Handbook of Governance and Security
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Handbook of Governance and Security

Edited by James Sperling

The Handbook of Governance and Security examines the conceptual evolution of security governance and the different manifestations of regional security governance. In particular, James Sperling brings together unique contributions from leading scholars to explore the role of institutions that have emerged as critical suppliers of security governance and the ever-widening set of security issues that can be viewed profitably through a governance lens.
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Chapter 37: United Nations

Spyros Blavoukos and Dimitris Bourantonis


The area of security is the most sensitive area in terms of international cooperation and the UN is widely seen as the only legitimate source of global security. Owing to its legitimacy and the universality of its membership, the UN has been regarded as the most institutionalized arrangement engaged in global security governance (see Diehl and Frederking 2010; Karns and Mingst 2010; Kirchner and Sperling 2007; Rittberger 2001; Thakur 2006; Weiss and Daws 2007; Weiss and Thakur 2010). The end of the Cold War and the rise of an extremely fluid, increasingly interdependent and multicentered world system generated expectations that the UN would emerge as the pivotal actor in global security governance. However, these hopes were short-lived and ephemeral; the UN has turned out to be an inefficient or, at its best, marginally relevant mechanism for coordinating actions needed to manage serious issues and problems of peace and security. Thus, there has emerged a broader debate on the role of the UN and the underlying reasoning of its modus operandi. Our study contributes to this debate, highlighting existing problems encountered by the UN in its operation and discussing the need for a new UN existential logic. We argue that the UN should move more assertively towards a principled multilateralism that will enhance the organization’s prospects. In the first section, we elaborate on the concept of principled multilateralism and discuss its main features.

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