Thomas G. Weiss (born 1946) is a distinguished scholar of international relations and global governance with special expertise in the politics of the United Nations. Since 1998 he has been Presidential Professor at The Graduate Center, CUNY (The City University of New York), and is Director Emeritus of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.
He is “one of the leading experts on the theory and practice of humanitarian intervention,” and is recognized as an authority on international organizations and the United Nations system. Weiss adheres to the constructivist school, and advocates a position for intergovernmental organizations that goes beyond the anarchy of inter-state relations. He initiated the UN Intellectual History Project in 1999 to trace the origins and the evolution of key ideas about international economic and social development nurtured under UN auspices. As a norm entrepreneur, Weiss introduced the idea of the “Third United Nations,” and directed the research team that popularized the concept of Responsibility to Protect. A firm believer in R2P, Weiss has shown in numerous works that a well-grounded interpretation of sovereignty does not preclude intervention in the face of mass atrocities. His oral history transcript is available on the UN Intellectual History Project website.
Thomas G. Weiss, Humanitarian Business, 3rd edition (Polity, 2013).
With some 50 billion people living under duress and threatened by wars and disasters in 2012, the demand for relief worldwide has reached unprecedented levels. Humanitarianism is now a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and aid agencies are obliged to respond to a range of economic forces in order to ‘stay in business’.
In his customarily hard-hitting analysis, Thomas G. Weiss offers penetrating insights into the complexities and challenges of the contemporary humanitarian marketplace. In addition to changing political and military conditions that generate demand for aid, private suppliers have changed too. Today’s political economy places aid agencies side-by-side with for-profit businesses, including private military and security companies, in a marketplace that also is linked to global trade networks in illicit arms, natural resources, and drugs. This witch’s brew is simmering in the cauldron of wars that are often protracted and always costly to civilians who are the very targets of violence. While belligerents put a price-tag on access to victims, aid agencies pursue branding in a competition for ‘scarce’ resources relative to the staggering needs. As marketization encroaches on traditional humanitarianism, it seems everything may have a priceÑfrom access and principles, to moral authority and lives.
Dan Plesch and Thomas G. Weiss, editors, “Wartime Origins and the Future United Nations” (Routledge, 2015).
The creation of the UN system during World War II is a largely unknown or forgotten story among contemporary decision makers, international relations specialists, and policy analysts.
This book aims to recover the wartime history of the United Nations and explore how the forgotten past can shed light on a possible and more desirable future. To achieve this, each chapter takes three snapshots:
“Then,” the imaginative and transnational thinking about solutions to post-war problems demonstrated a realization that victory in WW II required an intergovernmental “system” with enough power and competence to work—that is, the UN was not established as a liberal plaything and public relations ploy but rather as a vital necessity for post-war order and prosperity.
“Now,” which often seems a pale imitation of wartime thinking that nonetheless reflects a growing and widespread recognition of the fundamental disconnect between the nature of trans-boundary problems and current solutions seen as feasible by 193 UN member states.
“Next steps,” or the collective wisdom about the range of new thinking and new institutions that, in fact, may well have antecedents in wartime thinking and experimentation and could be labelled blue-prints for a “third generation” of intergovernmental organizations.
This work will be essential reading for all students and scholars of the United Nations, International Organizations and Global Governance.
Thomas G. Weiss, Governing the World? Addressing “Problems without Passports” (Paradigm, 2014).
Problems posed by Syria’s chemical weapons attacks, Egypt’s ouster of an elected government, and myriad other global dilemmas beg the question of whether and how the world can be governed. The challenge is addressing what former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called “Problems without Passports”—environmental, economic, humanitarian, and political crises that threaten stability, prosperity, and even human survival.
Everything is globalized—everything except politics, which remain imprisoned behind national borders. The world has changed, but our basic way of managing it has not. We pursue fitful, tactical, short-term, and local responses for actual or looming threats that require sustained, strategic, longer-run, and global actions.
With clarity and passion, Thomas G. Weiss argues for a diversity of organizational arrangements—some centralized, some decentralized—and a plurality of problem-solving strategies—some worldwide, some local. He proposes a three-pronged strategy: the expansion of the formidable amount of practical global governance that already exists, the harnessing of political and economic possibilities opened by the communications revolution, and the recommitment by states to a fundamental revamping of the United Nations.
Stephen Browne and Thomas G. Weiss, editors, Post-2015 UN Development: Making Change Happen? (Routledge, 2014).
In 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, world leaders agreed to the Millennium Declaration. The Declaration included development targets to be reached by 2015, which were to become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Progress has been made towards the achievement of the MDGs, but poverty remains widespread.
With the terminal year approaching, the international community has begun the process of determining the goals which might follow the MDGs. While the UN is driving the process, there has been very little introspection on its own organizational capacity to help countries to meet the goals and is being increasingly sidelined by other more effective development organizations and initiatives.
Based on extensive original research that has critically examined the role and functions of the organizations of the UN development system, this book seeks to capture in a single volume a comprehensive review of the UN’s performance and prospects for development. The contributors each offer extensive experience and familiarity—as practitioners and researchers—with the UN and development; and the book will contribute to the urgently needed debate on the reform of the UN development system at a critical juncture.
The main rationale for this book, and its timing, is the unusual opportunity provided by the 2015 threshold to re-think the UN development system and to empower it to support a new development agenda and will be of interest to students, scholars of International Organizations and development studies.
Monica Serrano and Thomas G. Weiss, editors, The International Politics of Human Rights: Rallying to the R2P Cause? (Routledge, 2014).
The responsibility to protect (R2P) is at a crossroads, the latest in a journey that is only ten years old. This book present debates on the prevention of mass atrocities to R2P’s normative prospects.
The book addresses key questions as a way to inform and drive on-going conversations about R2P. Moving beyond well-rehearsed debates about the tensions and meanings around sovereignty in R2P practice, the book focuses on advancing the credibility of the preventive dimensions of R2P, whilst simultaneously examining the extent of R2P’s current value-added in state decision making—especially for the 2011 actions in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.
Questions addressed include:
- Did the R2P framework of the 2005 World Summit Declaration intend to mould sovereignty, and if so how?
- Can R2P break or revert cycles of violence?
- How can one determine the appropriate duration and timing of the preventive and protective phases of R2P?
- Who/what should be the targets of preventive action, and how does this have an impact on R2P diplomacy?
- Under which conditions are particular policy tools likely to be effective?
- Which state and regional actors are best suited to using these tools?
- What are the barriers to successful preventive action—how can they be overcome?
- What capacities need to be built (at the national, regional, and international levels) in order to operationalize R2P’s preventive agenda?
Examining a wide range of countries, this work will be essential reading for students and scholars of international human rights, international organizations, peacekeeping and conflict resolution.
Thomas G. Weiss, Global Governance: What? Why? Whither? (Polity, 2013).
Friends and foes of international cooperation puzzle about how to explain order, stability, and predictability in a world without a central authority. How is the world governed in the absence of a world government?
This probing yet accessible book examines “global governance” or the sum of the informal and formal values, norms, procedures, and institutions that help states, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, and transnational corporations identify, understand, and address trans-boundary problems. The chasm between the magnitude of a growing number of global threats – climate change, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, financial instabilities, pandemics, to name a few – and the feeble contemporary political structures for international problem-solving provide compelling reasons to read this book. Fitful, tactical, and short-term local responses exist for a growing number of threats and challenges that require sustained, strategic, and longer-run global perspectives and action. Can the framework of global governance help us to better understand the reasons behind this fundamental disconnect as well as possible ways to attenuate its worst aspects? Thomas G. Weiss replies with a guardedly sanguine “yes”.
Thomas G. Weiss, International Organization and Global Governance (Routledge, 2013).
International Organization and Global Governance is the most comprehensive textbook yet available for courses on international organization and global governance. The book brings together 50 chapters written by some of the discipline’s leading experts, and edited by two of the most prolific scholars, working in the field today. Organized around a concern with how the world is governed, the book offers in-depth and accessible coverage of the history and theories of international organization and global governance, a full range of state, intergovernmental, and nonstate actors, and crucial substantive issues. The book begins with an overview by the editors that introduces readers to the field, which is supplemented with additional introductions at the outset of each substantive section, all seven of which are designed to aid understanding. The book is a complete and self-contained resource for students and faculty alike interested in better understanding the role of myriad actors in the governance of global life and the assemblage of the many pieces of the contemporary global governance puzzle.
Thomas G. Weiss, David P. Forsythe, Roger A. Coate and Kelly-Kate Pease eds., The United Nations and Changing World Politics, 7th ed. (Westview, 2013).
Providing a comprehensive and contemporary examination of the United Nations, the authors use a thematic approach in exploring its role in three core issues in international relations: international peace and security; human rights and humanitarian affairs; and building peace through sustainable development. Historically informed and analytically rich, The United Nations and Changing World Politics: Fifth Edition introduces the reader to the opportunities and limits of the central international organization. The authors bring to bear both extensive practical experience and scholarly depth in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the UN’s performance, as well as providing practical suggestions for improvements. This new edition is revised substantially to take into account recent events, including the aftermath of September 11th, the War in Iraq, and the beginnings of the international criminal court. It is an important resource for students of international relations, peace and war, third world development, and human rights.
Thomas G. Weiss, What’s Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It, 2nd Edition (Cambridge: Polity, 2012).
Six decades after its establishment, the United Nations and its system of related agencies and programs are perpetually in crisis. While the twentieth-century’s world wars gave rise to ground-breaking efforts at international organization in 1919 and 1945, today’s UN is ill-equipped to deal with contemporary challenges to world order. Neither the end of the Cold War nor the aftermath of 9/11 has led to the “next generation” of multilateral institutions.
But what exactly is wrong with the UN, and how can we fix it? Is it possible to retrofit the world body? In his succinct and hard-hitting analysis, Thomas G. Weiss takes a diagnose-and-cure approach to the world organization’s inherent difficulties. In the first half of the book, he considers: the problems of international leadership and decision making in a world of self-interested states; the diplomatic difficulties caused by the artificial divisions between the industrialized North and the global South; the structural problems of managing the UN’s many overlapping jurisdictions, agencies, and bodies; and the challenges of bureaucracy and leadership. The second half shows how to mitigate these maladies and points the way to a world in which the UN’s institutional ills might be “cured.” His remedies are not based on pious hopes of a miracle cure for the UN, but rather on specific and encouraging examples that could be replicated. With considered optimism and in contrast to received wisdom, Weiss contends that substantial change in intergovernmental institutions is plausible and possible.
The new and expanded second edition of this well-regarded and indispensable book will continue to spark debate amongst students, scholars, and policymakers concerned with international politics, as well as anyone genuinely interested in the future of the United Nations and multilateral cooperation.
Thomas G. Weiss, Thinking about Global Governance: Why People and Ideas Matter (Routledge, 2011).
One of the more prolific and influential analysts of multilateral approaches to global problem-solving over the last three decades is Thomas G. Weiss. Thinking about Global Governance, Why People and Ideas Matter, assembles key scholarly and policy writing.
This collection organizes his most recent work addressing the core issues of the United Nations, global governance, and humanitarian action. The essays are placed in historical and intellectual context in a substantial new introduction, which contains a healthy dose of the idealism and ethical orientation that invariably characterize his best work.
This volume gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of these key topics for a globalizing world and is an invaluable resource for students and scholars alike.
Michael Barnett and Thomas G. Weiss, Humanitarianism Contested: Where Angels Fear to Tread (Routledge, 2011).
This book provides a succinct but sophisticated understanding of humanitarianism and insight into the on-going dilemmas and tensions that have accompanied it since its origins in the early nineteenth century. Combining theoretical and historical exposition with a broad range of contemporary case studies, the book:
- provides a brief survey of the history of humanitarianism, beginning with the anti-slavery movement in the early nineteenth century and continuing to today’s challenge of post-conflict reconstruction and saving failed states
- explains the evolution of humanitarianism. Not only has it evolved over the decades, but since the end of the Cold War, humanitarianism has exploded in scope, scale, and significance
- presents an overview of the contemporary humanitarian sector, including briefly who the key actors are, how they are funded and what they do with their money
- analyses the ethical dilemmas confronted by humanitarian organization, not only in the abstract but also, and most importantly, in real situations and when lives are at stake
- examines how humanitarianism poses fundamental ethical questions regarding the kind of world we want to live in, what kind of world is possible, and how we might get there.
An accessible and engaging work by two of the leading scholars in the field, Humanitarianism Contested is essential reading for all those concerned with the future of human rights and international relations.
Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws, editors, “Oxford Handbook on the United Nations,” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations is an authoritative, one-volume treatment of sixty years of history of the United Nations written by distinguished scholars, analysts, and practitioners. Citations and suggested readings contain a wealth of primary and secondary references to the history, politics, and law of the world organization. This Handbook includes a clear and penetrating examination of the UN’s development since 1945 and the challenges that it faces in the twenty-first century. This key reference work also contains appendices of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Stature of the International Court of Justice.
This volume is intended to shape the discipline of UN studies, and to establish itself as the essential point of reference for all those working on, in, or around the world organization. It is substantial in scope, containing contributions from over 40 leading scholars and practitioners–writing sometimes controversially, but always authoritatively–on the key topics and debates that define the institution.
Thomas G. Weiss and David A. Korn, Internal Displacement: Conceptualization and Its Consequences (London: Routledge, 2006)
The crisis of internally displaced persons (IDPs) was first confronted in the 1980s, and the problems of those suffering from this type of forced migration has grown continually since then. This volume traces the normative, legal, institutional, and political responses to the challenges of assisting and protecting IDPs. Drawing on official and confidential documents as well as interviews with leading personalities,Internal Displacement provides an unparalleled analysis of this important issue and includes: An exploration of the phenomenon of internal displacement and of policy research about it A review of efforts to increase awareness about the plight of IDPs and the development of a legal framework to protect them A ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at the creation and evolution of the mandate of the Representative of the Secretary-General on IDPs A variety of case studies illustrating the difficulties in overcoming the operational shortcomings within the UN system A foreword by former UN high commissioner for refugees, Sadako Ogata. Internal Displacement is written by two outstanding scholars and will appeal to students, scholars, and practitioners with interests in war and peace, forced migration, human rights and global governance.
Peter J. Hoffman and Thomas G. Weiss, Sword & Salve: Confronting New Wars and Humanitarian Crises (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006)
Arguing forcefully that changing times are a clarion call for new thinking, this book convincingly shows that if humanitarian organizations continue to operate as they have in the past, they will fail to help the very victims whom they try to save. Focusing especially on the emergence of “new wars,” Hoffman and Weiss insist that humanitarian organizations must recognize that they live in a political world and that their actions and goals are invariably affected by military action. The brand of warfare that erupted in the 1990s-marked by civil or transnational armed conflicts featuring potent non-state actors, altered political economies, a high proportion of civilian casualties, and a globalized media-produced horrors that shocked consciences and led humanitarian agencies to question their unyielding stance of neutrality and impartiality. Indeed, in a departure from earlier norms and practices, some have reinvented their policies and tools and created “new humanitarianisms.”
This authoritative book traces the evolution of the international humanitarian system from its inception in the 1860s, parses the dynamics of war and emergency response from the 1980s through the current disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq, and provides a strategic roadmap for practitioners. By bringing historical perspective to bear, this volume provides an invaluable analytical framework for grasping the nature of humanitarian crises and how agencies can respond strategically rather than reactively to change. Students will find its blend of clearly presented theory and case studies a powerful tool for understanding the roles of state and non-state actors in international relations. By charting the tides of continuity and change, this book will prepare agencies to dodge both figurative and actual bullets that threaten humanitarian action at the outset of the millennium.
Thomas Weiss, Tatiana Carayannis, Louis Emmerij, Richard JollyUN Voices: The Struggle for Development and Social Justice (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005).
UN Voices presents the human and moving life stories of an extraordinary group of individuals who contributed to the economic and social record of the UN’s life and activities. Drawing from extensive oral histories, the book presents in their own words the experiences of seventy-three individuals from around the globe who have spent much of their professional lives engaged in United Nations affairs. Among those interviewed are such noted figures as Kofi Annan, Margaret Anstee, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Noeleen Heyzer, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Javier Perez de Cuellar, Amartya Sen, and Kurt Waldheim, as well as many less well-known UN professional men and women who have made significant contributions to the international struggle for a better world. Their personal accounts bring to life the UN’s contributions in dealing with such events as decolonization, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, and September 11, 2001, and such issues as human rights, the environment, poverty, and gender.
Thomas Weiss and Jane Boulden eds., Terrorism and the UN: Before and After September 11th (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004).
Understanding the UN in light of the new global realities created by terrorism is key to discovering solutions for the world’s security problems, especially now that the UN has itself become a target of terror. Terrorism and the UN considers how the organization’s role in dealing with terrorism has been shaped by the international system, and how events such as September 11 and the American intervention in Iraq have reoriented its approach. Including assessments of both the international context and the internal workings of the UN, the volume addresses the impact of September 11 on the UN’s concern for the rights and security of states relative to those of individuals, the changing attitudes of various Western powers toward multilateral vs. unilateral approaches to international problems, and the implications of these developments for international law. The volume also focuses closely on the UN’s ability to prevent and react to terrorism by examining possible roles the UN can play in suppressing the political economy of terrorism as well as more proactive strategies for addressing the root causes of terrorism.
Thomas Weiss and Cindy Collins, Humanitarian Challenges and Intervention, Vol. 2 (Boulder: Westview Press, 2000).
In this book, Thomas G. Weiss and Cindy Collins show how institutional humanitarian challenges and intervention concerns within the international humanitarian system–combined with the domestic context of armed conflicts–often yield policies that do not serve the immediate requirements of victims for relief, protection of rights, stabilization, and reconstruction. Based on compelling, up-to-date case studies of the post-Cold War experience in Central America, northern Iraq, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and the African Great Lakes, the authors make recommendations for a more effective international humanitarian system.
There are two distinct contemporary challenges to the relief of war-induced human suffering–one within the institutions that make up the international humanitarian system, the other on the ground in war zones. Varied interests, resources, and organizational structures within institutions hamper the effectiveness of efforts on behalf of war victims. And at the same time, on the ground, there are ethical, legal, and operational challenges and dilemmas that require actors continually to choose a course of action with associated necessary evils.
Humanitarian challenges and intervention concerns within the international humanitarian system–combined with the domestic context of armed conflicts–often yield policies that do not serve the immediate requirements of victims for relief, protection of rights, stabilization, and reconstruction. Based on compelling, up-to-date case studies of the post-Cold War experience in Central America, northern Iraq, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and the African Great Lakes, the authors Thomas G. Weiss and Cindy Collins make recommendations for a more effective international humanitarian system.
Thomas Weiss, Larry Minear and George Lopez eds., Political Gain and Civilian Pain (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997).
The use of sanctions is increasing in the post-Cold War world. Along with this increase, the international community must ask itself whether sanctions “work,” in the sense that they incite citizens to change or overthrow an offending government, and whether sanctions are really less damaging than the alternative of war. Here for the first time, sanctions and humanitarian aid experts converge on these questions and consider the humanitarian impacts of sanctions along with their potential political benefits. The results show that often the most vulnerable members of targeted societies pay the price of sanctions and that, in addition, the international system is called upon to compensate the victims for the undeniable pain they have suffered.
Thomas Weiss ed., Collective Security in a Changing World (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996).
A study commissioned by the World Peace Foundation and the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies, Brown University. Updates a similar work published in 1991, to account for the increased strength of the United Nations as apparent in the war against Iraq, and the official demise of the Soviet Union.
Robert Rothberg and Thomas Weiss ed., From Massacres to Genocide: The Media, Humanitarian Crises, and Policy-Making (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1996).
Human suffering on a large scale is a continuing threat to world peace. Several dozen gruesome civil wars disturb global order and jar our collective conscience each year. The 50 million people displaced by current complex humanitarian emergencies overwhelm the ability of the post-Cold War world to understand and cope with genocide, ethnic cleansing, massacres, and other inhumane acts. Greater public awareness of how much is at stake and how much more costly it is to act later rather than sooner can be a critical element in stemming the proliferation of these tragedies. The media play an increasingly crucial role in publicizing humanitarian crises, and advances in technology have intensified the immediacy of their reports. Because the world is watching as events unfold, policymakers are under great pressure to respond rapidly. Close cooperation between international relief agencies and the media is thus essential to help prevent or contain the humanitarian emergencies that threaten to overwhelm the world’s capacity to care and assist. The authors of this book – all prominent in the fields of disaster relief, journalism, government policymaking, and academia – show how influential well-informed and well-developed media attention has become in forming policies to resolve ethnic and religious conflict and humanitarian crises. The authors argue that the media and humanitarians can collaborate effectively to alter both the attitudes of the public and the actions of policymakers regarding ethnic conflict and humanitarian crises.
Thomas Weiss ed., Humanitarian Emergencies and Military Help in Africa (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990).
Evaluates the potential of utilizing the art of peacekeeping in the support of often-beleaguered and frustrated humanitarian relief efforts during armed conflicts, with case studies of peacekeeping operations in the Congo, Chad, and Zimbabwe and of humanitarian efforts in the Sudan, Ethiopia, and Mozambique.
Thomas Weiss, Multilateral Development, Diplomacy in UNCTAD: The Lessons of Group Negotiations, 1964-1984 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986).
There has been very little critical analysis of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of international economic negotiations. This book therefore fills a yawning gap in the literature. Written by a long-term observer of international organizations and a UN staff member for over ten years, it is nevertheless an unbiased study from personal viewpoint. Neither a history of nor an apology for UNCTAD, it analyzes what happens (and does not happen) during intergovernmental bargaining, giving selected examples. It further puts forward proposals that could change the direction of the secretariat’s work.