The United Nations

  • Peter Marshall


A recurrent theme of these lectures is the mismatch between the inescapable realities of interdependence on the one hand and fierce enduring loyalty to national identity and sovereignty, and to the nation-state system which expresses them, on the other. For the reasons explained in Lecture 1, the mismatch has been growing since the Industrial Revolution in Europe 200 years ago.1 As long as there is such a mismatch, a wide variety of organisations and arrangements will be required to help manage interdependence. There are indeed thousands of such organisations already in existence, all reflecting in their different ways the need for sovereign nations to act together rather than on their own. At one end of the spectrum these organisations may be concerned solely with regulatory functions in some limited specialist sphere. At the other end of the spectrum stand grand alliances with vital responsibilities for the safeguarding of peace. The organisations may be bilateral, plurilateral or indeed omnilateral; local, sectoral, regional, intersectoral, ‘macro’ or ‘micro’. They all represent a certain national readiness, albeit reluctant, to accord to international bodies a measure of control over national affairs involving some sacrifice of sovereignty.


Security Council International Peace Collective Security Member Government National Affair 
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  1. 6.
    Sir Charles Webster, quoted by Lord Gladwyn in The United Kingdom — The United Nations, ed. E. Jensen and T. Fisher, Macmillan, 1990, p. 36.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    The latest version of ‘Human Rights: A Compilation of International Instruments’ was produced by the UN in 1994 (ST/HR/1 Rev 5, 2 vols). The Universal Declaration was adopted as General Assembly Resolution 217A(III) on 10 December 1948. The Covenants were adopted as Resolution 2200A(XXI) on 16 December 1966. The literature on the subject is extensive. Particular mention may be made of P. Alston (ed.), The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal, Oxford University Press, 1992.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sir Peter Marshall 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Marshall
    • 1
  1. 1.LondonUK

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