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About this book

There hardly seems to be a global issue in the world today in which the United Nations (UN) is not expected to play a key role. And indeed, despite a persistent gulf between high expectations and the UN's capacities, the organization continues to be a unique and indispensable actor in areas such as peace maintenance, human rights protection, and development.

Thoroughly revised and updated, the second edition of this highly acclaimed text provides a concise analysis of the UN, its structure and work, achievements and shortcomings, and its likely role and prospects in the twenty-first century. The new edition covers the latest institutional and structural developments – including the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission and the establishment of a permanent Human Rights Council – and reflects recent debates on UN reform.

Table of Contents

1. The United Nations System

Abstract
The United Nations (UN) is an international organization of 193 member states — since July 2011 with the accession of South Sudan (see Table 1.1) — that have voluntarily committed themselves to a mutual obligation to safeguard peace and humane living conditions for the peoples of the world. In addition to the current 193 member states the UN includes one non-member state and one non-member entity — The Holy See and Palestine respectively — who participate as observers to UN sessions and activities. Various other intergovernmental organizations also have standing invitations to participate as permanent observers. The UN’s unusually large membership and breadth of participation are some of the elements that help the organization to realize its claims of universality for its goals, norms and principles.
Sven Bernhard Gareis

2. Institution-Building, Regime Impact and Globalization: The Role and Function of the UN

Abstract
For centuries, the history of international relations (in both the practical and academic senses) has been shaped by attempts to contain and overcome the competitive nature of the state system wherein the principal actors — states — recognize no power higher than themselves. The fundamental questions concerning how states can be brought to peacefully settle their differences is as old as the state system itself. (Griffiths, 1999) Such concerns have occupied thinkers from Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527) and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) to Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929). As might be expected, their solutions have been somewhat divergent.
Sven Bernhard Gareis

3. The Core of the United Nations: Collective Security

Abstract
If it is accepted that Article 1 of the UN Charter represents a positive concept of peace — as already discussed — an apparent incongruity soon emerges. The provisions of the operative chapters concentrate expressly on the avoidance and ending of classical inter-state conflicts and wars. Attempts aimed at the sustainable elimination of the many economic, social or humanitarian causes of violence and war — as would be expected from a broader understanding of peace — are treated with comparative brevity. The Charter’s focus on inter-state conflict is understandable in light of the context, overwhelmingly influenced by the experience of the Second World War, in which the UN came into existence. The general inference drawn from the Second World War was the urgent need to eliminate war as a tool of international relations as a necessary prerequisite for the development of a comprehensive global peace. The basic principle of ‘collective security’ forms the basis upon which all UN efforts to ensure peace are built. Before examining the normative and organizational development of this principle through the League of Nations and the UN, it seems appropriate to lay out and discuss this idea of collective security with respect to its assumptions, its intrinsic problems and its practical potential for the maintenance of global peace.
Sven Bernhard Gareis

4. The Changing Practice of Peace Maintenance

Abstract
The UN Charter provides a very clear general prohibition on the use of force in international relations but as discussed in previous chapters, the use of force has not been eliminated from the international system. Instead, violence and conflict have continued to appear in various guises on the world stage. The UN has responded to these changes, and the legal ambiguities concerning the collective use of force, by developing various mechanisms of peace maintenance. But before the UN’s practice of peace maintenance is analysed it will be useful to consider a brief empirical note on the development of violence and war, as well as the UN’s instruments for tackling these altering challenges.
Sven Bernhard Gareis

5. The United Nations and Human Rights: Normative Development, Codification and Definition

Abstract
The protection of human rights is the second original area of responsibility for the UN. As with the first area of responsibility – the maintenance of international peace and security between states — the development of UN-based universal human rights was born of the experience of the World Wars. Just as the horror of the First World War gave force to the idea that states should no longer enjoy the right to resort to war, the Second World War and the genocide against European Jews (among other grave and large-scale violations) made clear the need for an effective protection for basic human rights. The notion that every human being has a dignity of his own — from which inborn and inalienable rights can be derived regardless of age, sex, religion, ethnicity, nationality or regional or social background — constitutes one of the founding principles of the UN. The effective protection of these rights was believed to be achievable through binding international norms and collective mechanisms for the implementation of such norms. However, the content of the term ‘human rights’ is so unclear as to make a commonly accepted definition barely possible and in turn UN protection of these human rights remains largely unworkable.
Sven Bernhard Gareis

6. Human Rights Protection: Institutional Framework and Code of Practice

Abstract
The effective protection of human rights requires more than the general codification of norms and general appeals for their observation — human rights must be inte grated into states’ own legal systems, and there must be reliable mechanisms for the supervision and enforcement of these human rights. However, the same problem confronts the international protection of human rights as confronts any form of external intervention into the sovereign principle. As a result, states have avoided the creation of any overarching international human rights law and have instead turned to treaty-based options for human rights inspections and implementation. The competencies of the UN human rights committees have therefore essentially been limited to normative work. This chapter will first examine the core international human rights treaties and explore their different practices and applications.
Sven Bernhard Gareis

7. Economic, Development and Environmental Questions in the United Nations: Problem Areas and Institutional Design

Abstract
In his Millennium Report to the General Assembly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan used the metaphor of the ‘world as global village’ to emphasize the extent of global interdependence. (Annan, 2000, p. 9 et seq.) Imagine a village of 1,000 people where the current world demographics are reflected on the population: around 150 people would live in the ‘nice part of town’, 780 would live in the poorer quarters (some of them with insufficient nutrition) and 70 people would live in a neighbourhood in transition. Two hundred people would possess more than 86 per cent of the total wealth, while nearly 500 people would have to survive on barely US$2 dollars a day. Two hundred and twenty of the villagers would be illiterate, fewer than sixty people would own a computer, only twenty-four would have internet access, and more than 500 would never have used a telephone. Some areas of the village would be relatively safe, but others would be plagued by organized violence. In the last few years, there would have been an increasing number of natural disasters that hit the poorer quarters comparatively hard. The average temperature is climbing, and the threat of further environmental catastrophes looms large. Addressing the problems in this ‘global village’ is a major aspect of the UN’s work. Next to peacekeeping and the protection of human rights, activities in the socioeconomic and development areas constitute a third major area of duties for the UN.
Sven Bernhard Gareis

8. Reforms for the Twenty-First Century

Abstract
The dramatic changes in international politics, along with the obvious weaknesses and insufficiencies of the UN itself, have given rise to the theme of UN reform. As noted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his Millennium Report: ‘If the international community were to create a new United Nations tomorrow, its make-up would surely be different from the one we have’ (Annan 2000, para. 352).
Sven Bernhard Gareis

9. Conclusions

Abstract
Since 1945, the UN has become — and remains — an important centre of multilateral politics. However, as was discussed at the very beginning of this book, there is no such thing as ‘the’ UN. Instead, the UN system comprises a complex range of activities aimed at different goals, each equipped with various tools, and demonstrating different levels of effectiveness. In a best-case scenario, the ‘three United Nations’ (Russett et al. 2000, p. 282) develop mutually supporting and strengthening synergy effects. For example, human security concerns the survival and well-being of people living in states — not just the survival of the state itself. The emergence of human security as a core concern of the UN, however, does not mean that traditional state security has become less important. In fact, the two are seen as mutually conditioned. Such inter-connectedness of issues within the framework of a universal organization presents tremendous opportunities, but also presents significant limitations. The UN was tailored to an inter-national world, but we now live in a global world — and the organization’s ability to react and remain effective in this changing environment is the fundamental institutional challenge of this century.
Sven Bernhard Gareis
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