The Evolution of the UN System and IO-Theory

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2003

25 Pages, Grade: 2 (B)



I. Introduction

II. Predecessors and the history of the UN-System
1) The Hague Peace Conferences
2) The League of Nations
3) The genesis of the United Nations
a) The United Nations during the cold war (1945 – 1954)
b) The period between 1955 and 1963
c) The third part between 1964 and 1973
d) The fourth decade from 1974 – 1986
e) The Time of Change 1987
d) The differences between the LN’s and the UN

III. Theories of International Organizations
1.) Definition of IOs
2.) Schools of thought and its basic assumptions
a) Neo Realism
b) Neo-institutionalism
c) Game theory
ca) Stag Hunt
cb) Battle of Sexes
cc) Prisoner’s Dilemma
d) Social Constructivism
3) Role and function of IOs
a) Role of IOs
aa) Instrument
ab) Arena
ac) Actor
b) Function of IOs
ba) Articulation and aggregation
bb) Norms
bc) Recruitment
bd) Socialization
be) Rule making
bf) Rule application
bg) Rule adjudication
bh) Information
bi) Operations

IV. Case studies on choosen examples
1) The Korean War
a) Neo Realism
aa) hypothesis
ab) result
2) Racial discrimination
a) Social Constructivism
aa) hypothesis
ab) result
3) The former Yugoslavia
a) Neo-Institutionalism
aa) hypothesis
ab) result

V. Conclusion

VI. Bibliography

I. Introduction

The history of international relations, which is dominated by competition of states, was impressed by the overcoming of this structure. There were several philosophers like Niccolò Machiavelli, Immanuel Kant and Jürgen Habermas who were engaged in answering the basic question about how states could cooperate and how they could solve their conflicts.[1] International organizations (IOs) are one response to the growing tension in world society between the process of integration and the desire for separation. The Industrial Revolution, the creation and integration of the world economy and at the same time the movement of ideas and people, as well as that of goods and services were the basics for the idea of globalisation. There was also a growth of nationalism, particularly strong in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. Subjects became citizens, and there was a tendency to a sharper demarcation of identities based on language, religion and ethnicity. The growth of IOs is a reflection of the spirit of the times of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The United Nations Organization is the second try to order the international system and to minimise the “perils of anarchy.”[2] It’s the second try to trust in an organization for securing the “peace of the world” by the people of the world, after the League of Nations. After the Second World War, the demand of governance in world affairs was growing. The UN are a product of rising interdependencies among the states in the international system.

IOs are the operative objects in this essay. In the first part of this essay, I will provide some basic historical information, which gives a better understanding of the circumstances of the evolution of the United Nations System. After a definition of IOs, I will analyse the United Nations System, its function as an IO, by giving examples of the history of the UN. In this essay I will sketch, firstly, why IOs will be created. Secondly, I want to investigate if IOs matter. Thirdly, I will subject to closer scrutiny how the action of IOs do differ between the different issue areas. By answering these questions, I will deal with the theories on the current scientific debate. Coming from these theories, I will develop hypotheses and apply them to some cases exemplary for the most important historical periods.

II. Predecessors and the history of the UN-System

1) The Hague Peace Conferences

The predecessors of the UN were the Hague Peace Conferences (HPC) and the League of Nations (LNs). The First HPC in July 1899 was convened by the Russian Czar Nicholas II to discuss limitation of arms and peaceful methods to settle international disputes. The second conference was in 1907. The main results were the “Haager Landkriegsordnung” and the installation of an arbitration court.[3] But considering the challenges of the First World War the HPCs failed. The problem was that it lacked an effective executive police power as prescribed by President Theodore Roosevelt.

2) The League of Nations

During the time of the First World War, there was a process of forming an IO for peace among the “big three” (USA, GB, UdSSR). The first meeting of this IO, called the LNs, took place in 1916 in Washington D.C.. The state representatives also wanted to create a new, permanent world organization that would deal with the problem of peace and security and with economic and social questions. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was the leading figure for the evolution of the LNs. Wilson formulated the war aims and peace suggestions of the United States and presented them before the Congress of the United States on January 1918 as his famous "14 Points". His major aim was a peaceful world that is safe for self-governing nations. In conclusion, he demanded in his 14th point: “open covenants of peace, openly arrived at” and no secret treaties, the free navigation of the seas outside territorial waters, equality of trade and removal of economic barriers and “adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.” The last point he stressed was the concrete wish for an IO to maintain peace constructed by international law.

The LNs was established in 1919, like the ILO. The basis of the LNs was the covenant which was included in the Treaty of Versailles and the other peace treaties. The covenant consisted of 26 articles. The organs of the IO were an assembly, composed of all member nations; a council, composed of the great powers (originally Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, later also Germany and the USSR) and of four other, non-permanent members; and a secretariat. Both the assembly and the council were empowered to discuss “any matter within the sphere of action of the LNs or affecting the peace of the world.” In both the assembly and the council, unanimous decisions were required.

The original membership of the LNs included the victorious allies of World War I without the United States and most of the neutral nations. Together it had 19 members.

The installation of the LNs was firstly the result of the brutality of the first World War, which makes clear the important need of peace. Secondly, there was the peace movement which developed parallel to the Vienna consultation-system. This movement formulated the persuasion that war can only be avoided by international organizations. Thirdly, US President Wilson was a strong actor.

The LNs quickly proved its value by settling the Swedish-Finnish dispute over the Åland Islands (1920–21), guaranteeing the security of Albania (1921), rescuing Austria from economic disaster, settling the division of Upper Silesia (1922), and preventing the outbreak of war in the Balkans between Greece and Bulgaria (1925). In addition, the LNs extended considerable aid to refugees; it helped to suppress white slave and opium traffic; it did pioneering work in surveys of health; it extended financial aid to needy states; and it furthered international co-operation in labour relations and many other fields.

But it failed to bring its political influence to bear. The major failing of the LNs was the striking absence of a system of collective security, due to the absence of the major powers, such as Germany, the Soviet Union and the United States, whose Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. “This meant that LNs action was constantly at risk of being perceived as the work of the remaining members,[...].”[4]

The whole LNs system can be seen as a crucial link which brought together the strand of pre- 1914 international organizations and wartime cooperation into a more centralized and systematic form on a global scale, thus providing a stepping-stone towards the more enduring United Nations.

3) The genesis of the United Nations

The term “United Nations” was created by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who first used this term in his correspondence with the English Prime Minister Winston Churchill. By this term, he referred to the 26 states of the Washington-pact of 10th January 1942. This pact was an obligation for those countries allied with the axis of the Second World War not to close separate armistices. With their agreement, they also ratified the Atlantic-Charter. This Charter contained the basics of a new system of the world after the Second World War.[5] This system of an enduring and extensive system of security was a development from the declaration of the “4 freedoms”[6] and contained the renunciation of territorial gains and respect for the right of self-determination of the people.[7] It was clear for the wartime allied leaders that they would not create a new collective security system on the old LNs’ structure.[8] On this basis, a growing cooperation developed, as shown for instance during several international conferences, such as the conference of Casablanca in 1943 and the allied foreign ministers’ meeting in Moscow from the 19th – 30th October, 1943. By the end of this conference, the USA, the UdSSR, GB and China agreed on the general outline of a charter centred on maintaining peace and security through an international organization.[9]

This was a remarkable step because of the doubts of Winston Churchill about an alliance of the four powers. The British Prime Minister was not persuaded that the four powers would work together if the issue was not dealing with their own interests. He, therefore, proposed a world council which should be divided in three parts for regional councils, one for the western hemisphere, one for Europe and one for the Middle East.[10] The USA tried to make another proposal for a system of the world. They wanted to create a system of two powers, consisting of the USA and GB.

However, the system of security of the four powers was retained and was confirmed on the conference of Teheran from 28th of November – 1st of December 1943 and culminated in a summit of experts on Dumbarton Oaks from 21st of August – 7th of October 1944.[11] In Dumbarton Oaks, there were exceedingly complex negotiations between professional diplomats who worked out many of the details, but the sensitive issue of the SC veto, and the admission of the 16 partial Soviet Republics was left to the top-level Yalta meeting in February 1945. It was remarkable considering State Department experts had worked out an “Outline-Plan” for a multilateral peace organization one year ago. It was also remarkable that the foundation conference was placed in San Francisco on 25th April 1945 on American ground - all of which shows the clear dominance of the USA.

a) The United Nations during the cold war (1945 – 1954)

Helmut Vogler divides the history of the United Nations into five different decades.[12] He starts with the education time of the UNO between 1945 and 1954. The post-wartime period was certainly not calm and challenging in many ways. The most difficult conflicts were, for illustration, the Aserbaidschan conflict, the Berlin blockade or the Korean war, in which the super powers (USA and UdSSR) were competitors. In these conflicts, there was always the risk of escalation. These conflicts showed that the UNO's capacity to act depended on the compromise of the super powers in the Security Council. The SC was, however, blocked very often. The result of this extended use of the veto was the uniting-for-peace-resolution (1950) of the General Assembly. But in spite of these problems, it would be rash to talk about a failure of the UNO, as there were also several gains and advances made during this period. For example, the Palestinian conflict was effectively calmed down by observation troops of the UNO. Another example is the Berlin blockade in which the UNO supplied a good framework for negotiations.

b) The period between 1955 and 1963

Furthermore, the second decade of the UNO was touched by the problem of the Cold War, which was perhaps at its height during the time of the Cuba-crises. But the more important process of this time was: decolonization. The result of this process was the explosion of UN membership from 60 states in 1950 to 117 states in 1965. Thereby the conditions for the work of the UNO were changed, which led to an inevitable growth of programmes and special agencies.[13] For example, there arose the DIE (International Development Association), the WFP (World Food Program), the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) or the UNDP (United Nations Development Program). In the General Assembly, there was a new majority favourable towards the African and Asian countries. Therefore, the number of members in the SC and in the ECOSOC had to be adapted. Thanks to the efforts of the former Secretary Generals Dag Hammarskjöld and U Thant in this changing times, the UN gained prestige and importance.


[1] Czempiel, Ernst-Otto: Friedensstrategien. Eine systematische Darstellung außenpolitischer Theorien von Machiavelli bis Madariaga, Opladen, 1998. p.15

[2] Gareis, Sven Bernhard/ Varwick, Johannes: Die Vereinten Nationen. Aufgaben, Instrumente und Reformen, Opladen: Leske + Budrich, 2002. p.13

[3] Rittberger, Volker/Zangel, Bernhard: Internationale Organisationen – Politik und Geschichte: Europäische und weltweite zwischenstaatliche Zusammenschlüsse, 3. Edition, Opladen: Leske + Budrich, 2003. p.52

[4] Groom, A.J.R.: Getting to ‘GO’. The Birth of the United Nations System, in: Taylor, Paul/Groom, A.J.R. (eds.): The United Nations at the Millenium The Principl Organs, Continuum, 2000. p.7

[5] Hüfner, Klaus; Naumann Jens: Organisation der Vereinten Nationen/Vereinte Nationen/ VN. In: Andersen, Uwe; Wichard Woyke (Hrsg.): Handwörterbuch Internationaler Organisationen. 2. Edition, Opladen 1995, p. 341

[6] The „4 freedoms“ was the product of an congress ambassy of the US President Roosevelt in January 1941. „4 freedoms“ means the freedom of the speech, opinion, religion and freedom of need and fear.

[7] Look at ,,Atlantik-Charta", Kinder, Hermann; Werner Hilgemann: dtv-Atlas zur Weltgeschichte. Karten und Chronologischer Abriss. Band 2. Von der Französischen Revolution bis zur Gegenwart. 30. Edition, München 1996, p.487

[8] Armstrong, David: From Versailles to Maastricht. International Organizations in the Twentieth Century, London: Macmillan. p.80ff.

[9] look at the footprint 7

[10] Volger, Helmut: Entstehungsgeschichte der Vereinten Nationen. In: Volger, Helmut (Hrsg.): Lexikon der Vereinten Nationen. 1. Edition, München, Wien, Oldenburg 2000, p.84 ff

[11] Volger, Helmut: Entstehungsgeschichte der Vereinten Nationen. In: Volger, Helmut (Hrsg.): Lexikon der Vereinten Nationen. 1. Edition, München, Wien Oldenburg 2000, p.90 ff

[12] Volger, Helmut: Geschichte der Vereinten Nationen. 1.Edition, München, Wien, Oldenburg 1995

[13] Die Entwicklung des VN-Systems, 1946-1993. In: Hüfner, Klaus; Naumann Jens: Organisation der Vereinten Nationen/Vereinte Nationen/ VN. In: Andersen, Uwe; Wichard Woyke (Hrsg.): Handwörterbuch Internationaler Organisationen. 2. Edition, Opladen 1995, p.342

Excerpt out of 25 pages


The Evolution of the UN System and IO-Theory
University of Tubingen  (Institute of Political Science - Department of International Relations/Peace- und Conflict Research)
UN System Politics and Policy
2 (B)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Evolution, System, IO-Theory, System, Politics, Policy
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Matthias Mißler (Author), 2003, The Evolution of the UN System and IO-Theory, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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