Recent columns by Barbara Crossette:
Guess Who's Sustaining Iraq (July 14, 2003)
"Nine U.N. agencies are now operating in Iraq,
doing many of the jobs the U.S. military was apparently not prepared
A New Step for the U.N.—an Ombudsman (July 8, 2003)
"Until now, most employees had to wait
until an internal dispute provoked administrative
action—and then appeal it."
U.N. Still Battered by U.S. Action On Iraq (July 1, 2003)
"Americans seem to hate
the United Nations for not supporting the war, while a lot of the
rest of the world hates the organization for not preventing it."
AIDS, Other Trends Give New Prominence To U.N. Population Division (June 23, 2003)
"Ethnic wars, epidemic diseases, huge migrations of people have helped make
[the U.N. Population Division] one of the busiest offices in the U.N. Secretariat."
Fixing The Security Council (June 16, 2003)
"If the United States and the rest of the world seem to be looking at the same Security Council and seeing two very different images, most governments can agree on one point: the council needs fixing."
Peacekeeping's Unsavory Side (June 10, 2003)
"Among the uglier stories surrounding international peacekeeping in recent years is that U.N. operations too often fuel booms in local prostitution."
More from U.N. Notebook.
U.N. Notebook | July 21, 2003
Academic Council on U.N. System Leaves U.S. for Canada
by Barbara Crossette
UNITED NATIONS—In 1987, a group of North
American foreign affairs scholars got together with some U.N.
officials to create an academic association supporting education,
research and cooperation on global issues. The founders named
it the Academic Council on the United Nations System, and Dartmouth
College gave it a home, using a bequest from a former college
president, J.S. Dickey. Under an agreement to relocate the
headquarters every five years, the council then migrated to Brown
University and after that Yale.
This year, ACUNS left the country.
It is not much of a stretch to see the emigration
of the organization to Canada as one more symbol of the ambivalent
(at best) attitudes among U.S. intellectuals about the United
Nations and internationalism in general. True, Yale offered to
continue its sponsorship of ACUNS—now with about 900
members in 50 or more countries—and Columbia and the
City University of New York also put in bids. But only Wilfrid
Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, made the kind of pitch the
council's board could not resist.
What Wilfrid Laurier
offered, and no U.S. university would match, is the full-time
leadership for five years of a tenured associate professor of
political science, Alistair D. Edgar. He has been given
academic leave to concentrate on making the council a central player
in research in international affairs at the cluster of colleges and
universities at Waterloo. Furthermore, in making its bid,
Wilfrid Laurier also had the political backing of the Canadian
government, especially the Foreign Ministry.
A new Canadian think tank in Waterloo, the Center
for International Governance Innovation, received a generous grant
of $22 million from James Balsillie, the CEO of Research in Motion,
producers of the BlackBerry wireless handheld device. Part of
that grant, $36,000 this year, will cover the basic operating budget
of ACUNS, which has also been supported over the years by the Ford
Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Better World
Foundation, a sister organization to the United Nations Foundation,
which underwrites U.N. Wire.
"Does it mean ACUNS is turning its back on the
U.S.?" asks Craig Murphy, professor of political science at
Wellesley College and the chairman of the council's board. "I
Nevertheless, Murphy added in an exchange of
e-mails that there is an unmistakable resistance on American
campuses to treating the study of international institutions
seriously, just as the globalization of everything from the economy
to diseases seizes public imagination. "In many American
schools there is growing undergraduate interest in international
affairs and, especially, in studying multilateral institutions,
international law, the political economy of globalization and other
interdisciplinary fields," he wrote. "Typically, however,
these are not fields considered acceptable to mainstream political
science or economics, so the undergraduate (and much graduate)
teaching gets done by adjuncts and part-timers."
people running the departments, meanwhile, are "scholars who see the
work in statist terms and tend to reduce many things to the
interests and concerns of U.S. policymakers."
This is not unlike the tendency of major American
media organizations to cover the world—when they report
on foreign affairs at all—largely through U.S. eyes,
leaving the agenda on international affairs to be set by whatever
administration happens to be in the White House. The United
States may be the biggest world power, but it is not much of an
international player. Compared with Europe, for example,
American diplomacy does not put a high priority on working in
international bodies, and jobs there (at least below ambassadorial
level) do not rank very high in the career aspirations of U.S.
diplomats or among those who train them.
"There is really a generation of scholars in
their 30s, mostly born in the late 1960s, throughout U.S. academia
who have re-energized the study of the U.N. 'family,'
but—and this is an important point—there are
very few with concrete knowledge of the U.N. who actually have
positions in the leading graduate departments," Murphy says.
In Canada, the academic discipline of
international relations not only turns out first-class diplomats
with a broader world view but also influences politicians and
policymakers. Murphy points out that since ACUNS' inception,
every Canadian foreign minister has been involved in the
organization. In the United States, only
Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state and an
ambassador to the United Nations, became a member. In
Washington, members of Congress are rarely
interested—the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan,
another ambassador to the United Nations, was an exception.
Yet the council counts in its ranks many leaders
in the study and practice of international relations around the
world, providing a forum for new or different voices not usually
heard in American debate. Among the most active members is
Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public
and International Affairs at Princeton and a widely recognized
expert in international law and the new International Criminal
Court. Other well-known names include Sadako Ogata, the former
U.N. high commissioner for refugees who recently co-chaired (with
Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning Harvard economist) the
independent Commission on Human Security; Jorge Sampaio, president
of Portugal; and Sir Marrack Goulding, warden of St. Antony's
College, Oxford, and former undersecretary general for political
affairs at the United Nations.
The council has published a
Governance, since 1995, and it also maintains a Web site, now
with a new address: http://www.acuns.wlu.ca/. When
it is updated, it will provide a ready reference for U.N.-related
documents and other information.
In a conversation in New York in June, between
sessions of the annual ACUNS conference at the United Nations,
Edgar, the new executive director of the council, stopped short of
saying that it was time the organization found a friendlier country,
but he did say he hoped the new Canadian home of the organization
would be attractive to its global membership, only about half of
which is now from the United States.
This has been a year in which
many scholars as well as policymakers outside the United States have
despaired of American support for the United Nations. For
Americans, Edgar said, the biggest challenge is to build political
support in the country for the United Nations and many related
Canada may be coming to the rescue. One of
Edgar's plans is to run workshops across the United States to teach
Americans a little more about how the world can work
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More on foreign affairs in Atlantic Unbound and The Atlantic
Barbara Crossette, a writer on foreign affairs and columnist for U.N. Wire, was The New York Times bureau chief at the United Nations from 1994 to 2001. U.N. Wire is a free daily online news service covering news about and
related to the United Nations. It is sponsored by the U.N. Foundation and
appears on the foundation site, but is produced independently by The National
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Copyright © 2003 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All