You, The People: The United Nations, Transitional Administration, and State-Building


Transitional administrations represent the most complex operations attempted by the United Nations. The missions in Kosovo (1999-) and East Timor (1999-2002) are commonly seen as unique in the history of the United Nations. But they may also be seen as the latest in a series of operations that have involved the United Nations in ‘state-building’ activities, in which it has attempted to develop the institutions of government by assuming some or all of those sovereign powers on a temporary basis. Viewed in the light of earlier UN operations, such as those in Namibia (1989-1990), Cambodia (1992-1993), and Eastern Slavonia (1996-1998), the idea that these exceptional circumstances may not recur is somewhat disingenuous. The need for policy research in this area was brought into sharp focus by the weighty but vague responsibilities assigned to the United Nations in Afghanistan (2002-) and its contested role in Iraq (2003-)

This book seeks to fill that gap. Aimed at policy-makers, diplomats, and a wide academic audience (including international relations, political science, international law, war studies and development studies), the book provides a concise history of transitional administration and a treatment of the five key issues confronting such operations: peace and security, the role of the United Nations as government, establishing the rule of law, economic reconstruction, and exit strategies. Research for the book has been conducted through extensive field research and interviews with key UN staff and local representatives in almost all of the territories under consideration. The unifying theme is that, while the ends of transitional administration may be idealistic, the means cannot be.

‘Chesterman’s work is a unique contribution to the literature on nation-building and rebuilding of war-torn countries.’

José Ramos-Horta, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Timor-Leste

‘From decolonization to reconstruction of failed states, “nation-building” has become a growth industry employing many masons, a few engineers, but almost no architects. In this book, Chesterman excels at all three, to present an incisive and balanced account of the challenges, problems, and plausible solutions.’

Thomas M. Franck, New York University School of Law

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