Chapter 18

The United Nations

Geoffrey Wiseman and Soumita Basu

This chapter examines diplomacy at the United Nations (UN). Set up after the Second World War, the UN emerged as a central stage (and actor) for mitigating international conflict and managing international cooperation, thus facilitating diplomatic efforts in multiple ways. Widely regarded as the major twentieth-century experiment in "multilateral diplomacy," it continues to evolve, both as an intergovernmental organization, and as a key component of contemporary global governance. Yet, the diplomatic underpinnings of its political processes have been mostly neglected by the literature on the UN, including international relations scholarship. The chapter traces the evolution of diplomatic activities and the "diplomatic community" at the UN from its founding in 1945, and assesses such developments as the use of World Conferences and the significance of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The tensions between national interests and shared international values are apparent in both major policy-making and everyday practices at the UN. In this context, the chapter examines whether the norms of the UN diplomatic community can transcend national interests to secure more broadly conceived goals of international peace and progress.

Glossary exercises

Takeā€“home messages

Answering the book's "big" questions



Case studies

Counterfactual reasoning exercises

Guide to further reading

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