Wartime Origins and the Future United Nations: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Wartime Origins and the Future United Nations

1st Edition

Edited by Dan Plesch, Thomas G. Weiss


242 pages

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Paperback: 9780415712675
pub: 2015-01-13
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pub: 2015-01-15
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The creation of the UN system during World War II is a largely unknown or forgotten story among contemporary decision makers, international relations specialists, and policy analysts.

This book aims to recover the wartime history of the United Nations and explore how the forgotten past can shed light on a possible and more desirable future. To achieve this, each chapter takes three snapshots:

  • "Then," the imaginative and transnational thinking about solutions to post-war problems demonstrated a realization that victory in WW II required an intergovernmental "system" with enough power and competence to work—that is, the UN was not established as a liberal plaything and public relations ploy but rather as a vital necessity for post-war order and prosperity.

  • "Now," which often seems a pale imitation of wartime thinking that nonetheless reflects a growing and widespread recognition of the fundamental disconnect between the nature of trans-boundary problems and current solutions seen as feasible by 193 UN member states.

  • "Next steps," or the collective wisdom about the range of new thinking and new institutions that, in fact, may well have antecedents in wartime thinking and experimentation and could be labelled blue-prints for a "third generation" of intergovernmental organizations.

This work will be essential reading for all students and scholars of the United Nations, International Organizations and Global Governance.


"Wartime Origins and the Future United Nations was published on the 70th anniversary of the April 1945 San Francisco Conference that adopted the Charter of the United Nations. The editors of the book have put together a 'collection of essays for studying and teaching international relations' as they were clearly 'persuaded that a more thorough consideration of wartime history could help inform the study and practice of the future United Nations and of international relations more generally'."

Georgios Kostakos, PhD, LIFE Climate Action Sector Coordinator, NEEMO EEIG,Brussels, Belgium

Table of Contents

Foreword by Margaret Joan Anstee Introduction:Past as Prelude, Multilateralism as a Tactic and Strategy, Dan Plesch & Thomas G. Weiss PART ONE: PLANNING AND PROPAGANDA 1. Prewar and Wartime Postwar Planning: Antecedents to the UN Moment in San Francisco, J. Simon Rofe 2. UN Public Diplomacy: Communicating the Post-National Message, Giles Scott-Smith 3. Educators across Borders: The Council of Allied Ministers of Education, 1942–45, Miriam Intrator PART TWO: HUMAN SECURITY, 4. A New Paradigm of International Criminal Justice? Reconsidering the 1943–1948 United Nations War Crimes Commission, Dan Plesch 5. UNRRA’s Operational Genius and Institutional Design, Eli Karetny & Thomas G. Weiss 6. Towards Universal Relief and Rehabilitation: India, UNRRA, and the New Internationalism, Manu Bhagavan PART THREE: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 7. The United Nations and Development: From the Origins to Current Challenges, John Burley & Stephen Browne 8. Financing Gaps, Competitiveness, and Capabilities: Why Bretton Woods Needs a Radical Rethink, Pallavi Roy 9. Stable Agricultural Markets and World Order: The FAO, and ITO, 1943–1949, Ruth Jacherz 10. Conclusion: Past as Prelude, Whither the United Nations?, Dan Plesch & Thomas G. Weiss,

About the Editors

Dan Plesch is Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London. His most recent book is America, Hitler and the UN (2011).His follow-on research includes a forthcoming international criminal law article on the UNWCC of 1943-1948. He previously worked for the BBC and CNN, the Royal United Services Institute and was the founding director of the the British American Security Information Council 1986-2000. His other publications include The Beauty Queen's Guide to World Peace, A Case to Answer (2004)and Preparing for the First Use of Nuclear Weapons (1987). He is co-director of the Wartime History and the Future United Nations Project.

Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at The City University of New York’s Graduate Center. He is Past President of the ISA (2009-10). His most recent single-authored books include Global Governance: Why? What? Whither? (2013); Humanitarian Business (2013); What’s Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It (2012); and Humanitarian Intervention: Ideas in Action (2012). He is co-editor of the Routledge "Global Institutions Series" and co-director of the Wartime History and the Future United Nations Project and of the Future UN Development System Project.

About the Series

Global Institutions

The "Global Institutions Series" is edited by Thomas G. Weiss (The CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA) and Rorden Wilkinson (University of Sussex, UK).

The Series has two "streams" identified by their covers:

  • Blue covers offer comprehensive, accessible, and informative guides to the history, structure, and activities of key international organizations, and introductions to topics of key importance in contemporary global governance. Recognized experts use a similar structure to address the general purpose and rationale for specific organizations along with historical developments, membership, structure, decision-making procedures, key functions, and an annotated bibliography and guide to electronic sources.
  • Red covers consist of research monographs and edited collections that advance knowledge about one aspect of global governance; they reflect a wide variety of intellectual orientations, theoretical persuasions, and methodological approaches.

Together these streams provide a coherent and complementary portrait of the problems, prospects, and possibilities confronting global institutions today.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / Treaties
POLITICAL SCIENCE / NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations)