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UN Voices

The Struggle for Development and Social Justice

Thomas G. Weiss, Tatiana Carayannis, Louis Emmerij, and Richard Jolly. Foreword by Emma Rothschild

Publication Year: 2005

"The authors have cajoled, intrigued, or reassured their 73 'voices' into telling a fascinating story of the UN and its institutions, which is also a story of 73 individual lives, of women and men... with their own complicated histories of emigration and education, family relationships and professional choices, hopes and successes." -- from the Foreword by Emma Rothschild

"Far from being a distant bureaucracy, the UN is composed of individuals who are reshaped by vital experiences. UN Voices gives international civil servants human faces and shows how ideas drive the grand experiment. It is a fascinating book." -- Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

UN Voices presents the human and moving stories of an extraordinary group of individuals who contributed to the economic and social record of the UN's life and activities. Drawing from extensive interviews, the book presents in their own words the experiences of 73 individuals from around the globe who have spent much of their professional lives engaged in United Nations affairs. We hear from secretaries-general and presidents, ministers and professors, social workers and field workers, as well as diplomats and executive heads of UN agencies. Among those interviewed are noted figures such as Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Alister McIntyre, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, and Kurt Waldheim, as well as many less well known UN professional men and women who have made significant contributions to the international struggle for a better world. Their personal accounts also engage their contributions in dealing with such events and issues as the UN's founding, decolonization, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, human rights, the environment, and September 11, 2001.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

The United Nations, and the individuals of whom it has consisted, is the great unexplored subject of contemporary history. The UN has been the loca-tion for many of the most dramatic political events of the late twentieth century. It has been intimately involved, as UN Voices: The Struggle for Development and Social Justice shows, in the evolution of economic, social, and environ-...

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pp. xiii

One of the most pleasant tasks in writing a book is thanking the people who helped along the way. Since 1999, when the United Nations Intellectual History Project (UNIHP) began, we have incurred many debts. For this volume and the effort to create an oral history archive of individuals who have contributed to economic and social development efforts by the United Na-...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. vii-xx

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pp. 1-12

The United Nations Intellectual History Project was born because afternearly sixty years, it was high time to trace the economic and social ideas that have been launched or nurtured by the UN system. Many of the individuals who have struggled for the cause of multilateral cooperation have had largely undocumented careers and experiences that are essential for the historical...

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Part One. Individuals Make a Difference

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pp. 13-14

We launched this oral history to establish missing information and insights about the world of ideas within the United Nations itself. But soon webecame fascinated with the individuals who were sitting across from us. Part One revolves around early experiences, permitting us to probe influences of these individuals’ social backgrounds, educational and professional interests,...

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1 Growing Up

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pp. 15-64

...Great Depression and the Demise of the League of Nations. The earliest experiences of childhood, family, background, and religion are often crucial in the formation of an individual. For our voices, these formative early experiences were salient in nurturing an interest in international cooperation and in launching the pursuit of active and often intellectually...

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2 Formal Education

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pp. 65-109

Virtually all of our voices, from the North and South alike, have advanced university degrees, many from elite institutions. Those who entered universities during World War II often saw their studies interrupted by the war or were forced to abandon their original plans because of it. By contrast, those who came of university age in the 1950s and 1960s found themselves on col-...

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3 Serendipity and International Careers

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pp. 110-141

The pursuit of a career in and around the United Nations was rarely a natural outgrowth of academic interests. Exposure to foreign languages and cultures provided one possible entrance, but pure happenstance was more typically the case. One such case was described by Brian Urquhart in his autobiography, A Life in Peace and War. His career in Britain’s 1st Airborne Bri-...

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Part Two. Hope, Creativity, and Frustration

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pp. 143-144

Many of our voices recount—some at high- and some at low-decibel levels—how well various UN organizations have adapted to changes in international politics. They also reflect upon ideas that emerged in response to particular problems or crises and upon ideas that were discarded. Throughout these chapters, we have grouped comments around the first “explosion” of a particu-...

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4 From 1945 through the 1950s: Hope Held High

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pp. 145-185

The San Francisco Conference on International Organization culminated on June 22, 1945, with the signing of the UN Charter by fifty-one participating states. This historic moment occurred after the end of the war in Europe but prior to the end of the armed conflict in Asia. Preparations for the United Nations were already advanced by the early phases of World War II, stirred by...

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5 The 1960s: Widening Development Avenues

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pp. 186-215

The explosion of dozens of newly independent countries on the worldscene and the escalation of the Cold War between Moscow and Washington and their respective allies and clients led to growing and different demands for development by the Third World. It also resulted in a different kind of U.S. engagement with the world organization—one that was far more skepti-...

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6 The 1970s: Creativity Confronts Geopolitics

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pp. 216-257

The 1970s were a paradoxical decade: creative thinking and action on the one hand, mounting economic difficulties on the other. Creativity was evident in such fields as the environment, population policies, gender questions, employment creation, and development strategies—all themes of UN world conferences...

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7: The 1980s: Development Frustrated

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pp. 258-280

The confrontational strategy of the 1970s to level the global playing field successfully brought many ideas to the international agenda. However, the battle scars from various struggles to redress global trade, financial, and technological inequalities between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres were clearly evident in the 1980s. The simultaneous ascendance of conservative lead-...

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8 The 1990s and the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century:

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pp. 281-311

The implosion of the Soviet Union at the outset of the 1990s confirmed the end of the Cold War and, as a consequence, the easing of East-West tensions within the United Nations system. In the area of international peaceand security, the kinds of paralysis that had crippled the Security Councilsince shortly after the world organization’s founding evaporated. At the same...

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Part Three. The World Organization, Ideas, and Twenty-First-Century Challenges

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pp. 313-314

The third and final part of this volume pushes us toward “future-oriented history.” This seeming oxymoron to professional historians was part of our project’s original justification and necessitates applying the relevant lessons. This part begins with Chapter 9, “A Revolutionary Idea: The International Civil Service.” It is supplemented by Chapter 10, “The Power of Ideas and People...

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9 A Revolutionary Idea: The International Civil Service

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pp. 315-343

The possibility of constituting an independent group of internationally recruited people whose allegiance is to the welfare of the planet, not to their home countries is still much disputed. Many of our voices spent the bulk of their careers in international service—in many ways, it is what made them who they are professionally. For others, a stint within the world organization...

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10 The Power of Ideas and People Inside the UN

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pp. 344-370

Reflecting on the role of the UN and ideas in an earlier conversation with the authors, Margaret Joan Anstee summarized six such roles with memorable alliteration. The UN can develop or promote ideas by serving as a fount (creating them), font (blessing or legitimizing them), forum (discussing them), funnel(channeling them into action), and fanfare (promoting them). Afterward, and...

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11 Blending Outside Intellectual Energies

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pp. 371-405

Many people who have been affiliated with the United Nations and have played an essential role in the organization’s intellectual activities have not been international civil servants. Many of our voices had significant associations with a university or independent think tanks before or after their UN service. Many have served as members or chairs of high-level and indepen-...

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12 The Legacy and Future Intellectual Challenges

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pp. 406-434

This final chapter sheds light on the importance of ideas in international public policy. It does not definitively portray the exact nature of the interplay between politics, power, institutions, and ideas. The voices in these pages do begin, however, to suggest that the United Nations has provided an essential space in which powerful normative and policy agendas have been...

Appendix 1. Biographical Notes of Persons Interviewed

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pp. 435-457

Appendix 2. A Methodological Note: Making This Oral History

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pp. 459-462


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pp. 463-481

Index of Persons Interviewed

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pp. 483-492

Index of Subjects

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pp. 493-516

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About the Authors

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pp. 517-518

Thomas G. Weiss is presidential professor of political science at The CUNY Graduate Center and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, where he is co-director of the United Nations Intellectual History Project and editor of Global Governance. In 2000–2001 he was the research director of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sover-...

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About the United Nations Intellectual History Project

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pp. 519-520

Ideas and concepts are a main driving force in human progress, and theyare arguably the most important contribution of the United Nations. Yet therehas been little historical study of the origins and evolution of the history ofeconomic and social ideas cultivated within the world organization and oftheir impact on wider thinking and international action. The United Nations...

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110589
E-ISBN-10: 0253110580
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253346421

Page Count: 544
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series