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Transforming the United Nations System

Designs for a Workable World

By Joseph E. Schwartzberg
transforming the united nations system cover

Global problems require global solutions. The United Nations as presently constituted, however, is incapable of addressing many global problems effectively. One nation– one vote decisionmaking in most UN agencies fails to reflect the distribution of power in the world at large, while the allocation of power in the Security Council is both unfair and anachronistic. Hence, nations are reluctant to endow the United Nations with the authority and the resources it needs. Extensive reform is essential.

This analysis is rooted in the proposition that the design of decisionmaking systems greatly affects their legitimacy and effectiveness. Joseph Schwartzberg proposes numerous systemic improvements to the UN system, largely through weighted voting formulas that balance the needs of shareholders and stakeholders in diverse agencies. It indicates ways in which the interests of regions can supplement those of nations while voices of nongovernmental organizations and ordinary citizens can also be heard. In numerous contexts, it promotes meritocracy and gender equity.

The book’s aim is not to create an unrealistic utopia, but rather to establish a workable world in which the force of law supplants the law of force; a world committed to justice and continuous yet sustainable development. The author argues that, given the many existential threats now confronting our planet, the time frame for decisive action is short. The task is daunting and success is not guaranteed, but in view of the urgency of our situation, we can find ways of mustering the will, imagination, and resources to do the job.

“ This … will be an essential reference work for all those who are concerned with the future of a new United Nations.”

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 6TH Secretary-General of the UN

“ … lucidly and intelligently presents a sweeping series of new, innovative ideas designed to reform the United Nations’ structure and performance. A rich mother lode to change and challenge current thinking … [it] is a rare compendium of forward-looking ideas. …”

Thomas Pickering, former US Ambassador to the UN and former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs

“ Most proposals regarding reform of the United Nations system are overly concerned about what is feasible, at the expense of what is ideal. [This] formidable work corrects that … bias, and shuttles between the feasible and the ideal with elegance and rigor.”

Hakan Altinay, Global Ethics Fellow, Carnegie Council

“ No one has thought longer or harder than Joe Schwartzberg about the challenges of designing a fairer and better world order. This book is an essential contribution to a long overdue conversation.”

Thomas G. Weiss, past President of the Academic Council on the United Nations System

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