June 24, 2009 by cgsstlouischapter

     by Joe Schwartzberg, national CGS Board Member from Minneapolis

      (reprinted from the May 2009 newsletter of CGS of Minnesota)


   I’m struck by the many changes for the better–some subtle, others obvious– that the past year has brought. The biggest, of course, is the sense of hope generated by the election of President Barack Obama, in regard to international affairs in general and our relationship with the United Nations in particular. It looks as if the United States will, at last, ratify the UN Comprehensive Law of the Sea Treaty (UNCLOS), likely pay up its arrears in UN dues, and try to address the economic chasm separating the global North from the global South.

   Change is also evident in non-governmental circles. Last month I took part in an excellent conference on United Nations reform at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC organized by the UN Nations Association, with the co-sponsorship of a number of other prestigious NGOs. Previously, the UNA steered clear of serious discussions of UN reform because (in my view) it had all it could do muster support for the UN in its present highly imperfect form.

   Equally encouraging was Thomas Weiss’ 2009 Presidential address this February before the International Studies Association titled “What Happened to the Idea of World Government?”  Until recently, speaking approvingly of the prospect of world government in the political science and international relations communities of academia was a sure way of getting oneself labeled as “hopelessly naïve;” but Weiss bravely cited much of the literature on the subject that animated the World Federalist movement prior to its being undermined by the likes off Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. Weiss reminded his audience that the worldwide movement until then was led by the United States. He noted that in 1949 111 members of Congress, including future presidents John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford and a host of other eminent political leaders, put forward a “sense of Congress” resolution that stated that “a fundamental objective of the foreign policy of the United States [is] to support and strengthen the United Nations and to seek its development into a world federation.” Additionally, resolutions were passed in 30 of 48 state legislatures supporting the “pooling of American sovereignty with that of other countries.”

   We have a long way to go before we recapture the exciting spirit of the early World Federalist movement; but we are, at last, moving in the right direction.


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