A pivotal moment in global governance? Looking back to look forward.


MANY OF US ARE OFTEN ASKED HOW WE BECAME WHO WE ARE. FOR ME, that has generally come down to the old adage--nature (genes) or nurture (parental influence), and the latter is pretty strong in my case. My father, Norman J. Padelford, was one of the early scholars of international organization (IO) and the United Nations. He was one of a number of academics who were recruited by the US Department of State during World War II as consultants to work on the preparation of the UN and other issues. After participating in the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks conference and the April 1945 meetings of the UN Committee of Jurists in Washington, DC, he served as executive officer for Commission IV of the UN San Francisco Conference Secretariat, which dealt with all arrangements concerning the International Court of Justice and such other legal matters as were referred to in the draft Charter. In the closing days of the conference, he was made secretary of the jurists committee that directed the work of drafting the Charter. In 1946, he moved from the Fletcher School to MIT to develop courses in international relations. He was a founding editorial board member and later chairman for the journal International Organization (1960-1973). He died in 1982 before his friend Gene Lyons and others founded the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) and invited me as a then relatively junior scholar at the University of Dayton to be part of the ACUNS founding conference and to give the presentation "Teaching International Organization." So, the story of the UN's founding has always, in part, had a personal dimension for me, as has much of the history of the study of the UN and international organizations.

It is a great honor to be invited to give this John W. Holmes Memorial Lecture and, I must confess, I have adapted Holmes's own title for his inaugural address in 1988. The theme of "looking backward, looking forward" seems particularly apt to me. First, because this address is an opportunity for me to pay brief tribute to my past and my father's influence in my becoming a scholar of international organizations. Second, because this month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the conference at which ACUNS was founded. As a participant in that event, it is an opportunity for me to look back over these thirty years at what ACUNS has accomplished. Third, it has also been thirty years since John Ruggie and Friedrich Kratochwil, as well as Martin Rochester, published their two articles in the journal International Organization on the "state of the field" at that point. Realizing that no one has written a follow-up essay on the subject, I want to devote part of my remarks to how far the field has come in that interval, thanks in part to ACUNS's influence, and then to comment in looking forward on what I see as some of the major gaps in the field and the major challenges that we as practitioners and scholars of the UN and global governance, as well as the UN itself, face at this particularly pivotal juncture in time. Finally, being here in Seoul, looking backward I recall that it was here in Korea that the UN first undertook a collective security action in response to North Korea's aggression supported by the newly established People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. Looking forward, it is clear that the division of Korea and North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile delivery capabilities pose major challenges to the UN, the nuclear nonpro-liferation regime, and the international community more generally. Furthermore, South Korea's own Ban Ki-moon recently completed ten years as the UN's eighth Secretary-General with the success of the 2015 Paris conference on climate change among his major accomplishments.

ACUNS at Thirty

Thirty years ago this month, I was privileged to be among those invited to Dartmouth College for a conference whose purpose was to create a new organization to stimulate and support research and teaching on the role of the UN system in international relations. There was a shared sense among a number of scholars at the time that activities at the United Nations University and throughout the UN system

simply were not connecting with research and teaching taking place in outside universities and research centers.... Research on international peace and security and on social and economic development... seemed to have little impact on what was actually going on... and there appeared to be a continued decline in research on the UN itself and on the institutions of the UN system. (1) As Lyons notes in his history of ACUNS's founding, this disconnect was not new. It had been noted in 1970 by Stanley Hoffman (2) and in 1983 by Inis Claude. (3) To observers of international affairs, it was obvious that the UN was largely irrelevant to major issues of international security and international political economy, and it was caught up in the North-South conflict over the proposed New International Economic Order (NIEO) and related issues. In the United States, this decline was matched by UN bashing in foreign policy and action by Congress to withhold US dues. The teaching of international organization especially in the United States had declined and there were few doctoral students writing dissertations about the UN system, which had implications for the future of university teaching.

Details of the founding of ACUNS can be found at the ACUNS website under "History" and also in the full text of Lyons's narrative "Putting ACUNS Together," cited in note 1. However, that story includes a number of key people besides Lyons, among them the distinguished sociologist and peace activist Elise Boulding who had been on the board of the United Nations University and the faculty of Dartmouth College; Benjamin Rivlin, director of the Ralph Bunche Institute at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York; John Fobes, former deputy director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Oran Young, then at the Dickey Center at Dartmouth College; James P. Sewell of Brock University; John Holmes, by then on the faculty of the University of Toronto; and Victor Urquidi who had early UN experience in the Secretariat of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and had been president of the Colegio de Mexico.

In many respects, ACUNS was conceived and developed by academics who also had experience as practitioners within the UN system. The goal was not to advocate for the UN, but to encourage the study of the UN system and the teaching of international organization more generally. The goal was also more than just to create a new professional association. As Lyons notes, "It was also to recognize that international organizations were taking on new operations and changing the structures of international relations," as well as new organizational issues and persistent long-standing ones that raised "theoretical and policy questions about international organization that needed to be researched and analyzed." (4) Thus, he says, "The ultimate aim is to encourage a new generation of scholars, teachers, and practitioners to give new and critical attention to the role of international organizations in world affairs." (5)

From that first conference in 1987, then, ACUNS's agenda included information and documentation services, research, and teaching. A year after the founding conference, it convened the first annual conference in New York at which the inaugural Holmes Lecture was given--although unfortunately not by Holmes himself who was too ill to attend. Also in 1988, Donald Puchala and Roger Coate produced the State of the United Nations report, which became the first of a series of occasional papers and reports published by ACUNS. In 1991, the first ACUNS workshop for junior scholars and practitioners was held at Dartmouth College. Among the participants was Abiodun Williams, current board member and former board chair of ACUNS. I had the privilege of conducting the session "Teaching International Organization." In 1995 after the executive directorship of ACUNS had passed to Thomas Weiss and Brown University, the journal Global Governance was launched under the editorship of Craig Murphy and Roger Coate, and just two years thereafter was named "the best new journal in the United States in Business, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities" by the Association of American Publishers. In 1994, an annual Dissertation Fellowship Award was launched. From the beginning, the Ralph Bunche Center at City University of New York functioned as an ACUNS-UN liaison office to assist scholars seeking to do research at the UN and to facilitate ACUNS's links to the UN. Subsequently, liaison offices have been established in Geneva, Vienna, New Delhi, and Tokyo. In addition, ACUNS has organized periodic seminars in New York for UN and diplomatic staff. ACUNS's membership was initially limited to North America, given the founding by Canadian, US, and Mexican scholars and practitioners. Membership is now truly global with sixty-five countries represented, and that fact is underscored by this first annual conference held in Asia, following conferences in Latin America, Europe, and Turkey, and the 2016 workshop held in India. Twenty-six percent of current members are practitioners, with the balance being scholars, researchers, and student members.

Unquestionably, ACUNS has met its goal of stimulating teaching and research on the UN system and international organizations. The IO Section of the International Studies Association (ISA) is one of its largest sections with over 700 members. Books relating to global governance, IOs, and the UN continue to proliferate, reflecting the wide range of interest and high-quality research being done in the field. The journal Global Governance has provided a valuable niche for connecting research and practice with relatively short accessible articles aimed at both...

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