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Multilateral Evolution and the Quest for

Global Governance

W. Andy Knight

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A Changing United Nations

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A Changing United Nations

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Global Issues Series

This exciting new series encompasses three principal themes: the interaction of
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GOVERNING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
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W. Andy Knight
A CHANGING UNITED NATIONS
Multilateral Evolution and the Quest for Global Governance
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General Editor: Jim Whitman

A Changing United Nations


Multilateral Evolution and the Quest for
Global Governance
University of Alberta

Foreword by
James S. Sutterlin
Former UN Under Secretary General

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W. Andy Knight

W. Andy Knight 2000


All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of
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Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First published 2000 by
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ISBN 0333801512
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A catalogue record for this book is available
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Knight, W. Andy.
A changing United Nations : multilateral evolution and the quest for
global governance / W. Andy Knight ; foreword by James S. Sutterlin.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0333801512 (cloth)
1. United Nations. I. Title.
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341.23dc21
00033356
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To my spouse, Mitra

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Contents

Foreword by James S. Sutterlin

ix

Preface

xii
xiii

Acknowledgements

xv

List of Acronyms
Introduction
1

Rationalist and Reflectivist Approaches to


Multilateralism and Governance

13

Multilateral Evolution and UN Change Processes

37

Developing Institutional Foundations: Learning in the UN

61

The UNs Global Agenda and the Reflexive


Adaptation Process

82

The Managed Change Process at the UN

111

Post-Cold War Multilateralism and the New UN


Reform Agenda

130

Subsidiarity and Global Governance

158

Conclusions

179

Notes

192

Bibliography

227

Index

253

vii

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viii

List of Tables and Figures

List of Tables and Figures

1
1.1
1.2
2.1
2.2
2.3
4.1
4.2
4.3
5.1
5.2
6.1
6.2
6.3
6.4
6.5
7.1

Two approaches to multilateralism


Differing views on reforming the UN system
Two radical views on changing the UN system
Summary of potential modes of changing IOs
Morphology of the planned change process
Characteristics of two change processes in IOs
UN disarmament instruments and measures
UN peacekeeping operations and observer missions
during the Cold War
States requesting electoral assistance from
the UN (199299)
Growth of the UN Secretariat (197787)
Breakdown of senior posts by budget category (199293)
Peacekeeping and observer missions since 1986
UN peacekeeping and observer missions as of July 1999
Contributions to the 1999 UN regular budget
(January 1999)
UN member states that could have lost their vote in
the Fall 1999 GA
US debt to the UN in relation to total debts outstanding,
199698 (in US$M)
Total expenditures of the UN system (1992)

7
17
26
40
44
51
86
89
109
113
127
137
138
141
143
144
164

Figure
3.1

The United Nations system

64

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Tables

This is a book about change. The focus is on the United Nations but the
field of vision is the larger world that the United Nations serves. There
could hardly be a more fitting theme. No doubt most generations have
claimed, with excitement or resignation, that they lived in a time of
seminal change. Those who witnessed the fall of Constantinople were
as justified in their assumption as those of us today who witnessed the
fall of the Berlin Wall. But only since the founding of the United
Nations has there been in place an international organization of global
reach dedicated to the promotion of all the elements of a peaceful
world to ensure that change brings peace and not war. To accomplish
this task, the United Nations, in the person of its member states, of its
constituent peoples and of its leadership, must understand the nature
and extent of changes in the global complex. It must meet the challenges that they present. And, if possible, it must prepare for the future
challenges that these changes portend.
The end of the Cold War clearly signalled a seismic change in world
affairs. The United Nations Secretary-General was among the first to
sense already in the 1980s that change was in the air. In his 1987
Annual Report to the General Assembly, Javier Prez de Cullar wrote
countries of disparate political orientations and economic systems
have begun to deal with problems of an interdependent world with a
new pragmatism. It is as if, he continued, the sails of the small boat
in which all the people of the earth are gathered had caught again, in
the midst of a perilous sea, a light, but favorable wind.1 The wind, it
turned out, was favourable, indeed, but so strong as to blow the United
Nations into unknown waters, with a Charter, drafted a half a century
earlier, as its principal guide.
The years following the war between Iran and Iraq, which the United
Nations did much to end, saw major accomplishments: the independence of Namibia, the successful peace process in Central America, a
reborn Cambodia, hopeful mediation on the Western Sahara, the defeat
of Iraqi aggression. With it all came the reemergence of United Nations
intellectual leadership in defining the means of achieving international
security and promoting democratization based on respect for the human
rights defined in the UN Charter. Yet in the midst of success, it became
apparent that the winds of change were so strong that many feared the
ix

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Foreword

Foreword

United Nations could not sail safely into the twenty-first century unless
it was thoroughly overhauled.
Thus, concomitant with the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United
Nations, there was a widespread call from member states and countless
scholarly institutions and non-governmental organizations for reform.
The General Assembly formed working groups to debate what should
be done. The non-official groups formulated recommendations covering the gamut of UN activities. These are fully described in the present
volume and their merits and weaknesses well analysed. The General
Assembly Working Groups were mostly unable to agree on significant
changes in the structure or functioning of the organization. The more
ambitious recommendations of the external groups have been put
quietly on the shelf along with their numerous predecessors. Most of
the reforms that have taken place since the Fiftieth Anniversary have
related to the administration and management of the Secretariat and,
to a more limited extent, of the UN system as a whole. They have
been taken at the instigation of Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the
framework of what he has perhaps too grandly termed a culture of
reform.
Yet, as the author of this book helps us to understand, the United
Nations as a unique global organization, has changed profoundly in
reacting too often on an ad hoc basis to a world in which the sanctity
of state sovereignty must be weighed against the sanctity of human
rights. It has been scarcely a decade since the United Nations first
agreed hesitantly to monitor elections in a member state. Now the
practice has become so common as to require a special section in the
Secretariat. Only in the face of ongoing internal conflict in Croatia did
the United Nations recognize even more hesitantly that force should
be used as a provisional measure to bring peace and to end humanitarian crises as well as to meet and repel threats of aggression. In a remarkably short time, the Secretary-General and the Security Council learned
that while such use of force was necessary, under still ill-defined terms,
it could best be applied by external coalitions under the Security Councils authority. In Iraq the United Nations has undertaken to deprive a
sovereign state of the right to possess weapons of mass destruction. The
present Secretary-General has declared that:
State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined not
least by the forces of globalization and international co-operation.
States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service
of their peoples, and not vice versa. At the same time individual

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Foreword

xi

This has not been said without objections by some states. A decade ago
it could hardly have been said by a Secretary-General at all. These are
changes of profound significance even if they remain undefined in any
guidelines for future action.
While the present volume expresses doubt as to whether the United
Nations is yet prepared to meet the challenges of a new century, the
final conclusion is that it will survive. The author of this book provides
extensive material on the basis of which the reader can judge these
views. My sense is that the challenges of the twenty-first century are
already upon us. The United Nations is already hard pressed, having
had inadequate time to prepare and insufficient support from its members. The burden cannot rest entirely with the United Nations. The governments and the peoples that elect them must change as much, or
even more, than the United Nations in response to a world community
struggling to preserve an anarchic state structure within global governance regimes of which the United Nations is called upon to be the
unifying element. The present book can do much to help both statesmen and students to understand what is required.
James S. Sutterlin
Yale University
16 October 1999

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sovereignty . . . has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights. 2

The analysis here of reflexive adaptation, reform and learning processes


in the United Nations is both timely and important, particularly when
one considers that epiphenomenal and structural/ideological changes
in international society have forced a re-examination of the significance and relevance of this multilateral entity to contemporary world
politics. In this study, the problematic facing the UN can be summarized as follows: How has the UN handled organizational change in the
past? In which direction have the change efforts, to date, taken the
organization? Has the UN system adapted sufficiently to accommodate
exogenous and endogenous forces? To what extent is this organization
a decision frozen in time? Should UN member states and Secretariat
staff adopt more radical or transformative organizational adjustments
in light of what appears to be a transition to a post-Westphalian, postmodern era? What ought to be the new role for the UN during this
period of transition and beyond? Are there other models of multilateral
arrangements that would be more relevant to the demands of international society in the new millennium?
Richard Berstein has written that when foundations appear to be
cracking and orthodoxies questioned, a public space is created in
which basic questions about the human condition can be raised anew. 1
This study attempts to occupy such a public space, at least as it applies
to the subject of evolving multilateralism and changing the UN in
response to the quest for global governance, global order and global
democracy.
W.A.K.

xii

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Preface

A number of people and organizations deserve mention and thanks


because without them I would have had difficulty completing this
work. First, Professors David Dewitt, Robert Cox, Keith Krause and
Edward Dosman gave me extensive and helpful critical comments. They
encouraged me to pursue this subject at a time when multilateralism
was thought to be in major crisis.
Second, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
(Canada), the York Centre for International and Security Studies
(YCISS), the Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Students
Association (York University) granted me the funds that made an
internship in the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) possible.
Several primary sources were gleaned during that period in New York
and on subsequent trips to UN institutions in Paris and Geneva.
I am also very grateful for the assistance of the following current or
former UN secretariat staff members who provided me with relevant and timely information along the way: Ms Jacqueline Aloisi de
Larderel, Mr Angelides, Mr Georges le Blanc, Ms Norma Chan, Mr
Corwin, Dr Juergen Dedring, Ms Pascale De La Frgonnire, Mr Hilmar
Galter, Mr Salah Ibrahim, Mr Andri Isaksson, Dr James Jonah, Mr K. Khaw,
Ms Angela Uther Knippenberg, Mr B. G. Ramcharan, Mr. Jos de Ribes-Gil,
Mr Rogrigues, Ms Petra Schmidt, Mr Michael Stopford, Ms Barbara SueTing-Len, Sir Brian Urquhart, Mr Layachi Yaker and last but certainly
not least Ms Mari Yamashita. Several Canadians who have, at one
time or another, worked in the UN system granted me interviews and
provided useful information about various aspects of UN reform efforts.
These include Mr Yves Fortier and Mr Stephen Lewis, former Ambassadors to the United Nations, and Mr John Ausman, Mr Graham Green,
Mr Sam Hanson, Mr Alex Morrison, and Mr Charles Svoboda, officials
of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Useful comments on chapter drafts were received from: Professors
Adelman, Leon Gordenker, A. J. R. Groom, Gene Lyons, Stephen Marks,
Karen Mingst, Ingo Peters, Ben Rivlin, Adam Roberts, J. Martin Rochester, Michael Schechter, Edwin Smith, James Sutterlin, Paul Taylor and
Amos Yoder, and participants of the inaugural Academic Council on
the United Nations Systems (ACUNS) international organization and
xiii

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Acknowledgements

xiv

Acknowledgements

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international law workshop, especially Jarat Chopra, Abiodun Williams,


Jos Alvarez and Ruth Gordon.
Finally, but most importantly, I wish to thank my spouse Mitra NajafToumeraie and my two children, Bayan and Nauzanin, for their devotion and moral support throughout the research and writing ordeal. My
mother-in-law, Monireh Najaf-Toumeraei, deserves a note of special
appreciation for devoting an extraordinary amount of time to Bayan
and Nauzanin while I was away on many of my research trips.

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ACABQ
ACASTD
ACC
ACUNS
ANZUS
ASEAN
ASG
CCAQ
CCISUA
CCSQ
CDP
CENTO
CNR
CPC
CSCE
CSDHA
CSTD
CTC
DAM
DCS
DDA
DESD
DG
DIEC
DIESA
DOMREP
DPA
DPI
DPSCA
DTCD
EC

Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary


Questions
Advisory Committee for the Application of Science and
Technology for Development
Administrative Committee on Coordination
Academic Council on the United Nations System
AustraliaNew ZealandUS Security Pact
Association of South East Asian Nations
Assistant Secretary-General
Coordinating Committee for Administrative Questions
Coordinating Committee for Independent Staff Unions and
Associations of the UN System
Consultative Committee on Substantive Questions
Committee for Development Planning
Central Treaty Organization
Committee on Natural Resources
Committee for Programme and Coordination
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs
Centre for Science and Technology for Development
Commission on Transnational Corporations
Department of Administration and Management
Department of Conference Services
Department for Disarmament Affairs
Department of Economic and Social Development
Director-General
Director-General for International Economic
Cooperation
Department of International Economic and Social Affairs
Mission of the Representative of the Secretary-General in
the Dominican Republic
Department of Political Affairs
Department of Public Information
Department for Political and Security Council Affairs
Department of Technical Cooperation for Development
European Community
xv

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List of Acronyms

List of Acronyms

ECA
ECDC
ECE
ECLA
ECLAC
ECOMOG
ECOSOC
ECOWAS
EEC
ENMOD
EPTA
ESC
ESCAP
ESCWA
EU
FAO
G-77
GATT
GEMS
GSTP
HABITAT
IAD
IAEA
IBRD
ICAO
ICJ
ICC
ICSC
IDA
IDDA
IDS
IFAD
IFC
IGO
ILO
IMCO
IMF
IMO
INGO

Economic Commission for Africa


Economic Cooperation among Developing Countries
Economic Commission for Europe
Economic Commission for Latin America
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
Economic Community (of West African States) Monitoring
Group
Economic and Social Council
Economic Community of West African States
European Economic Community
Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other
Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques
(UN)Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance
Economic Security Council
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
European Union
Food and Agriculture Organization
Group of 77
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
Global Environmental Monitoring System
Global System of Trade Preferences
United Nations Centre for Human Settlement
Internal Audit Division
International Atomic Energy Agency
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
International Civil Aviation Organization
International Court of Justice
International Criminal Court
International Civil Service Commission
International Development Association
Industrial Development Decade for Africa
International Development Strategy
International Fund for Agricultural Development
International Finance Corporation
Intergovernmental Organization
International Labour Organization
International Maritime Consultative Organization
International Monetary Fund
International Maritime Organization
International Non-Governmental Organization

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xvi

List of Acronyms

xvii

International Research and Training Institute for the


Advancement of Women
IO
International Organization
IR
International Relations
IRPTC
International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals
ITC
International Trade Centre
ITU
International Telecommunications Union
JAB
United Nations Joint Appeals Board
JIU
Joint Inspection Unit
LAS
League of Arab States
LDCs
Least Developed Countries
MINURCA UN Mission in the Central African Republic
MINURSO UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
MONUA
UN Observation Mission in Angola
MSC
Military Staff Committee
MULPOC Multinational Programming and Operational Centre
MUNS
Programme on Multilateralism and the United Nations
System
NAM
Non-Aligned Movement
NATO
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NGO
Non-Governmental Organization
NICs
Newly Industrializing Countries
NIEO
New International Economic Order
NPT
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
OAS
Organization of American States
OAU
Organization of African Unity
OCS
Office of Conference Services
OD
Organizational Development
OECD
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
OERC
Office of Emergency Relief Coordination
OGS
Office of General Service
OHRM
Office of Human Resource Management
OIC
Organization of Islamic Conference
OLA
Office of Legal Affairs
ONUC
UN Peacekeeping Force in the Congo
ONUCA
UN Observer Group in Central America
ONUMOZ UN Operations in Mozambique
ONUSAL
UN Observer Mission in El Salvador
ONUVEH UN Verification Mission in Haiti
ONUVEN UN Observer Mission for the Verification of Elections in
Nicaragua

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INSTRAW

List of Acronyms

OOALS
OPEC
OPO
OPPBF
ORCI
OSCE
OSSESM
PCIJ
PPBES
SG
SUNFED
SWAPO
TCDC
TNC
UK
UN
UNAMIC
UNA-USA
UNAVEM
UNCDF
UNCED
UNCHS
UNCIO
UNCLOS
UNCSDHA
UNCSTD
UNCTAD
UNCTC
UNDOF
UNDP
UNDRO
UNEF
UNEF(II)
UNEP
UNESCO
UNFDAC
UNFICYP
UNFPA

UN Office for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea


Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
Office of Peacekeeping Operations
Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Finance
Office of Research and Collection of Information
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Office of Secretariat Services for Economic and Social Matters
Permanent Court of International Justice
UN Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Evaluative
System
Secretary-General
Special UN Fund for Economic Development
South West African Peoples Organization
Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries
Transnational Corporation
United Kingdom
United Nations
UN Advance Mission in Cambodia
UN Association of the United States of America
UN Angola Verification Mission
UN Capital Development Fund
UN Conference on the Environment and Development
UN Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT)
UN Conference on International Organization
UN Conference on the Law of the Sea
UN Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian
Affairs
UN Conference on Science and Technology for
Development
UN Conference on Trade and Development
UN Centre for Transnational Corporations
UN Disengagement Observer Force
UN Development Programme
Office of the UN Disaster Relief Coordinator
UN Emergency Force in Sinai
UN Emergency Force (II) Separating Egypt and Israel
UN Environmental Programme
UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UN Fund for Drug Abuse Control
UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
UN Fund for Population Activities

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xviii

xix

UNGA
UN General Assembly
UNGOMAP UN Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan
UNHCR
UN High Commission for Refugees
UNICEF
UN Childrens Emergency Fund
UNIDO
UN Industrial Development Organization
UNIFIL
UN Interim Force in Lebanon
UNIIMOG
UN IranIraq Military Observer Group
UNIKOM
UN IraqKuwait Observer Mission
UNIPOM
UN IndiaPakistan Observer Mission
UNITAR
UN Institute for Training and Research
UNJSPB
UN Joint Staff Pension Board
UNMIBH
UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina
UNMIG
UN Mission in Georgia
UNMIH
UN Mission in Haiti
UNMOGIP
UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan
UNMOP
UN Observer Mission in Croatia
UNMOT
UN Observer Mission in Tajikistan
UNOC
UN Operation in the Congo
UNOG
UN Office at Geneva
UNOGIL
UN Observer Group in Lebanon
UNOMIG
UN Observer Mission in Georgia
UNOMIL
UN Observer Mission in Liberia
UNOMSA
UN Observer Mission in South Africa
UNOMSIL
UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone
UNOMUR
UN Observer Mission in Uganda and Rwanda
UNOSOM
UN Operations in Somalia
UNOV
UN Office at Vienna
UNPAAERD UN Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery
and Development
UNPROFOR UN Protection Force in Yugoslavia
UNRISD
UN Research Institute for Social Development
UNRWA
UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the
Near East
UNSCEAR
UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic
Radiation
UNSF
UN Security Force in West Irian
UNTAC
UN Transition Assistance Team in Cambodia
UNTAG
UN Transition Assistance Group in Namibia
UNTSO
UN Truce Supervision Organization
UNU
United Nations University
UNYOM
UN Yemen Observer Mission

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List of Acronyms

List of Acronyms

UPU
US
USA
USG
USSR
WCF
WFC
WFP
WHO
WIPO
WMO
WOMP
WTO

Universal Postal Union


United States
United States of America
Under-Secretary-General
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Working Capital Fund
World Food Council
World Food Programme
World Health Organization
World Intellectual Property Organization
World Meteorological Organization
World Order Model Project
World Trade Organization

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xx

Background
This study explores change in the United Nations (UN) system within
the context of the broader process of multilateral evolution. The nature,
and severity, of the problems that confront the UN system today indicate that unless major structural adjustments are made to most parts of
the world body, different kinds of multilateral institutional arrangements
may become necessary for dealing with the myriad of societal demands
of the twenty-first century. Although much of the recent literature on
the UN recognizes the need for its reform and restructuring,1 only a few
scholars have tried to place the subject of the requisite institutional
changes within the broader context of multilateral development.2
Historical and conceptual changes in multilateralism
Multilateralism is both a theoretical concept and a historical process.
Historically, multilateral activity has involved the management of conflict and the building of cooperation among a variety of political entities
and agents that enter the field of world politics. As formerly disconnected
societies began to interact more frequently, these practices became
increasingly entrenched and expansive in scope.
With the end of feudalism and the advent of the interstate system,
multilateralist activity became more institutionalized. Since the signing of the Westphalia Treaty in 1648 until the end of the nineteenth
century, multilateral activity was primarily limited to European states
manifested through such vehicles as the interstate conferences, congresses,
concert systems, and public and private international agencies and
unions.3 During the late nineteenth century, multilateralism involved
activities of a broader range of states through formal, more permanent,
1

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Introduction

Introduction

intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) brought into existence by state


leaders to facilitate their peaceful interactions. 4
During the twentieth century, some students of international relations
recognized the need to embrace within the study of multilateralism
the notion of international regimes or consensual practices, developed
through common principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures, around which certain groups of actors converged in given issue
areas. 5 Neoliberal scholars recognized that multilateral activity was
much broader than the operations and products of formal intergovernmental organizations and made the case that global governing arrangements could be developed both within and outside formal IGOs.
Recently we have seen a further broadening of multilateral studies to
embrace activities of international non-governmental organizations
(INGOs), particularly in so far as they have been granted access to the
formal IGOs.6 Thus, the historical view and the actual practice of multilateralism underwent an evolution, a progressive development which
has gradually embraced a growing number of actors and broadened the
scope of the subject matter of multilateralism.7 However, the concept of
multilateral evolution cannot be properly understood without indicating
its underlying normative goal.
Early multilateral thinkers envisioned various schemes for addressing problems of interstate conflict and for regulating the relationship
between states and their civil societies, 8 with the primary goals of eliminating war, improving societal welfare conditions and promoting such
issues as justice and human rights. Their thinking influenced subsequent
conceptualizations of multilateral organization and played a major role
in shaping the character of the concrete expressions of multilateralism,
i.e. international organizations, from the late eighteenth century until
the present. A careful examination of the international organization literature over the last century reveals the twists and turns in the development of multilateralism, a pattern labelled multilateral evolution in
this study.
The term evolution conjures up the image of an act of unrolling
or unfolding. This act involves a series of related changes in a certain
(although not predetermined) direction. To evolve then is to put in
train a process of change which can ultimately result in organic
growth, gradual development or systematic and structural transformation. While the term evolution is generally used in reference to a progressive process of continuous changes from a state of lower, simpler or
worse condition to a higher, more complex or better one, it should be
borne in mind that this is not how the multilateral evolutionary process

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is viewed in this enquiry. As evolutionists in the natural science field


discovered, it is too simplistic to conceive of evolution as progressing in
a unilinear manner toward a particular predetermined goal. Multilateral
evolution may not always be in the direction of progress. The concept
of evolution used in the context of multilateral institutions can embrace
both growth and retardation, succession and dissolution, progression
and regression. Conceptually therefore, multilateral evolution is viewed
as an unfolding process of (incremental or accelerated, halting or continuous) changes whose ultimate goal is the coordination of formal
and informal relations between states and other entities that operate on
the international stage, i.e. the development of a global governance
framework.
Developing multilateralism within a global governance context
Any historical analysis of the development of multilateralism will show
a normative quest for better forms of governance at the international
level amid a Hobbesian anarchical international society. Oran Young
makes an important distinction between governance and government.
Whereas governance systems are social institutions or sets of rules
guiding the behaviour of those engaged in identifiable social practices,
governments are organizations or material entities established to administer the provisions of governance systems. 9 In times past the activity of
governance would have been thought of as being limited to states and
the formal intergovernmental organizations they agree to form. When
the UN was founded in 1945 states were dominant players on the international stage. State governments were also considered to be the only
entities capable of protecting the interests of their civil societies. Thus,
it seemed natural then to create a set of intergovernmental institutions
to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to ensure
prosperity for all.
Today, while national governments and the UN system are still
very much central to global governance, they are only a part of the full
picture. 10 As we enter the twenty-first century, global governance is
being reconceived as systems of rule at all levels of human activity. The
Commission on Global Governance defines governance as the sum of
the many ways in which individuals and institutions, both public and
private, manage their common affairs. 11 Based on this definition, the
concept of global governance should be broad enough to embrace the
whole exciting patchwork of institutions, processes, and people which
together make society. In other words, global governance cannot be
limited to the activities of the formal, intergovernmental structures and

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Introduction

Introduction

processes of the UN system or regional organizations, or even the more


informal, issue/functionally-specific international regimes.
The report of the Commission makes a worthy effort at defining what
should be considered the work of global governance today. Such tasks
include maintaining peace and order in the global neighbourhood,
expanding economic activity, dealing with the problems of pollution,
greenhouse warming, combating diseases, curbing the horizontal and
vertical proliferation of weapons, preserving genetic diversity, deterring
terrorism, warding off famine, saving endangered species, solving economic problems, developing fair ways of sharing the earths resources,
halting drug trafficking, tackling the problems of AIDS and other fatal
diseases and the list can go on. No single governing institution can
properly tackle this growing list of tasks demanded of international
society. Certainly, the UN system is not able to undertake them on its
own. Present and future global governance must involve a broad,
dynamic, complex process of interactive decision-making that is constantly evolving and responding to changing circumstances.12
Clearly, at this juncture in our history, we cannot speak as though
we have arrived at any coherent, or viably aggregated, form of global
governance. What we have can best be described as partial governance
with very few linking-pin connections that could eventually give it a
truly holistic and global shape. There has been, however, an evolution
in the multilateral activity of human society whose trajectory bears
evidence of a progressive, albeit not consistently unilinear, development in the direction of what might be called global governance.

Linking historical structures, multilateral institutions and


global governance
The historical-structural approach has provided one of the most important
intellectual advances in the study of multilateralism and global governance. Introduced into the international relations literature by such
scholars as Immanuel Wallerstein, Cardoso and Faletto, Theda Skocpol
and Robert Cox, this approach conceives of historical structures as persistent patterns of human activity and thought that endure for relatively
long periods of time. They result from collective responses to resolving
common problems, such as satisfying material wants, protecting and
maintaining security, and fulfilling ideological and psychosocial needs.
These collective responses become congealed over time in intersubjective meanings, practices and institutions.13

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A historical structure can be conceived as a triad linking ideas, material capabilities and institutions in the formation of a specific world
order at a particular historical juncture. Historical structures act as both
constraining and enabling devices in the sense that they either facilitate
or resist forces for change to world order. But because these structures
are historical they are susceptible to change. They are brought into
existence at a particular moment in history and under certain historical
and political circumstances. Thus, they can be reformed or transformed
when material circumstances, prevailing meanings and practices, and
existing institutions are challenged by emerging powers, meanings,
practices and institutions. These challenges create a climate of turbulence and transition until new historical structures are formed or when
new approaches to the problem-to-be-solved are congealed in new
practices.
This conceptual approach is a clear advance on realist approaches
that conceive of the structure of the international system as a more or
less fixed apparatus which constrains the actions of states, international
organizations and other agents. That static conception of structure is
clearly evident in the work of international relations scholars like Kenneth Waltz.14 The strength of the historical-structural approach is that
it obligates one to enquire into the social processes that create and
transform the particular elements constituting world order (i.e. ideas,
material capabilities and institutions), and into the ways in which perceptions and meanings that constitute and reconstitute the objective
world order are developed and altered. The link between historical
structuralism and the concept of multilateral evolution is clear. Implied
in the concept of evolving multilateralism is the idea that the principles
of multilateralism emerge out of prevailing ideas and historical practice.15 The concept also presupposes a normative and purposive element
to multilateralism in that it suggests a preference for dealing with
problems arising among the entities by a process of negotiation or nonviolent interaction among some or all of them 16 and that, ultimately,
progress in the direction of global governance can be attributed largely
to human agency.
Over time, the process of multilateral evolution will contribute to the
institutionalization of the principles, practices and processes of the
multilateral system,17 and therefore to the creation of new historical
structures. Thus, to understand what drives multilateral evolution one
must place specific multilateral changes within the broad historical
context out of which they emerge, within the current events and sociological context in which multilateral entities exist, and the teleological

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Introduction

Introduction

context within which these entities are expected to develop, i.e. the
changing structure of world order.
World order is a descriptive term for the prevailing power configurations that shape the outcome of multilateral activity. The structure of
world order today is different from the structure of world order of the
past and will be different from that of the future. It is for this reason
that the meaning and practices of multilateralism have changed, are
changing and will continue to change. If we are to define a meaning of
multilateralism for today and the future, it is important to begin by
assessing the present and future condition of the world system, with
the power relationships that will give contextual meaning to the
term.18 The viability of multilateralism, then, depends upon the ability of
multilateral institutions to respond to international societal pressures
for change. 19
Understanding and explaining this phenomenon requires the adoption of a historicist approach which sees the advent of the UN as simply
one of the most recent stages in the quest for global governance amid
an ostensibly anarchic world. The UN was not created in a historical
vacuum. Its genealogy can be traced to a series of attempts at institutionalizing particular forms of world order,20 with the normative drive
at each successive stage of the multilateral evolutive process being a
quest for some form of governance. Thus, the historical-structural process that produced the UN system can be conceived as evolving and
changing, not in any predetermined direction but according to the
demands and challenges of international society at any given time. It is
imperative, then, to question whether the institutions established at an
earlier time are still relevant.

Towards a critical view of multilateral organization


While multilateralism is the most promising conceptual approach for
understanding the place of international organization within the broader
context of world politics and for theorizing about adaptation and
transformation processes in international organizations,21 it has, unfortunately, been relatively neglected in international relations theory. 22
There are at least two competing conceptual approaches to the study
of multilateralism (see Table 1). The first, a traditional one, accepts
uncritically the existing configuration of state and economic power
and opts for piecemeal reforms to existing structures of international
organizations so long as they conform to the overall vision of status
quo elements within these organizations. In the case of the UN, this

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