The United Nations, Peace and Security: From Collective Security to the Responsibility to Protect

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Preventing humanitarian atrocities is becoming as important for the United Nations as dealing with inter-state war. In this book, Ramesh Thakur examines the transformation in UN operations, analysing its changing role and structure. He asks why, when and how force may be used and argues that the growing gulf between legality and legitimacy is evidence of an eroded sense of international community. He considers the tension between the US, with its capacity to use force and project power, and the UN, as the centre of the international law enforcement system. He asserts the central importance of the rule of law and of a rules-based order focused on the UN as the foundation of a civilised system of international relations. This book will be of interest to students of the UN and international organisations in politics, law and international relations departments, as well as policymakers in the UN and other NGOs.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you think the UN needs reform, you should read this book; if you doubt whether reform is possible, it is essential that you read it."
Sir Marrack Goulding, Warden, St Antony's College, Oxford University and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping and Political Affairs

"This volume is a critique, not a text, of how the UN deals with the use of force. It is authored by an astute observer of the organisation who wants to make it a more effective instrument for responding to both 'soft' and 'hard' security threats. Thakur has produced a sophisticated and non-ideological analysis, which makes a very timely contribution to academic and policy debates."
John Gerard Ruggie, Harvard University; formerly UN Assistant Secretary-General

"Nobody has written with greater insight on the UN in recent years than Ramesh Thakur. This volume examines the UN afresh, from a contemporary post-9/11 context, looking at it from new angles such as that of human security. For those with an interest in the new multilateralism, it is a 'must read'."
David Malone, President, International Peace Academy (1998-2004), and former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations

"This is a remarkable book, both for its breadth and depth, and it could not be more timely. Thakur is able to see the UN whole, taking account of all the competing tensions 'inherent and intrinsic to the nature of the UN, between .. realpolitik and idealism, force and diplomacy, power and justice, efficiency and legitimacy, enforcement mandate and humanitarian agenda, [and] wealth and equity'. At the same time, the narrative has a driving force, connecting the U.N.'s past to its future, its problems to its potential. If you have time for only one book on the U.N. in this critical year of U.N. reform, this should be it."
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

"Ramesh Thakur has established a formidable reputation as one of the world's foremost commentators on the United Nations. From his unique vantage point within the system, while enjoying the academic detachment of a University perch, he has reflected widely and thoughtfully about the principal challenges facing the world organisation. His writing is incisive, his ideas insightful, his erudition considerable - and he combines these with a style that manages to be both provocative and pleasing. There is no better or more readable guide to today's United Nations than Ramesh Thakur."
Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations and award-winning author and novelist

"[Professor Thakur] is perhaps the most outstanding contemporary commentator on the United Nations system, and his new book offers a comprehensive, incisive, and theoretically rich appraisal of both the pressures and the opportunities which the UN confronts... Put simply, this book is one of the best ever written on the UN, and it deserves a wide and attentive readership."
William Maley, Diplomatic Bulletin

"In his fascinating volume, Ramesh Thakur discusses various perspectives on security through the United Nations including his role as a member of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty... Thakur sensibly notes the imbalance of voices in international global discourse, which has built up a dangerous sense of resentment by the silent majority of the world's peoples."
Global Governance

"This volume...reads like a personal stocktaking of the author’s decade with the United Nations, but more than that it is a closely argued and informative account of the major issues at and the systemic development of the Organization over that same period, coincidentally with Kofi Annan's tenure as UN Secretary-General....It is a formidably strong and personal account of the United Nations evolution in the last decade or so. It is at the same time a sternly structured compilation and practical source."
Anthony McDermott, UN Chronicle

"Very few observers of the United Nations system have written about the organization with as much insight as Ramesh Thakur...a remarkably frank and honest volume that is both sensitively critical and eruditely insightful,...The United Nations, Peace and Security is a definite 'must-read' for anyone interested in a balanced, but passionate, assessment of how far the UN has come since the end of the Cold War and where it is headed in the twenty-first century."
W. Andy Knight, International Journal

"Ramesh Thakur’s The United Nations, Peace and Security is a terrific book on the UN."
Michael Bérubé, Politics and Culture blog

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521671255
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 7/30/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 402
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Ramesh Thakur is Senior Vice-Rector at the United Nations University and Assistant Secretary-General for the United Nations. He has written and edited over twenty books, the most recent being International Commissions and the Power of Ideas (2005) and Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance (2005) .

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Table of Contents

Foreword Gareth Evans; Introduction; Part I. An International Organisation For Keeping the Peace: 1. Pacific settlement, collective security and international peacekeeping; 2. Peace operations and the UN-US relationship; Part II. Soft Security Perspectives: 3. Human security; 4. Human rights: civil society and the United Nations; 5. International criminal justice; 6. International sanctions; Part III. Hard Security Issues: 7. The nuclear threat; 8. International terrorism; 9. Kosovo 1999; 10. Iraq's challenge to world order; 11. The responsibility to protect; 12. Developing countries and the eroding nonintervention norm; Part IV. Institutional Developments: 13. Reforming the United Nations; 14. The political role of the United Nations Secretary-General; Conclusion: At the crossroads of ideals and reality.

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