Cover of Liberating the United Nations by Richard Falk and Hans von Sponeck
Liberating the United Nations
Realism with Hope
Richard Falk and Hans von Sponeck


July 2024
430 pages.
from $35.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503638211
Paperback ISBN: 9781503639133
Ebook ISBN: 9781503639140

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The United Nations (UN) has always loomed large in international conflicts, but today accepted wisdom declares that the organization has lost its way. Liberating The United Nations is a thorough review of its founding and history that tracks critical junctures that obscured or diverted the path to a powerful and just UN that abides by international law. Based on the extensive expertise of two former UN-insiders, Richard Falk and Hans von Sponeck, the book goes beyond critique and diagnosis, proposing ways to achieve a more effective and legitimate UN. The historical sweep of the book offers a uniquely broad perspective on how the UN has evolved from the time of its establishment, and how that evolution reflects, and was defined by, world politics. The book explores these themes through the specific cases of intervention in Palestine, Iraq, and Syria. Liberating The United Nations hopes to reinvigorate the original vision of the UN by asserting its place in a world of amplifying chauvinistic nationalism. Falk and von Sponeck argue for how important the UN has become, and could be, in aiding with the transnational and global challenges of the present and future, including pandemics, environmental crises, and mass migration.

About the authors

Richard A. Falk is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, Chair of Global Law at Queen Mary University London, and Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor's Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967 from 2008 to 2014. He is the author of several books including This Endangered Planet (2021) and Public Intellectual: The Life of a Citizen Pilgrim (2021).

Hans von Sponeck is a former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and served as UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq from 1998 to 2000. Training Consultant at the UN System Staff College in Torino (Italy) (2006 to 2015) and Senior Lecturer at the Conflict Research Centre of the University of Marburg (Germany) (2007 to 2019). He is the author of A Different Kind of War (2006).

"The uniting of grass roots citizen activism with enlightened political actors to impel broad based reform of global institutions grounded in the architecture of the United Nations is timely and imperative. It can happen, as demonstrated in past cooperative initiatives such as the land mine treaty and the International Criminal Court. This book sets out the argument for mounting such a global movement with passion, principle and pragmatism."

—Lloyd Axworthy, Former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

"There is no alternative but to retool the UN system and significantly increase its resources to also enable it to help extricate humanity from the simultaneously unfolding existential crises it faces. Falk and von Sponeck's vast experience and years of research will feed into the just starting, indispensable process of holding together and modernizing the current multilateral system. This book will prove very useful in the preparatory process for the September 2024 Summit on the Future of the United Nations, focusing 'on gaps in global governance'."

—Enrique ter Horst, Former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in El Salvador and Haiti

"This is a book that combines realism in international relationswith idealism. With incisive insights it analyses and dissects the major challenges facing the UN in the 21st century. It is a book that should be read by all those who are concerned about the future of humankind."

—Chandra Muzaffar, Universiti Sains Malaysia