Stewart M. Patrick

The Internationalist

Patrick assesses the future of world order, state sovereignty, and multilateral cooperation.

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Showing posts for "United Nations"

The Tragic Irony of Syria: The System “Worked”

by Stewart M. Patrick
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks with her Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, before the UN Security Council votes on a resolution—which Russia goes on to veto—regarding the Ukrainian crisis on March 15, 2014. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks with her Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, before the UN Security Council votes on a resolution—which Russia goes on to veto—regarding the Ukrainian crisis on March 15, 2014 (Andrew Kelly/Reuters).

For nearly five years, the UN Security Council has failed to end Syria’s suffering. The numbers are numbing: The war has claimed 250,000 lives and displaced over 50 percent of Syria’s prewar population of twenty-two million. The grinding conflict has deepened sectarian turmoil in the region and created the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe. The tragedy has also laid bare an inconvenient truth about the inherent limits of the Security Council in an era of great power rivalry. Because in Syria, the system worked—just not for the Syrian people. Read more »

Making Sense of “Minilateralism”: The Pros and Cons of Flexible Cooperation

by Stewart M. Patrick
The leaders of the Council of the European Union, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Japan, China, and the EU Commission meet on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 24, 2014. The leaders of the Council of the European Union, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Japan, China, and the EU Commission meet on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 24, 2014 (Jerry Lampen/Reuters).

A defining feature of twenty-first century multilateralism is the rising prominence of alternative forms of collective action as complements to—and often substitutes for—traditional intergovernmental cooperation. Conventional bodies—chief among them, the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions—may persist, but states increasingly participate in a bewildering array of flexible, ad hoc frameworks whose membership varies based on situational interests, shared values, or relevant capabilities. These institutions are often “minilateral” rather than universal; voluntary rather than legally binding; disaggregated rather than comprehensive; trans-governmental rather than just intergovernmental; regional rather than global; multi-level and multi-stakeholder rather than state-centric; and “bottom-up” rather than “top-down.” We see this across issue areas, from the Group of Seven (G7) and Group of Twenty (G20) in the realm of economic cooperation, to the growing importance of regional organizations like the African Union and ASEAN, to the emergence of alternative international financial institutions, like the BRICS New Development Bank. Read more »

2016: Seven Summits to Watch

by Stewart M. Patrick
U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and other leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations sit together at the forum's 2015 summit in Germany. U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and other leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations sit together at the forum's 2015 summit in Germany (Michael Kappeler/Reuters).

From the breakthrough at the Paris climate change conference to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals at the UN General Assembly, summits in 2015 heralded major progress in international cooperation. As we ring in the New Year, it’s time to look at what lies ahead for global summitry. Read more »

The Other Election to Watch in 2016: Selecting the Next UN Secretary-General

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the sixty-fifth session of the UNHCR's Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 1, 2014. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the sixty-fifth session of the UNHCR's Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 1, 2014 (Pierre Albouy/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by Megan Roberts, associate director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the scrum of U.S. presidential candidates clamors for attention, another important election kicked off on Tuesday: the selection of the next secretary-general (SG) of the United Nations. As Ban Ki-Moon prepares to step down at the end of 2016, after two five-year terms UN watchers have been speculating for months about his successor—and the process by which he (or she) will be elected. After eight male secretaries-general, pressure is mounting for a woman to take the helm in Turtle Bay. Many expect Ban’s replacement to hail from Eastern Europe, the only region that has not filled the post. Whoever succeeds Ban will confront a daunting global humanitarian crisis, resurgent great power politics, and unprecedented strains on UN peacekeeping. She or he will need to sustain global momentum behind the Paris climate agreement and the recently agreed Sustainable Development Goals, while deftly responding to fast moving crises throughout the world. Read more »

Fiddling in Yemen: A Messy War’s Lessons for Global Conflict Management

by Stewart M. Patrick and Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
Protesters demonstrate against the Saudi-led air strikes outside the United Nations offices in Sana'a, Yemen, on November 2, 2015. Protesters demonstrate against the Saudi-led air strikes outside the United Nations offices in Sana'a, Yemen, on November 2, 2015 (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters).

Coauthored with Callie Plapinger, intern in the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the world watches Syria burn, a tiny glimmer of hope shines in Yemen. Today, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee disclosed that it will use new oversight powers to more closely monitor U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, which for nine months has been carrying out a brutal campaign against Houthi rebels that’s left thousands of civilians dead. The news comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this week by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, that he would begin a renewed push for peace talks in Geneva next week. To be sure, near-term prospects for peace are low, given the conflicting interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran and the growing presence of both al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Even so, the United States should welcome the UN’s latest initiative. More broadly, it should consider what Yemen teaches about the limits of backing proxy interventions—and the need to build up the UN’s multilateral conflict management capabilities. Read more »

Paris is Just One Piece of the Climate Change Puzzle

by Stewart M. Patrick
The Eiffel Tower is seen at sunset in Paris, France, on November 22, 2015. The Eiffel Tower is seen at sunset in Paris, France, on November 22, 2015 (Charles Platiau/Reuters).

Coauthored with Naomi Egel, research associate in the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Next week’s Paris meeting on climate change—officially, the twenty-first Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—is shaping up to be a watershed moment in the fight against global warming. Unlike the disappointing 2009 conference in Copenhagen, the Paris summit is expected to produce a strong global agreement that charts the next steps in combatting climate change. Read more »

From MDGs to SDGs: Lessons Learned and Future Directions for Implementing UHC

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
A six-year-old migrant from the Congo receives a medical check-up from a doctor at a refugee camp in Munich, Germany, on October 6, 2015. A six-year-old migrant from the Congo receives a medical check-up from a doctor at a refugee camp in Munich, Germany, on October 6, 2015 (Michaela Rehle/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by my colleague Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

This year, the United Nations released a new set of development goals called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the previous set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). One of the goals includes a target that aims to provide universal health coverage across the globe—a much more ambitious and far-reaching goal than the more targeted health-related MDGs. Read more »

UN Peace Operations: Capitalizing on the Momentum of 2015

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
French peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stand at attention during the visit of French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to their base in Deir Kifa village in southern Lebanon on April 20, 2015. French peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stand at attention during the visit of French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to their base in Deir Kifa village in southern Lebanon on April 20, 2015 (Ali Hashisho/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by Megan Roberts, associate director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

United Nations peacekeeping confronts a make-or-break moment. That was the main takeaway from last week’s meeting of senior UN officials and peacekeeping experts in Washington. The gathering came on the heels of two pivotal events: the release of a troubling independent report on the parlous state of UN peace operations, and the peacekeeping summit President Obama himself hosted on the sidelines of the September opening of the UN General Assembly. After years of inaction, UN member states may finally be willing to close the yawning gap between the expanding mandates of peace ops and the resources and capabilities devoted to them. Read more »

Raising the Profile of Climate-Smart Agriculture

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
A woman picks vegetables from her garden as her daughter looks on in a village east of Maseru, Lesotho, on February 27, 2015. A woman picks vegetables from her garden as her daughter looks on in a village east of Maseru, Lesotho, on February 27, 2015 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by Caroline Andridge, research associate for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Controversial President Robert Mugabe isn’t the only unpredictable force citizens of Zimbabwe face. Over 1.5 million additional people in Zimbabwe (above the 4.8 million undernourished citizens in 2013) will go hungry this year because extreme weather and poor farming methods halved maize production. This is just one sad example of climate change’s growing impact on human health. Read more »

Seventy Is the New Fifty: The United Nations Confronts Its Midlife Crisis

by Stewart M. Patrick
French UN peacekeepers cover their ears during a live training exercise between the Lebanese army and UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon in December 2008. French UN peacekeepers cover their ears during a live training exercise between the Lebanese army and UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon in December 2008 (Haidar Hawila/Reuters).

Pity the United Nations (UN), which turns seventy this month. Rather than enjoying a carefree retirement, the UN faces unrelenting demands on its time and resources, being expected to address threats both old (e.g., violent conflict, nuclear proliferation, and infectious disease) and new (e.g., climate change, terrorism, and cyberwar). Like many Baby Boomers, the UN has held up pretty well, at least superficially. Thanks to its binding charter and universal membership, it remains the world’s most important multilateral forum. However, dig a little deeper and the UN’s real problems are not frailties of geriatric life but the psychological complaints of middle age. The world body faces a four-fold midlife crisis—of identity, of relevance, of authority, and of performance. Read more »