United Nations


Block 1


1.A. Antecedents

This block of instruction introduces the student to the modern sovereign state and international relations within the system of states. It then sets the stage by identifying what remains the same and what has changed, including the rise of new threats, new actors, challenges to state sovereignty, US hegemony, and attempts at global governance.

1.B. World Politics: Continuity and Change since 1945

Block 2

Theoretical Frameworks

2.A. Political Approaches

This material provides the analytic framework for studying the UN. International relations scholars employ political approaches, while international lawyers take a legal perspective. Throughout UN history, how we think about the UN has evolved.

2.B. Legal Perspectives

2.C. Evolution in Knowledge

Block 3

Principal Organs of the United Nations

3.A. General Assembly

This block of instruction introduces the basic organizations comprising the UN. There are six principal organizations and the secretary-general, sometimes called the “secular pope.” Debates and decisions are made in these organs. Understanding the organizations and organizational behavior goes a long way to understanding the UN, its successes, and its failures. The popular idea of “two UNs” is advanced.

3.B. Security Council

3.C. Economic and Social Council

3.D. Trusteeship Council

3.E. Secretariat

3.F. Secretary-General

3.G. International Court of Justice

Block 4

Relationships with Other Actors

4.A. Regional Groups and Alliances

The United Nations is not alone on the international stage. Various other institutions play vital roles that are sometimes collaborative, sometimes overlapping, and sometimes at odds with the UN.

4.B. Bretton Woods Institutions

4.C. Civil Society

4.D. Private Sector

4.E. Media


Block 5

International Peace and Security

5.A. Disarmament

Peace and security is one of the two principal purposes of the UN. The UN was founded in a desire to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” With the tragedy of two devastating world wars still in recent memory, peace and security provided the reason for founding the United Nations. Promoting peace and security requires a multifaceted approach, as is indicated by the list to the left. These functions are pursued by the organizations presented in Blocks 3 and 4.

5.B. Peaceful Settlement of Disputes and Conflict Prevention

5.C. Peacekeeping Operations

5.D. Sanctions

5.E. Peace Enforcement

5.F. Humanitarian Intervention

5.G. Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

5.H. Terrorism


Block 6

Human Rights

6.A. Norms and Machinery

The second principal purpose of the UN is advancement of human rights. That there are universal human rights is somewhat contentious. That an outside body like the UN has authority to intervene into the domestic affairs of a sovereign state is even more contentious. It can be argued that pursuing universal human rights contradicts the UN charter.

6.B. International Criminal Court and Ad Hoc Tribunals

6.C. Humanitarian Action and Coordination

6.D. Women and Gender

6.E. Children

6.F. Minorities and Indigenous Peoples

6.G. Human Security


Block 7


7.A. Coordinating Economic and Social Affairs

Economic and social development was originally a means to assure the ends of peace and security. Today, development is an end in itself. Development includes the promotion of democracy and good government.

7.B. Health and Infectious Disease

7.C. Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Development

7.D. Organized Crime

7.E. Democracy and Good Government

7.F. Human Development


Block 8

Prospects for Reform

8.A. Principal Organs

This block of instruction concludes the course. A quick review is followed by challenges facing the UN and recommendations for meeting those challenges. Alternatives, like the Concert of Liberal Democracies, are also presented.

8.B. Financing

8.C. Widening Participation


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