"We the Peoples": Reclaiming an Ethic of Solidarity




Elliott, Lorraine

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Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc


The John W. Holmes Memorial Lecture Series was inaugurated in 1989 in honor of one of the founding members of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS). John Holmes, diplomat and scholar, served on both the 1987–1988 provisional committee and the planning committee for ACUNS’ founding conference. As Kim Nossal points out, one of Holmes’ abiding concerns in his post–public service role teaching Canadian foreign policy at the University of Toronto was the management of global conflict and the role of the United Nations in this task.1 This is not surprising. Holmes was active as a diplomat in the post–World War II era and as an academic in the Cold War era (indeed he died in 1988 before the Wall came down). Holmes was clearly concerned with states. In contrast, my abiding concern is with peoples, but I consider this to be a challenge equal for our age as post-war conflicts were for Holmes and his age. Nossal also suggests that Holmes “was rarely explicitly theoretical” in his work, even though there is evidence that he probably leaned toward an English School perspective on international society. Yet we are often insufficiently theoretical, or at least insufficiently explicitly normative, in our search for solutions to global challenges of the kind that face a significant proportion of humanity. My purpose in this lecture in memory of John Holmes is to focus attention on the value of returning to theory in seeking to re-embed solidarity as a core principle of the UN system. This is not simply an exercise in “blue-skies” thinking. As Thomas G. Weiss puts it, “Without having a vision and then imagining how we can achieve it, we risk going nowhere and perhaps even moving backwards.”





Global Governance


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