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What's Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix it Paperback – 27 Apr 2012


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Review

"Alas, Thomas Weiss has written a very good book – he makes clear how badly the UN is broken."
Economic and Political Weekly

"By any standard, this is a work of unusual ambition, scope, and insight. Only Tom Weiss, one of the UN s most prolific and experienced observers, could so adroitly capture the world body s perils and promise with such a winning combination of clarity, rigor, and wisdom."
Edward C. Luck, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary–General

"A comprehensive and extremely thoughtful analysis by the leading scholar of the UN in the United States, this should be on the required reading list for the US president, and the leaders of other nations as well."
Craig N. Murphy, Wellesley College and University of Massachusetts Boston

This is a very timely book, given the broad spectrum of growing difficulties facing the international system and the United Nations. It provides an analytically powerful and empirically rich account of a UN in crisis, followed by a range of sensible suggestions to place the world organization on a more sound footing in its address of deepening challenges. It speaks to issues of profound scholarly and policy relevance in a way that is eminently accessible to a wide range of readers.
S. Neil MacFarlane, St Anne s College, University of Oxford

About the Author

Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor at the City University of New York s Graduate Center and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.


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Amazon.com: 11 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Strong analysis 19 Dec. 2012
By Citizen John - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Weiss comes across as a supremely levelheaded yet optimistic thinker on the United Nations. He just lays it out and the only logical conclusion is to liquidate the institution and start over and with much more responsibility and cost-effectiveness.

This author worked at the U.N. for ten years. He explains why the international civil service system is a complete, irredeemable mess. There was a time when it was probably in our nation's interests to keep the regime going as it is. Also, appointment to senior level positions at the U.N. is dysfunctional as it's based exclusively on politics as the book describes.

The vision presented for world governance was positive although it didn't move me. Unlike the author, I'm not sufficiently optimistic to believe that good world governance is within our grasp. I want to believe more than I do.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
the book's title matches its content 5 Aug. 2012
By Ben Lamb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Weiss's latest book is a marvelous read about the United Nations, short yet comprehensive. It is very readable and very well organized: each problem chapter has a corresponding solutions chapter. Going into this book, I thought that the main problems of the UN were its bureaucracy and its loss of legitimacy due to past scandals. Finishing the book, I'm more inclined to agree with Weiss that lack of funding is the problem and that the UN actually needs more centralization to make it more effective. He notes that the entire budget of the UN System is only $13 billion (a budget ridiculously dwarfed by the $680 billion US Defense budget). Weiss is no wide-eyed utopian about the UN. He gets the balance between realism and optimism about the UN's governance potential just right.

Weiss of course goes into much more depth regarding the UN's numerous challenges and shortcomings (in addition to lack of funding). He describes 'bloc' like divisions between the global North and South in the General Assembly; turf battles and redundancy between many different specialized agencies; the failure to recruit young talented idealists into secretariat offices. Weiss elucidates and simplifies the complexity of the UN system in a way that is not too overwhelming (the inevitable usage of acronyms is only slightly frustrating). He discusses interesting UN reports and summits that I was less familiar with, his approach emphasizing the relative institutional autonomy of the "second UN" as opposed to the history of Covenants passed by the General Assembly (as a state forum) or the sovereignty-minded actions of the Security Council. Unfortunately, Weiss does not offer proposals to reform the membership of the Security Council, for him, every proposal out there only creating more conflict and dissensus (and if realized would make the Security Council even less effective than it currently is). Previous scandals are dealt with briefly, in particular the corruption of the Iraqi Oil-For-Food program and the sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers in Congo, Haiti and Liberia. A special concern of Weiss's is improving the quality of the "international civil service" as one way to prevent future scandals (which do untold damage to the world body's moral authority). One complaint: the discussion of national sovereignty and 'Westphalianism' while perhaps obligatory was way too simplistic and has already been overdone (he even calls the British social theorist David Held a 'Westphalian' thinker, which is clearly inaccurate).

The are many other issues covered that I'm not summarizing (AIDS, human rights regarding internally displaced persons, the notion of a 'rapid reaction force'). The second edition, just published summer 2012, includes some reference to events in Libya and Syria as well as the formation of the International Criminal Court. The concluding chapter is a real treat for political and social theorists. It defines and criticizes the concept of "global governance" as it became used academically to allude to the weakness of inter-governmental organizations (IGOs like the UN) and to point to the increasing significance of corporations and NGOs in forms of transnational decision-making and regulation. While being associated with this field of thought, Weiss ends the book on a note critical toward ideas of global civil society. The 'global governance' paradigm rests content with the decentralization and incoherence of current global institutions, which as they stand currently, are unable to respond adequately to 21st century global threats. Weiss wants to strengthen the IGOs.
The United Nations - A Dysfunctional Family 11 Dec. 2012
By Jeri Zerr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What's Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It, by Thomas G. Weiss, is an in-depth introspection into the history of the United Nations and the challenges it has faced in meeting the challenges of the post Cold War era. Weiss, a Presidential Professor at The City University of New York's Graduate Center, blames self-interested membership and artificial divisions between the industrialized North and the global South as major barriers to the efficacy of the United Nations.

Although the author devotes nearly half of this book to performing diagnostics on the problems within the United Nations, he devotes the last 4 chapters to "suggestions" on how the United Nations could be retooled as an effective and functional international body. Weiss calls upon world leaders to redefine national interests in terms of international responsibility. He also calls upon the UN to move beyond the "North-South Divide" and forge creative partnerships, overcoming long-standing and counterproductive divides. The author further advocates that the United Nations "Deliver as One", through centralizing authority and coordinating responses among UN agencies. Finally, Weiss calls for the re-invigoration of the International Civil Service, through the recruiting of a more mobile and younger staff, to provide better career development for the twenty-first century world organization.

Thomas G. Weiss is a world renowned expert on the United Nations and has authored many publications on the UN and international affairs. This second edition book is a great read for students of international affairs, but may be slightly academic for the casual non-fiction reader.

I also recommend The United Nations and Changing World Politics by Weiss.
A Toolkit for The United Nations 13 Nov. 2012
By Michael Griswold - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There is an overlap between Weiss book on Humanitarian Intervention and this book on fixing the United Nations. Having read these two books back to back, there were several sections that appear in both books. It doesn't hurt the point that Weiss is trying to make in either book, but its just something that the reader may want to be aware of. Weiss book is divided into two sections: 1. The Problems with the United Nations and 2. Solutions with The United Nations.

He outlines the problems caused by states who can't look beyond their own self-interests, the artificial North-South labels that often prevent cooperation on global issues, the infighting between organizations within the United Nations hierarchy, and revitalizing the organizations foreign service to recruit younger, more temporary workers, who are concerned with problem solving, rather than career.

UN reform has beguiled many scholars of international organizations and though Weiss solutions sound as common-sense and clear-headed as anyone out there, like everything else they would run into the pride and hubris of the international community. These labels and distinctions have worked for the international community for so long that any change, no matter how needed, is going to be a dogfight.

The resiliency of the self-interest of states should not be underestimated.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A compelling elaboration of the UN inherent difficulties, and cry for developing a global administrative facilitator! 13 Oct. 2012
By Didaskalex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
****
"In this engaging and sweeping critique of the United Nations, Weiss argues that the global body has never been more troubled -- nor more needed. The problems are many, and Weiss chronicles them all in a journey through the far-flung, ..." --G. John Ikenberry
*

Thomas Weiss reviews how two twentieth-century's world wars gave rise to spearheading decisive efforts in 1919 and 1945 to establish international organizations to help maintaining global peace. Both institutions fell short of dealing with urgent contemporary challenges to world order. While most 193 member states, especially the less influential countries, wished the United Nations could support their cause, representing the collective interest of the majority members, while the United States, who contributed heavily in both bodies, was at times prey to domestic electoral politics by some factions, who claimed the UN posed a restraint to US freedom to exercise her unique role as the only global super power after 1990.

The US has repeatedly accused the UN during peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda. Meanwhile, the UN's financial crisis persisted as the US stopped paying her bills, trying to increase her extensive influence in the organization. Richard Holbrooke recounts that the US was opposed to Boutros-Ghali because of the latter's reluctance on approving NATO bombing in Bosnia, that Kofi Annan supported later. Alarmingly, six decades after its establishment, the United Nations and its system of satellite agencies and diverse programs were perpetually declared in crisis. Neither the end of the Cold War in 1991 nor the aftermath of 9/11, ten years later, has led to the rectification of the multilateral institution.

In his targeted and effectual analysis, Weiss discusses the UN activities, its participation in international relations of the entangled new globe. He analyzes UN dealings with the new leadership, the rise of China, disintegration of the Soviet Union, and reunification of Germany, to help reshape a new world of rising economic powers. He applies a diagnostic approach to the world organization's inherent difficulties, from a western point of view of powers that started to fade after WWII. He reviews changes that affected the UN programs and how inefficient its agencies grew due to bureaucratic and incoherent governance, in six languages. The UN's accumulated structural problems is crippling all efforts to efficiently manage its amorphous stratified agencies.

Streamlining coordination of the traditional differences between the industrial North/West and the global South/East, utilizing tricky diplomatic consent, made its administration a very hard task. Transforming the present UN into an effective globally operational agency is far beyond the expertise of the most gifted political science experts. The secretary General, is mainly concerned with the designation and moderation of win-win solutions; and urgently evolving entangled political situations. The earth's seven billion humans need an army of experts and specialists who are qualified to solve all anticipated nature's catastrophic and chronic human diseases, let alone 21st century's ascendant economic injustices and epochal calamities.

Unvanquished: A US-UN Saga
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