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Irrelevant or Indispensable?

The United Nations in the Twenty-first Century

Paul Heinbecker and Patricia Goff, editors

Studies in International Governance Series

Paper 210 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-493-5

Release Date: June 2005

Online discount: 25%

$38.99  $29.24


eBook availability

Suffering from a divided membership, the United Nations is at a crossroads, unable to assure human or national security. The UN has been criticized as irrelevant by its most—and least—powerful members alike because it can’t reach consensus on how to respond to twenty-first-century challenges of global terrorism, endemic poverty, and crimes against humanity.

Secretary General Kofi Annan has proposed a package of sweeping reforms that would safeguard the rule of law, outlaw terrorism, protect the innocent from abusive governments, reduce poverty by half, safeguard human rights, and enlarge the Security Council. Intended to reinvigorate the institution and galvanize its members into action, his proposals are extensive and innovative, courageous and controversial.

This volume assembles the perspectives of current practitioners, leading academics, civil society representatives, and UN officials on transforming the secretary general’s proposed reforms into action. Their assessments are frank and their views varied, but they do agree on one thing—the United Nations must be made more effective precisely because it is indispensable to the promotion of economic development and collective security in the twenty-first century.

Co-published with the Centre for International Governance Innovation

Paul Heinbecker is Distinguished Research Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and director of the Laurier Centre for Global Relations, Governance, and Policy, both located in Waterloo, Ontario. He was Canada’s ambassador to the UN from 2000 to 2003, where he supported creation of the International Criminal Court and advocated compromise on Iraq. He has also worked as chief foreign policy advisor to former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and as ambassador to Germany.

Patricia Goff is an assistant professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and Special Research Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Waterloo, Ontario. She specializes in international political economy and international relations theory. With Kevin C. Dunn, she is co-editor of Identity and Global Politics: Empirical and Theoretical Elaborations.


“UN reform is in the air, but is it feasible? This is essential reading to find out where we are and why change is desperately needed but desperately problematic as well.”

— Thomas G. Weiss, Presidential Professor and Director, Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, The CUNY Graduate Center

“A special look from serious practitioners, academic experts, and senior diplomats at what it will mean to ‘reform’ the UN and at some of the most critical factors that must be dealt with if the organization is to serve humanity as its founders envisaged. What you should know about the coming efforts to reinvent the United Nations.”

— Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, former US Ambassador to the UN, former US Ambassador to the UN and current member of the US Congressionally-charted Commission on UN Reform

“The substantive content of the April 2005 Waterloo conference presented in this volume is unusually rich, reflecting the variety and quality of participants. The discussion was singularly pertinent to the debate over UN reform in 2005.”

— David M. Malone, Assistant Deputy Minister, Foreign Affairs Canada, and a former President of the International Peace Academy, New York

“The hard-headed analysis in this book charts a path to a world that is more free, more secure, and more equitable. All we need now is the political will to make it happen.”

— Jennifer Welsh, University of Oxford

“The volume has great virtues: immediacy, a sense of the ebb and flow of argument on UN reform among key actors involved, and crisp oral interventions transcribed (that by Lord David Hannay on the high-level panel is a masterpiece of the crisp cadences of imperial condescension—and also, as it happens, of wisdom). Heinbecker succeeded in attracting to Waterloo the most influential UN actors on reform issues and then worked them very hard.”

— David M. Malone, Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, International Journal

Irrelevant or Indispensable?

Table of Contents

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