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UN Ideas That Changed the World

Richard Jolly, Louis Emmerij, and Thomas G. Weiss. Foreword by Kofi A. Annan

Publication Year: 2009

Ideas and concepts have been a driving force in human progress, and they may be the most important legacy of the United Nations. UN ideas have set past, present, and future international agendas in many global economic and social arenas and have also led to initiatives and actions that have improved the quality of human life. This capstone volume draws upon findings of the other 14 books in the acclaimed United Nations Intellectual History Project Series. The authors not only assess the development and implementation of UN ideas regarding sustainable economic development and human security, but also apply lessons learned to suggest ways in which the United Nations can play a fuller role in confronting the challenges of human survival with dignity in the 21st century.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series


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pp. ix-x

List of Tables and Boxes

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xv

It is a great pleasure for me to write a few words at the outset of this final volume in the United Nations Intellectual History Project Series, specifically to urge delegates and diplomats, pundits and politicians, staff members and scholars to read it closely. ...

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pp. xvii-xix

It seems like yesterday that we were penning the acknowledgments for the first volume in this series, and now we are doing them for the final one. As the clich

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxi-xiv

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pp. 1-8

Many view the United Nations as a rigid bureaucracy without sparkle, wit, or creativity. The general public—stimulated by the mass media—sees a traveling circus, a talk shop, and a paper-pushing enterprise. On and off there are tales of corruption. This is, we submit, a very uneven view of the world organization. ...

Part 1. UNIHP at a Glance

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pp. 9

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1. Overview

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pp. 11-31

This chapter provides a brief overview of our interpretation of successful and failed ideas in the UN’s history. There also is a short summary of future intellectual challenges. We do this to tease readers, presenting here a summary balance sheet that builds on the substantive and more analytical chapters in Part 2. ...

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2. The Three UNs and Their Impact

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pp. 32-48

The United Nations has been active in the economic and social arena over the whole of its existence, taking on a wide range of contemporary problems. It has sometimes responded to issues too late, but at its best, it has tried to foresee them in order to forestall difficulties or disasters on the horizon. ...

Part 2. United Nations Ideas Changing the World

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pp. 49

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3. Human Rights for All: From Aspiration to Implementation

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pp. 51-67

Although the Universal Declaration of 1948 is the brightest jewel in the crown of UN contributions to human rights, it was neither the first nor the only precious stone in an illustrious and gem-studded diadem. Bertrand Ramcharan states that in San Francisco in 1945 there was “a groundswell of sentiment that the ‘new world order’ ...

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4. Gender: From Eliminating Discrimination to Promoting Women’s Rights and Empowerment

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pp. 68-82

From a contemporary vantage point, it seems extraordinary that there were just four women among the 160 signatories to the UN’s founding document at San Francisco in 1945. Two other women were present at the conference but were not signatories. However, this handful of women established a sound foundation for the UN ...

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5. Development Goals: From National and Regional Policiesto the MDGs

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pp. 83-98

After World War II and with the awakening of what were then called “underdeveloped countries,” a new field of economics came into being. Development economics (or more broadly development studies) focused specifically on Africa, Asia, and Latin America—the Third World—to analyze needs and make proposals, ...

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6. Fairer International Economic Relations: From Aid and Mutual Interests to Global Solidarity

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pp. 99-117

The UN was far ahead of the curve around 1950 in conceiving a system of international economic relations that would serve all countries of the world well. It issued three major publications: National and International Measures for Full Employment (1949), Measures for the Economic Development of Under-Developed Countries (1951), ...

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7. Development Strategies: From National Planning to Governing the Market

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pp. 118-129

Until well into the 1970s, the UN and the bulk of its member states believed that planning was indispensable for stimulating economic growth in an orderly and balanced manner. For instance, the United States expected developing countries to submit a national development plan when applying for development aid. ...

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8. Social Development: From Sectoral to Integrated Perspectives

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pp. 130-148

The social and human dimensions of development have been central to the United Nations from the beginning. We do not have a commissioned book on population, education, health, and children in the UNIHP series because these topics figure prominently in two of the volumes of the series.1 ...

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9. Environmental Sustainability: From Environment and Development to Preserving the Planet

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pp. 149-162

Changes in global awareness, thinking, and concern about the environment have been truly fundamental over the UN’s life, probably exceeding even changing ideas about human rights. As with human rights, the UN has often taken the lead internationally in ways that have challenged and changed conventional thinking. ...

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10. Peace and Security: From Preventing State Conflict to Protecting Individuals

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pp. 163-185

Four fundamental ideas have traditionally driven UN responses to the challenges of war and armed conflict: replacing war and conflict with the rule of law and negotiations; using preventive diplomacy by the Secretary-General and others to forestall conflicts; ...

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11. Human Development: From Separate Actions to an Integrated Approach

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pp. 186-198

Human development is one of the more innovative and comprehensive of recent UN ideas. The vision of putting “people at the centre of development” has long been a theme of the world organization, but one whose priority and practical importance has waxed and waned.1 ...

Part 3. A Future for the UN and the Planet

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pp. 199

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12. A Balance Sheet

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pp. 201-213

Part 3 of this book endeavors to make good on our promise at the outset of the United Nations Intellectual History Project to do a “future-oriented history.” Before attempting what some historians might consider an oxymoron, we draw up a balance sheet of the impact and contemporary relevance of the big ideas that we have elaborated ...

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13. Challenges Ahead

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pp. 214-236

As we write this chapter in late 2008, the world is in the midst of a financial and economic crisis perhaps as grave as any since the 1930s. Perhaps as much as any recent event, the global financial and economic meltdown made even clearer what many less serious previous ones had not, namely the risks, problems, and enormous costs of a global economy ...

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14. Strengthening Global Governance

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pp. 237-256

At the beginning of the last chapter, we gave examples of how dramatically things can change in a mere ten-year period, for better and for worse. In today’s world, even the credit crunch of 2007 took only a few months to engulf almost the whole world in financial and economic crisis. ...


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pp. 257-284


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pp. 285-306

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About the Authors

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pp. 307-308

Richard Jolly is co-director of the UN Intellectual History Project and Honorary Professor and Research Associate of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, where he was director from 1972 to 1981. ...

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About the United Nations Intellectual History Project

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pp. 309-310

Ideas and concepts are a driving force in human progress, and they are arguably the most important contribution of the United Nations. Yet there has been little historical study of the origins and evolution of the history of economic and social ideas cultivated within the world organization and of their impact on wider thinking and international action. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780253003379
E-ISBN-10: 0253003377
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253353559

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series