Symposium Overview

Since its founding in 1945, the growth and development of the United Nations has been decisively impacted by its relationship with the United States.  The association at times has been both dynamic and conflictive.  In the political geography of our time, the United States is the sole superpower, which places it in a paradoxical and pivotal position. If the United States acts there are consequences; if it does not act, likewise there are consequences. Consequently, how the United States defines its relationship to a globalizing world and to the United Nations, in particular, will be of immense significance.

Initiated at the time of the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, the series International Symposium on the United States and the United Nations offers a special opportunity to examine issues of fundamental import regarding the future of the United Nations, the role and responsibilities of the United States in the world organization, and the roles of the United States and the United Nations in addressing contemporary crises.  

The first in this series was held in 1995, on the theme of “The United Nations and the 104th Congress: Understanding the Issues.” Convened on October 17, 1995, one week prior to the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Charter of the United Nations, the participants explored some of the fundamental issues before this body as it embarked upon its second half-century. Particular attention was paid to the evolving relationship between the United States and the United Nations in light of the significant changes in the American political landscape following the 1994 elections.  The deliberations particularly focused on (1) assessing current congressional sentiment toward the U.N. peacekeeping operations; (2) developing more effective sanctions and oversight of U.N. operations; (3) discussing the true function of the United Nations; and (4) exploring the future of the world body.

In January 2002, critical issues of the U.S-U.N. relationship were re-examined in light of both the new administration in Washington, D.C. and the changing priorities necessitated by the events of September 11. This symposium, convened on the theme of “Exploring the Future of U.S.-U.N. Relations,” introduced diverse perspectives regarding the current relationship between the world’s preeminent intergovernmental body and its most powerful member.  Among the vital themes discussed were (1) assessing the role of the U.S and U.N. in international conflicts; (2) stresses and points of concurrence related to international agreements and initiatives; (3) the American political scene as it relates to the United Nations; and (4) United Nations renewal. 

This present symposium, to be held June 18-19, 2002 in Washington, D.C., will be convened on the theme of “Governance and the Challenge of Contemporary Crises.” This symposium will explore “How can the United States and the United Nations best cooperate in the service to humanity as envisioned in the Charter of the United Nations and consistent with the principles and values enshrined in the United States’ Constitution and Bill of Rights?” It will depart from previous programs in that it will focus less on understanding the intrinsic relationship between the United Nations and the United States and more on assessing the degree and potential for cooperation in tackling pressing global problems. Among the themes to be discussed are (1) international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; (2) achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals; (3) the HIV/AIDS crisis; (4) achieving peace in the Middle East; and  (5) sustainable development and the concept of the global commons.

This event will allow for rational discourse on these issues of fundamental import.  As typical with the symposium series, this will be a bipartisan program, with every effort made to include representatives of a broad spectrum of viewpoints and backgrounds.

Gathering for these symposiums are current and former officials of the United Nations Secretariat and representatives of the Permanent Missions to the United Nations; representatives of the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and U.S. Administration; diplomats from the foreign embassies; heads of University departments; scholars and administrators of leading think tanks, NGO leaders, and other prominent international and national leaders.