The United Nations and the Elusive Quest for Peace

Speaker: Professor Ramesh Thakur (Australian National University)


There is much scepticism-cum-cynicism about the United Nations, some of it justified. Yet the world is a better place because it exists and because of what it does. The UN remains the embodiment of the international community of states, the focus of international expectations and the locus of collective action as the symbol of an imagined and constructed community of strangers. A hundred years ago, war was an accepted institution with distinctive rules, etiquette, norms and stable patterns of practices. Now there are significant UN Charter-imposed restrictions on the authority of states to use force either domestically or internationally.

In this seminar, Professor Thakur disaggregates the UN's role of maintaining international peace and security into the separate elements of pacific settlement, collective security, peace operations, arms control and disarmament, legal adjudication, and peace building. An effort is made to analyse the historical record in order to connect the past to the future and to demonstrate changes that might be required in the institutional machinery in order to enhance the UN’s peace maintenance role.