to protect friends has not. Under true collective security, all aggressors have to be treated the same. All threats to and breaches of the peace have to be firmly and automatically opposed.

Second, there is the fundamental problem of power. Since 1945 the international community of states has had major and insurmountable problems in applying collective security against a nuclear state, especially the P5.[16] The Security Council is constrained procedurally by the veto. By design, the Security Council is supposed to act only when there is concurrence among the P5. How could one justify the massive destruction that could result from trying to apply forcible collective security against such a state, even if clear-cut aggression had occurred? The nuclear problem also extends to other states that possess nuclear weapons, such as India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea.

The problem of regulating powerful potential aggressors goes beyond the nuclear question. Many states control sufficient conventional forces, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, or economic resources so that collective security against them would be highly disruptive and costly to international society. For this reason, the vast majority of states have been content with diplomatic and symbolic opposition to such acts as the U.S. invasions of Grenada and Panama in the 1980s or Iraq in 2003 or the Soviet/Russian invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and 1960s and Georgia and Ukraine in 2010s, knowing full well that any attempt at military or economic sanctions would be disruptive and ineffectual. The great powers are not the only ones difficult to manage. Lesser powers with considerably less economic and military strength can still be important actors, depending on issues and timing.

Third, collective security can be costly to those supporting it. Sanctions cut both ways, affecting not only the aggressor but the defenders. Communist Bulgaria voted in the UN for sanctions against white-minority rule in South Africa in the 1980s but also sold arms to South Africa under the table. Bulgaria did not want to miss out on profits from the arms trade despite its formal support for economic collective security against the white-minority government in Pretoria. It was one thing for states to accept that apartheid constituted a threat to the peace. It was another for them to engage collectively against apartheid at a cost to their own narrow national interests. Similarly, UN sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s and Sudan in 2005 were undermined by major trading partners.

Fourth, the concept of collective security is based on the assumption that all victims are equally important: that the international community of states will respond in the same way to an attack on Bosnia or Armenia as to an attack on Kuwait or Germany. [17] Historical evidence shows that most states have differentiated between countries worth defending and otherwise. In 1991 the United States was willing to disrupt its home front by putting almost half a million military personnel into the liberation of oil-rich Kuwait. But the United States did not respond so decisively at about the same time in the early 1990s when Serbia tried to enlarge itself at the expense mainly of neighboring Bosnia. U.S. officials stated openly that since U.S. national interests were not involved, the government was prepared to let Europeans handle a European problem. It was only later, when continued atrocities led to increased demands for international action, that the Washington and the rest of the UN Security Council were roused to a more determined response.

A wide view of the Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria. September 16, 2015, United Nations, New York.(UN Photo 642775/Loey Filipe)

A wide view of the Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria. September 16, 2015, United Nations, New York.
(UN Photo 642775/Loey Filipe)

Collective security could make the state system more humane by making it more secure. Forms of collective security have worked at times. Iraqi aggression against Kuwait was rolled back in 1991 through collective force authorized by the UN, as was a military coup in Haiti after UN-sponsored economic sanctions fell short. At the time of this writing, UN and other sanctions had brought Iran to the negotiating table, with the UN Security Council seeing the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapons program as a definite threat to the peace. But these tend to be the exceptional examples proving the general rule that collective security, either military or economic, is exceedingly difficult to organize and enforce. States have numerous narrow national interests that they are reluctant to see overridden in the name of generalized peace or justice. Member states of the Security Council also may genuinely disagree as to when coercive economic and military enforcement measures are justified. Such was the case in 2002 and 2003, when the council was divided over how to enforce disarmament measures in Iraq. Similarly, the P5 has been unable to agree on what to do about the violence and humanitarian situation in Syria beginning in 2011, as armed conflict has dragged on and claimed more than 250,000 lives while uprooting over half of Syria’s population. If agreement on international enforcement issues were easier, one might aspire to world government, not just collective security.[18]

As the following chapters illustrate, the difficulties with enforcement have led the member states of the first UN to innovate with alternatives to collective security. States push and prod other states to use less coercive mechanisms, such a legal remedies, mediation, and arbitration. They also created “peacekeeping” in 1948 (discussed in Chapter 2) as a halfway measure between the peaceful settlement of disputes and enforcement. The peacekeeping innovation has evolved considerably to include extensive peacebuilding in postconflict societies.

Regional Arrangements

Is it more appropriate to deal with local conflict through multilateral organizations whose scope is regional (for instance, the European Union, NATO, or the Arab League) or universal (for instance, the United Nations)?[19] Chapter VIII of the UN Charter indicates a preference for regional management of regional conflict. Regional organizations, when and where they exist, are often an appropriate locus for action because instability often poses a greater threat to regional actors than those farther away. At the outset of the present Charter regime, the preference for peaceful settlement was clearly articulated. Even Article 21 of the Covenant of the League of Nations noted the validity of regional understandings as a basis for maintaining peace. Nevertheless, one of the most controversial aspects at the San Francisco conference was the relative balance between regionalism and universalism.[20] While the creation of the Security Council, with its enforcement power, gave globalism a significant edge over regionalism, Chapter VIII, “Regional Arrangements,” was also considered essential. The basic idea, called subsidiarity, is that the organization closest to the conflict should take action, if possible, before asking the universal UN to get involved. That way, the Security Council remains an option if regional efforts fall short. Chapter VIII was designed to limit Security Council deliberations to the most severe and intractable disputes.

Article 52 of Chapter VIII declares, “Nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies dealing with matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security” under the condition that “their activities are consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.” This article encourages states to use regional organizations before directing their conflicts to the Security Council and also recommends that the council make use of regional arrangements. Articles 53 and 54 define relations between the UN and regional organizations by prohibiting the latter from taking peace and security measures without Security Council authorization and by insisting that regional organizations inform the council of their activities.

The active use of the veto throughout the Cold War not only prevented the use of the Security Council but also meant that regional organizations sometimes provided the United States and the Soviet Union with convenient pretexts for containing disputes within organizations that were themselves under superpower control. Crises in Guatemala, Cuba, Panama, and the Dominican Republic were relegated to the Organization of American States, dominated by the United States. Hungary and Czechoslovakia were in the jurisdiction of the “socialist community” of the Warsaw Pact, dominated by the Soviet Union.

The supposed deficiencies of universal international organizations and the resulting apparent strengths of regional ones should be examined in light of the ambiguity of “region” as a concept, the overstretched capacities of the UN in international peace and security, and the purported better familiarity with local crises by the member states of regional organizations. The framers deliberately avoided precision in the language in Chapter VIII, thereby allowing governments the flexibility to fashion instruments to foster international peace and security. Although the commonsensical notion of region is related to geography, the ambiguity of the Charter means that a region can also be conceived of geopolitically, culturally, ideologically, and economically. Such groups could include treaty-based organizations that predate or postdate the United Nations or ad hoc mechanisms created to deal with a specific concern. In addition to including such geographic entities as the African Union or the Organization of American States (OAS), the Charter’s definition of a regional organization might also include NATO, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The emergence of such “subregional” units as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Southern African Development Coordination Conference are potentially significant.[21] The concept of regionalism remains ambiguous and therefore contested. The upside might be a more flexible response to crises.

A second issue concerns institutional resources. The United Nations continues to experience grave financial difficulties and lacks sufficient and qualified staff. The great powers appear reluctant to pay for substantial administrative expansion of UN conflict management. The end of East-West tensions diminished Western interests in many regional conflicts. Moreover, the “war on terrorism” introduced other priorities, not just in the United States but throughout the Western world. Governing elites and publics sought to divert expenditure from foreign policy to postponed domestic economic and social needs. Smaller powers traditionally active in peacekeeping are unlikely to continue to pick up more of the tab. They share the economic problems of the larger states. The 2005 World Summit failed to approve any significant additional resources for the UN, and it even stumbled over giving the secretary-general more authority for budget and management decisions. Such a change would have implied reducing the control by the General Assembly, where developing countries are the majority, in favor of the UN’s central administration, where the perception is that Western donors (and especially Washington) are in control.

In this context, regional approaches to crisis management and conflict resolution might seem attractive. States near a country in conflict suffer most from the destabilizing consequences of war in their area. They receive most of the refugees and bear the political, social, and economic consequences, willingly or unwillingly, of combatants from neighboring countries seeking sanctuary. They face the choice of pacifying and repatriating combatant and noncombatant aliens on their territory or of resisting hot pursuit by those from whom these refugees have fled. Local conflict and the consequent perceptions of regional instability dampen investment flows and retard growth. They divert public resources into defense expenditures.

States from a region at war appear to be well suited to mediating local conflicts. They understand the dynamics of the strife and of the cultures involved more intimately than outsiders do. Leaders are far more likely to have personal connections to the involved parties, and these connections may be used as a basis for mediation. Involvement by other regional powers or organizations is less likely to be perceived by the international community as illegitimate interference than would involvement by extraregional organizations. Finally, issues of local conflict are far more likely to be given full and urgent consideration in regional gatherings than in global ones, as the latter have more extensive agendas.

The apparent advantages of regional institutions may exist more in theory than in practice, however. In reality, most of these organizations are far less capable than the United Nations. The comparative advantage of organizations in the actual region in conflict is more than offset by such practical disadvantages as partisanship, resource shortages, and local rivalries. Apart from very unusual cases (such as NATO), regional organizations lack sufficient military capacity, diplomatic leverage, and economic resources. Furthermore, regional organizations are also plagued by the same problems often facing the world organization—achieving consensus, commitment, and organization.

Many of the factors favoring regional organizations are questionable. Regional actors do tend to suffer most from the destructive consequences of conflict among their neighbors. At the same time, they frequently have stakes in these conflicts, are committed to one side or another, and stand to benefit by influencing outcomes. Sometimes they are even active participants. In this sense, their interests are more complex than many proponents of regional organizations suggest. Their shared interest in the public good of regional stability is often accompanied by unilateral interest in obtaining specific favorable outcomes. A favorable result for one regional power is likely to enhance its regional position at the expense of other countries, which are likely to oppose such initiatives. In the terminology of international relations theory, we have simultaneous considerations of “absolute gain” (stability) and “relative gain” (power). There is no certainty that stability will predominate. Situating crises in their regional historical and political contexts enhances this overall argument considerably.


In Africa, the paralysis and bankruptcy of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)—now renamed the African Union (AU)—in curbing intervention and in managing the civil war in Angola (1975–2002) reflected deep disagreement among its own members about the desirable outcome of the process of liberation. Even though its headquarters was in Addis Ababa, the OAU also was inept in helping to end the Ethiopian civil war (1974–1991). The lack of any substantial OAU initiative also arose because other African states were deeply implicated in the conflict in pursuit of diverging national interests. Similar difficulties were evident in OAU efforts to cope with crises in Chad, Somalia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone during the Cold War. The new AU proved largely irrelevant to the bloodletting in the Congo and was slow to respond to the crisis in Darfur. More recently, the AU has become more visible and active in conflicts ranging from South Sudan and Somalia to the Congo and Burundi. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has compiled a mixed record in trying to pacify Liberia, Sierra Leone, and recently Côte d’Ivoire. ECOWAS was one of the first voices to condemn the 2012 military coup d’état in Mali and the first to act to begin the process of brokering a deal that would bring about elections. Still, ECOWAS is forced to appeal to the UN and wealthier states for diplomatic and financial support, and could do little to confront the Islamist insurgency in northern Mali, which required a UN-sanctioned French intervention in 2013. Similarly, it was British troops who stopped the bloodletting in Sierra Leone, rather than any African organization troops in the country. ECOWAS field missions usually depend heavily on the Nigerian military, which has been both corrupt and ineffective in facing Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria.


In South Asia, it is hard to see how any regionally based initiative could have settled the Afghan civil war (1978–1996), not only because of the presence of Soviet forces earlier but also because India had no interest in seeing a pro-Pakistani or Islamic fundamentalist regime in Kabul. To take a more extreme case, the capacity of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to act as a neutral mediator of the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is extremely problematic; the two principal members of the organization are the very states involved. SAARC has shown some promise in coordinating responses to poverty and environmental degradation but remains deficient with security issues such as terrorism.[22] SAARC had little or no role in Sri Lanka’s prolonged and bloody civil war between the government and the Tamil Tigers. This conflict was brought to an end through a brutal governmental victory, with no effective involvement by any outsider.

Elsewhere on the continent, efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to resolve the Cambodian conflict were handicapped by differing conceptions of Chinese and Vietnamese threats to the region. Member states have a more informal security arrangements rather than regional collective security.[23] The secessionist conflict in Indonesia involving East Timor was only resolved when the UN Security Council authorized the Australian-led International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) to restore peace and security on the island, an action taken with the acquiescence of the Indonesian government.

The Americas

In Central America, the OAS could not deal effectively with civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the 1980s because of the U.S. failure to abide by the essential norm of nonintervention in its pursuit of a unilateral agenda to prevent Marxist revolutions. For similar reasons, the OAS could not resolve instability in Honduras after a military coup ousted an elected president in 2009; the United States refused to defer to OAS diplomacy and pursued its own agenda. Dissatisfaction with the OAS and U.S. policies led South American states to create the Union of South American Nations (UNSAN), but is defense arm is still in the conceptualization stage.


Regional security in Europe is complex consisting of overlapping, yet divergent, security organizations that include NATO, the European Union (EU), and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE). The capacity of the EU (and its predecessor EC, the European Community) to come up with an effective response to the violence and instability resulting from the disintegration of Yugoslavia beginning in 1991 was constrained by deep differences of opinion between France and Germany. Furthermore, disagreements among NATO members long hampered military humanitarianism in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The crisis in the Ukraine (2014–present) is testing the capacity of all European organizations to confront Russia’s military assertiveness in Russian-speaking areas of Europe. Despite U.S. president Barack Obama’s commitment to add seventeen thousand American soldiers to the fifty thousand NATO troops in Afghanistan in 2009, the alliance has found it difficult to sustain long-term engagements because of political pressures on domestic fronts. NATO and the United States ended their combat mission in 2014, with decidedly mixed results. Continuing disputes surrounding burden sharing within the alliance led the well-regarded former U.S. secretary of defense Robert Gates to scold NATO allies for their lack of military spending and political will in the UN-delegated collective security operation in Libya. He warned that NATO had “a dim if not dismal future.”[24]

In short, regional organizations replicate regional power imbalances. They may be used by the more powerful to expand their influence at the expense of the weak. This problem has appeared, or is likely to appear, in regions where power imbalances are so substantial that it is not possible for weaker states in coalition to balance against the strong. Cases in point include Russia in Europe, South Africa in southern Africa, Nigeria in West Africa, India in South Asia, Indonesia in Southeast Asia, and the United States in the Americas.

Regional organizations have traditionally demonstrated their greatest structural weaknesses in dealing with civil war, the main growth industry for international conflict managers. This shortcoming follows in part from the international legal impediments associated with the doctrine of nonintervention in internal affairs. These impediments have proven even more acute for many countries in the Global South, preoccupied as they are with exerting control over their own tenuous bases of power.[25] The reluctance to become involved in civil armed conflict reflects the sensitivity of regional powers to creating precedents that might later be used to justify intervention in their own countries. In Africa, for example, many governments are themselves threatened by the possibility of internal war, which leads to caution about fostering norms and precedents that would legitimize regional involvement in such conflicts. Developing states, which have experienced the yoke of colonialism and struggled to gain their independence, tend to jealously guard their sovereign prerogatives. Ironically, the challenge to the sovereignty of colonial powers facilitated the decolonization process, and now the states that benefited from that challenge are among the staunchest defenders of state sovereignty. Respect for conventional definitions of sovereignty has verged on slavishness—including repression and the license to murder. This weakness is likely to play out more strongly at the regional level. For all of these reasons, the general case for reliance on regional organizations is weak, as was very much in evidence in Zimbabwe, where the African Union stood on the sidelines in the face of Robert Mugabe’s destructive repression.

Actions in the wake of the Arab Spring may result in a rethinking of these long-standing generalizations. The visible support by the Arab League and the GCC for establishing a no-fly zone in Libya was essential to mobilizing support for Security Council resolution 1973. And later in Syria, this striking change continued as the Arab League in particular was clear in condemning Bashar al-­Assad. Despite the vetoes, threatened and real, from Russia and China, it also put forward a peace plan within the UN and established the joint Arab League–UN mission led by a succession of special envoys—Kofi Annan, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Staffan de Mistura. The GCC approved a Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen in 2015 and the UN Security Council has followed up with an arms embargo against rebels in Yemen. But regional organizations dealing with the Middle East have lacked the military power to put a decisive end to the violence and instability there.

The United Nations and regional organizations have resorted to creative measures to address violence and conflict. The Gulf War in 1991 and the creation of safe havens for Iraqi Kurds are clear and successful illustrations of military “delegating” to the Allied Coalition, as was NATO’s presence in Bosnia from 1995 until December 2004. A more controversial and less successful example was Somalia, where a U.S.-led effort was mounted to break the back of warlord-induced famine. Moreover, three Security Council decisions in July 1994 indicated the relevance of military intervention by major powers in regions of their traditional spheres of influence: a Russian plan to deploy its troops in Georgia to end the three-year-old civil war; the French intervention in Rwanda, to cope with genocidal conflict; and the U.S. plan to spearhead a military invasion to reverse the military coup in Haiti. More recently the UN delegated security operations to the United Kingdom in Sierra Leone (2000); to Australia in East Timor (2000); and to France in Côte d’Ivoire (2011), Mali (2013), and the Central African Republic (2014). Regional organizations have also turned to delegation. In 1994 the then Conference (now Organization) on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE or OSCE) authorized troops from the Commonwealth of Independent States and other OSCE member states following a ceasefire between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh. Similarly, ECOWAS authorized a contingent of largely Nigerian troops to stabilize Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The record of regional arrangements has not been consistently superior to the UN’s record. Yet the evident gap between the UN’s capacities and persistent demands for help could be filled by regional powers, or even hegemons, operating under the scrutiny of a wider community of states.[26] The argument has become stronger in light of the experience in Kosovo and more especially the smooth handover in Timor-Leste from the Australian-led force to the UN one in February 2000, followed by the return of the Australians when violence renewed in 2006.

Events in Côte d’Ivoire demonstrated the ad hoc and changing efforts to manage conflict and security. While the UN Security Council may pass resolutions in New York, implementing them may result in shifting ad hoc arrangements, given the lack of dependable resources on which the UN can rely. Here the AU’s diplomacy was ultimately unsuccessful but helpful in making the final UN decisions, as was pressure by ECOWAS to act militarily.[27] The absence of a meaningful threat to actually deploy military force in 2010–2011 to oust Laurent Gbagbo and install Alassane Ouattara in Côte d’Ivoire illustrated what happens when a viable military option is not in the international toolkit. The eventual ouster of incumbent Ggagbo followed action by the 1,650-strong French Licorne force as the avant-garde of the UN peace operation and a half year of dawdling. The unavailability or unwillingness to apply armed force abetted Gbagbo’s intransigence as Côte d’Ivoire’s disaster unfolded. Nevertheless, the role of the UN Security Council in authorizing and reviewing the use of force was central throughout.

The capacity of regional organizations to outperform the UN in the management of conflict is in doubt, with the possible exception of Europe, and the potential of regional organizations needs to be tempered with the reality of recent efforts. Since 1945, untold numbers of wars have broken out, and tens of millions of people have perished as a result.[28] According to the logic of the Charter, the leadership for the UN’s peace and security duties rests on the shoulders of a small segment of the international community of states, notably the great powers on the Security Council. Conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union poisoned the atmosphere and prevented their working together on most security issues during the Cold War. After the Cold War, world politics often made it impossible to act collectively and states often chose to disobey or ignore the prohibitions and restrictions on the use of force. In place of the ideal collective security system, the UN developed an alternative to mitigate certain kinds of conflicts: peacekeeping. We now turn to this story.


[1] Bruno Simma, ed., The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
[2] F. H. Hinsley, Power and the Pursuit of Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963); S. J. Hambleben, Plans for World Peace Through Six Centuries (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1943); and F. P. Walters, A History of the League of Nations, 2 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1952).
[3] Thomas G. Weiss and Ramesh Thakur, Global Governance and the UN: An Unfinished Journey (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 55–90.
[4] Robert Riggs and Jack Plano, The United Nations: International Organization and World Politics, 2nd ed. (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1994), 100.
[5] See Loraine Sievers and Sam Daws, The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 34th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); and Vaughan Lowe, Adam Roberts, Jennifer Welsh, and Dominik Zaum, eds., The United Nations Security Council and War: The Evolution of Thought and Practice Since 1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). See also Edward C. Luck, The UN Security Council: Practice and Promise (London: Routledge, 2006); Ian Hurd, After Anarchy: Legitimacy and Power in the United Nations Security Council (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007); and David L. Bosco, Five to Rule Them All: The Security Council and the Making of the Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
[6] Johan Kaufmann, United Nations Decision-Making (Rockville, Md.: Sijthoff and Noord­hoff, 1980), 43–52; and James P. Muldoon et al., Multilateral Diplomacy and the United Nations Today (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1999).
[7] Leon Gordenker, The UN Secretary-General and Secretariat, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2010).
[8] Thant Myint-U and Amy Scott, The UN Secretariat: A Brief History (1945–2006) (New York: International Peace Academy, 2007), 126–128.
[9] Simon Chesterman, ed., Secretary or General? The UN Secretary-General in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
[10] Cyrus R. Vance and David A. Hamburg, Pathfinders for Peace: A Report to the UN Secretary-General on the Role of Special Representatives and Personal Envoys (New York: Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, 1997).
[11] James O. C. Jonah, “Ki-moon as Key Player: The Secretary-General’s Role in Peace and Security,” Harvard International Review (Spring 2011): 59–63.
[12] In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All, UN document A/59/2005, March 21, 2005.
[13] Michael W. Doyle and Nicholas Sambanis, Making War and Building Peace: United Nations Peace Operations (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006).
[14] Brian Urquhart, “Beyond the ‘Sheriff’s Posse,’” Survival 32, no. 3 (1990): 196–205.
[15] Danesh Sarooshi, The United Nations and the Development of Collective Security: The Delegation by the UN Security Council of Chapter VII Powers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 32–33.
[16] Jane Boulden, Ramesh Thakur, and Thomas G. Weiss, eds., The United Nations and Nuclear Orders (Tokyo: UN University Press, 2009).
[17] Justin Gruenberg, “An Analysis of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions: Are All Countries Treated Equally?” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 41 (2009): 469–511.
[18] Chapter 12 of Inis L. Claude Jr., Swords into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of International Organization, 4th ed. (New York: Random House, 1971), remains the best single treatment of collective security. See also his Power and International Relations (New York: Random House, 1962); Ernst B. Haas, “Types of Collective Security: An Examination of Operational Concepts,” American Political Science Review 49, no. 1 (1955): 40–62; Thomas G. Weiss, ed., Collective Security in a Changing World (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1993); and George W. Downs, ed., Collective Security Beyond the Cold War (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994).
[19] S. Neil MacFarlane and Thomas G. Weiss, “Regional Organizations and Regional Security,” Security Studies 2, no. 1 (1992): 6–37; and Alexander Orakhelashvili, Collective Security (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
[20] Francis O. Wilcox, “Regionalism and the United Nations,” International Organization 19, no. 3 (1965): 789–811; and Tom J. Farer, “The Role of Regional Collective Security Arrangements,” in Collective Security in a Changing World, ed. Thomas G. Weiss (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1993), 153–189.
[21] William T. Tow, Subregional Security Cooperation in the Third World (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1990).
[22] Zahid Shahab Ahmed, Regionalism and Regional Security in South Asia: The Role of SAARC (Surrey, U.K.: Ashgate, 2013).
[23] Hiro Katsumata, “East Asian Regional Security Governance: Bilateral Hard Balancing and ASEAN’s Informal Cooperative Security,” in Comparative Regional Security Governance, ed. Shaun Breslin and Stuart Croft (New York: Routledge, 2012), 72–93.
[24] Thom Shanker and Steven Erlanger, “Blunt U.S. Warning Reveals Deep Strains in NATO,” New York Times, June 10, 2011,
[25] Mohammed Ayoob, The Third World Security Predicament: State Making, Regional Conflict, and the International System (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1995); and Brian Job, ed., The Insecurity Dilemma: National Security of Third World States (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1992).
[26] Jarat Chopra and Thomas G. Weiss, “Prospects for Containing Conflict in the Former Second World,” Security Studies 4, no. 3 (1995): 552–583; Lena Jonson and Clive Archer, eds., Peacekeeping and the Role of Russia in Eurasia (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1996); and Alan K. Henrikson, “The Growth of Regional Organizations and the Role of the United Nations,” in Regionalism in World Politics: Regional Organizations and World Order, ed. Louise Fawcett and Andrew Hurrell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 122–168.
[27] Thomas J. Bassett and Scott Straus, “Defending Democracy in Côte d’Ivoire,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 4 (2011): 130–140.
[28] The annual publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Strategic Survey, updates these numbers and is published by Oxford University Press.

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