The United Nations has been called everything from "the best hope of mankind" to "irrelevant" and "obsolete." With this much-needed introduction to the UN, Jussi Hanhimaki engages the current debate over the organizations effectiveness as he provides a clear understanding of how it was originally conceived, how it has come to its present form, and how it must confront new challenges in a rapidly changing world. After a brief history of the United Nations and its predecessor, the League of Nations, the author examines the UN's successes and failures as a guardian of international peace and security, as a promoter of human rights, as a protector of international law, and as an engineer of socio-economic development. Hanhimaki stresses that the UN's greatest problem has been the impossibly wide gap between its ambitions and capabilities. In the area of international security, for instance, the UN has to settle conflicts-be they between or within states-without offending the national sovereignty of its member states, and without being sidelined by strong countries, as happened in the 2003 intervention of Iraq. Hanhimaki also provides a clear accounting of the UN and its various arms and organizations (such as UNESCO and UNICEF), and he offers a critical overview of how effective it has been in the recent crises in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, for example-and how likely it is to meet its overall goals in the future. The United Nations, Hanhimaki concludes, is an indispensable organization that has made the world a better place. But it is also a deeply flawed institution, in need of constant reform. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Jussi M. Hanhimäki is Finland's internationally best known historian. He is currently Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, and previously taught at the London School of Economics (1995-2000). In 2006 he was named Finland Distinguished Professor by the Academy of Finland. Hanhimäki is the recipient of the Bernath Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) and has authored or co-authored eleven books and countless articles and chapters.
Harvard University Professor Akira Iriye, a doyen of international historians, has described Jussi Hanhimäki as "a superb embodiment of the internationalized scholarship that is a precondition of any study of international relations." Iriye came to this conclusion upon reflecting on Hanhimäki's truly international career path. He left his native Finland in 1987, studied in the United States (Boston University), and spent his early postdoctoral years in Canada (Montreal) and the United States (Harvard University, Ohio University). Hanhimäki then moved to London in 1995 (LSE), before accepting his current post in Geneva in 2000. Among the institutes where he has held fellowships are: the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University; the Contemporary History Institute at Ohio University; the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the United States Institute of Peace.
A specialist of the international history of the Cold War, transatlantic relations, and the role of international institutions, Jussi Hanhimäki's recent publications include: An International History of Terrorism: Western and Non-Western Experiences (2013) and The Rise and Fall of Détente: American Foreign Policy and the Transformation of the Cold War (2012) and . He has previously authored or co-authored: Transatlantic Relations Since 1945: An Introduction (2012); The United Nations: A Very Short Introduction (2008); The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy (2004); (with Odd Arne Westad), The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (2003); and (with A. Best, J. Maiolo and K. Schultze) International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond (2008, 2nd ed.), and other works.
Hanhimäki is currently working on two major book projects: Refugees: An International History and Transnational History of the Cold War. He also directs a project on "Terrorism and the Cold War" at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.