United Nations

Introduction

United Nations | Research Guide International Law

The United Nations is an international organization, founded in 1945. It was established to promote a set of global values: peace and security, self-determination of peoples, social progress and development, and human dignity. It was set up to serve as a centre for harmonizing the actions of its Member States in the promotion of these values. The Organization currently has 192 Member States. It acts mainly through its six principal organs. The General Assembly, where the entire membership is represented, can discuss any questions within the scope of UN Charter, and make recommendations to the Member States on any such questions. A number of executive councils have been established to effectively promote a particular value: the Security Council for peace and security, the Economic and Social Council for social progress and (sustainable) development, the Trusteeship Council for self-government (and self-determination). The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to promote universal respect for human dignity. The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, and settles disputes between the Member States. The UN also has a Secretariat, headed by the Secretary-General.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on the United Nations. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library’s classification index code 54e. United Nations and subject heading (keyword) United Nations are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

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Books

Leading articles

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Periodicals, serial publications

Bibliographies

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  • Weiss, T.G. (et al.), The United Nations and Changing World Politics (7th ed.), Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 2014 [2013].

    Weiss, T.G. (et al.), The United Nations and Changing World Politics (7th ed.), Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 2014.

    This completely revised and updated seventh edition serves as the definitive text for courses in which the United Nations is either the focus or a central component. Built around three critical themes in international relations—peace and security, human rights, and humanitarian affairs—the seventh edition of The United Nations and Changing World Politics guides students through the complexity of politics and almost seven decades of UN activities. Students of all levels will learn what the UN is, how it operates, and what its relationships are with the universe of external actors and institutions, from sovereign states to the plethora of nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations now playing important roles in world politics. This new edition is fully revised to take into account recent events, including the UN’s actions in Libya and Syria, the tenure of Ban Ki-moon, the global economic and financial meltdown, and efforts to confront nuclear proliferation and climate change.

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  • Hassler, S., Reforming the UN Security Council Membership: The Illusion of Representativeness, London, Routledge, 2013.

    Hassler, S., Reforming the UN Security Council Membership: The Illusion of Representativeness, London, Routledge, 2013.

    This book comprehensively examines the different proposals put forward for reforming the UN Security Council by analysing their objectives and exploring whether the implementation of these proposals would actually create a representative and more effective Security Council. The book places the discussion on reform of Security Council membership in the context of the council’s primary responsibility, which is at the helm of the UN collective security system. The author contends that only a Council that is adequately representative of the UN membership can claim to legitimately act on the members’ behalf. This book offers an inquiry into the Council’s constitutional framework and how far that framework still reflects the expectations and intentions of the founding nations, whilst remaining flexible enough to satisfy today’s, and possibly tomorrow’s, membership. Through the use of policy-oriented jurisprudence and elements of the International Law/International Relations theory this book explores how reform can best be realised.

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  • Plate, T., Conversations with Ban Ki-moon: What the United Nations is Really Like: The View from the Top, Singapore, Marshall Cavendish, 2012.

    Plate, T., Conversations with Ban Ki-moon: What the United Nations is Really Like: The View from the Top, Singapore, Marshall Cavendish, 2012.

    “Only eight people have been privileged to hold the job of Secretary General since the United Nations’ founding in 1945. And only one of them has ever told the inside story of the UN while still holding that special office. That man is Ban Ki-moon, the veteran diplomat and former star foreign minister of South Korea now in his second term as ‘SG.’ Because he understands that the UN is in crisis — and because he fears the reasons for this are not widely understood — he believes it is time to unveil the truth about the organization and explain why its failure would be a catastrophe. The result, via unprecedented conversations with American journalist Tom Plate, is a deeply revealing book about the kinds of issues and challenges whose resolutions (or lack thereof) will in fact determine the future of the world.”

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  • Simma, B. (ed.), The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

    Simma, B. (ed.), The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

    Since the second edition of this commentary on the Charter of the United Nations was published the text of the Charter may not have changed but the world has. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had a lasting impact on international law and the Commentary has been fully updated to take their impact into account. The new edition has been completely revised and features a completely new chapter on UN reform, analyzing the effect of reforms which have already been implemented and examining why other proposals for reform have failed. It will assess how these proposals could be improved, with a particular focus on the Security Council. This new edition also includes coverage of the creation of the Human Rights Council and the impact of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. This is the authoritative, article-by-article account of the legislative history, interpretation, and practical application of each and every Charter provision. Written by a team of distinguished scholars and practitioners, this book combines academic research with the insights of practice, and is an indispensable work of reference for all those interested in the UN. The Commentary will be crucial in providing new directions for the development of international law and the United Nations in the twenty-first century.

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  • Annan, K.A., Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, London, Allen Lane, 2012.

    Annan, K.A., Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, London, Allen Lane, 2012.
    Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2001, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke to a world still reeling from the terrorist attacks of September 11. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” proclaimed Annan, “we have entered the third millennium through a gate of fire. If today, after the horror of 11 September, we see better, and we see further—we will realize that humanity is indivisible. New threats make no distinction between races, nations, or regions.” Yet within only a few years the world was more divided than ever—polarized by the American invasion of Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the escalating civil wars in Africa, and the rising influence of China. Interventions: A Life in War and Peace is the story of Annan’s remarkable time at the center of the world stage. After forty years of service at the United Nations, Annan shares here his unique experiences during the terrorist attacks of September 11; the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; the war between Israel, Hizbollah, and Lebanon; the brutal conflicts of Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia; and the geopolitical transformations following the end of the Cold War. With eloquence and unprecedented candor, Interventions finally reveals Annan’s unique role and unparalleled perspective on decades of global politics. The first sub-Saharan African to hold the position of Secretary-General, Annan has led an extraordinary life in his own right. His idealism and personal politics were forged in the Ghanaian independence movement of his adolescence, when all of Africa seemed to be rising as one to demand self-determination. Schooled in Africa, Europe, and the United States, Annan ultimately joined the United Nations in Geneva at the lowest professional level in the still young organization. Annan rose rapidly through the ranks and was by the end of the Cold War prominently placed in the dramatically changing department of peacekeeping operations. His stories of Presidents Clinton and Bush, dictators like Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe, and public figures of all stripes contrast powerfully with Annan’s descriptions of the courage and decency of ordinary people everywhere struggling for a new and better world. Showing the successes of the United Nations, Annan also reveals the organization’s missed opportunities and ongoing challenges—inaction in the Rwanda genocide, continuing violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and the endurance of endemic poverty. Yet Annan’s great strength in this book is his ability to embed these tragedies within the context of global politics, demonstrating how, time and again, the nations of the world have retreated from the UN’s founding purpose. From the pinnacle of global politics, Annan made it his purpose to put the individual at the center of every mission for peace and prosperity. A personal biography of global statecraft, Annan’s Interventions is as much a memoir as a guide to world order—past, present, and future.
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  • Anderson, K. Living with the UN: American Responsibilities and International Order, Stanford, CA, Hoover Institution Press, 2012.

    Anderson, K. Living with the UN: American Responsibilities and International Order, Stanford, CA, Hoover Institution Press, 2012.

    In this book international legal scholar Kenneth Anderson analyzes US-UN relations in each major aspect of the United Nations’ work—security, human rights, universal values, and development—and addresses the crucial question of whether, when, and how the United States should engage or not engage with the United Nations in each of its many different organs and activities. The author looks at the main United Nations organs and functions and suggests the form of engagement that the United States should take toward it, giving workable, pragmatic meaning to “multilateral engagement” across the full range of the United Nations’ work. He offers principles for a permanent relationship based on ideals and interests between the United States and the United Nations—and provides guidance for long-term US policy.

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  • Law and Practice of the United Nations : Documents and Commentary

    Law and Practice of the UN

    Law & Practice of the United Nations: Documents and Commentary combines primary materials with expert commentary, demonstrating the interaction between law and practice in the UN organization, as well as the possibilities and limitations of multilateral institutions in general. Each chapter begins with a short introductory essay by the authors that describes how the documents that follow illustrate a set of legal, institutional, and political issues relevant to the practice of diplomacy and the development of public international law through the United Nations.

    The authors help students form a realistic idea of the work of international diplomacy, as the negotiation and interpretation of such texts is an important part of what actually takes place at the United Nations and other international organizations. A wide variety of documents are presented, each of which must be read differently: treaties and resolutions based on political compromises, judicial opinions that are based on legal reasoning, policy documents intended to justify specific actions, and advocacy intended to pursue a national or other interest. Students will develop the ability to read these documents critically, parsing not only the meaning but the political and bureaucratic interests behind them.

    Law & Practice of the United Nations is ideal for courses on the United Nations or International Organizations, taught in both law and international relations programs.

    Thomas Franck, Simon Chesterman and David Malone , 2007
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  • La Charte des Nations Unies en 2 volumes : Commentaire article par article

    United Nations Charter

    Signée le 26 juin 1945, entrée en vigueur le 4 octobre suivant, la Charte des Nations Unies a 60 ans. Si les résultats sont, à l’évidence, en deçà des espérances, l’action des Etats, la force propre des institutions, la souplesse du texte, ont permis aux Nations Unies de s’adapter aux exigences changeantes des relations internationales en dépit des mutations considérables qui ont marqué ces 60 dernières années : guerre froide, décolonisation, recherche d’un développement durable, menaces nucléaire et du terrorisme… Cette remarquable faculté d’adaptation, le miracle permanent que constitue l’existence même de l’Organisation, l’influence qu’elle continue d’exercer en dépit des tentations de l’unilatéralisme, justifient une étude d’ensemble de la Charte, dans une perspective juridique, à la lumière de la pratique. Sous la direction de Jean-Pierre Cot et Alain Pellet, 129 juristes – parmi lesquels 3 anciens Présidents, le Vice-Président et 2 juges à la Cour internationale de Justice, plusieurs ministres ou anciens ministres, de nombreux fonctionnaires internationaux ou diplomates familiers des Nations unies, des membres de la Commission du Droit international et une pléiade d’universitaires et de chercheurs – venant de 24 pays, mais tous francophones et se réclamant de la tradition juridique latine, ont uni leurs efforts pour faire le point des connaissances actuelles sur les Nations Unies. Comme les deux éditions précédentes, celle-ci se présente sous la forme d’un commentaire article par article, soigneusement mis à jour : mais elle a été enrichie de contributions abordant des sujets transversaux qui ne trouvent pas place dans le commentaire d’une disposition déterminée.

    Jean-Pierre Cot and Alain Pellet , 2005
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  • Spijkers, O., The United Nations, the Evolution of Global Values and International Law, Cambridge (etc.), Intersentia, 2011.

    The United Nations, the Evolution of Global Values and International Law

    In this book, Otto Spijkers describes how moral values have determined the founding of the United Nations Organization in 1945 and the evolution of its purposes, principles and policies since then. A detailed examination of the proceedings of the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco demonstrates that the drafting of the United Nations Charter was significantly influenced by global moral values, i.e. globally shared beliefs distinguishing right from wrong, good from bad, and the current from a preferable state-of-the-world. A common desire to eradicate war, poverty, inhuman treatment, and to halt the exploitation of peoples, has led to an affirmation of the values of peace and security, social progress and development, human dignity and the self-determination of all peoples. All these values ended up in the UN Charter. The book further analyzes how the United Nations, and especially its General Assembly, has continued to influence the maturing of global morality through contributions to the values-debate, and to the translation of these values into the language of international law, including the law on the use of force, sustainable development, human rights and the right to self-determination.

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Database

Blogs

  • Dag Hammarskjöld (1905 - 1961)

    Fifty years ago, the former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld tragically passed away in a plane crash, on his way to cease-fire negotiations with the leaders of Katanga province of conflict-ridden Congo.

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  • Conference about ICJ's judgment in the case between Nicaragua and the USA

    In 1986, the International Court of Justice issued its judgment on the merits in a dispute between Nicaragua and the United States of America. Twenty-five years later, members of the legal teams of both Nicaragua and the United States faced each other once again in the Peace Palace.

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  • Libya and the International Criminal Court (ICC)

    On February 16th 2011- following a wave of uprisings throughout the Middle-East- Libya experienced a so-called Day of Rage which led to protests breaking out to challenge Colonel Muammar Qadhafi’s 41 year old iron rule- the region’s longest. This blog will briefly discuss the actions taken by the United Nations Security Council and the ICC in response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Libya.

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  • THIMUN - The Hague Model United Nations Conference (23rd - 28th January 2011)

    The object of THIMUN is to give the youth an insight into the world’s problems and to seek solutions to problems such as human rights issues, environmental protection, disarmament, international peace and security, through negotiations, debate and discussion. The Model United Nations lets young delegates cooperate in order to search for solutions to these problems. This way, THIMUN helps the pupils to develop a spirit of international cooperation

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  • What Future for Western Sahara ?

    There is no prospect of resolving the decades-old conflict between Morocco and the Sahrawi independence movement Polisario on the future of Western Sahara. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, came to this conclusion in a gloomy report, dated 6 April 2010, to the Security Council. Ban Ki-moon reported that “it is clear [...]

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  • The Falkland Islands Conflict

    Tensions between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands came to a boiling point when the UK announced plans to begin offshore oil drilling near the remote islands in February 2010. This blog will briefly discuss this complicated dispute as well as the actions taken by both parties in the United Nations General Assembly.

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  • International Conference on Afghanistan, The Hague, 31 March 2009

    On 31 March 2009, the Dutch government is hosting the ´International Conference on Afghanistan: a Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context´ at the World Forum in The Hague.

    Building on the achievements of previous Conferences in Bonn, London and Paris, this Conference should reaffirm the solid and long-term commitment of the international community to [...]

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  • United Nations Day, 24 October 2008

    On 24 October 2008, the anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Charter was celebrated. Since 1948 this event has been known as United Nations Day. It has traditionally been marked throughout the world by meetings, discussions and exhibits on the achievements and goals of the Organization. At the UN Headquarters [...]

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