1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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New Book: The United Nations and Civil Society: Legitimating Global Governance - Whose Voice?

9 Sep 2009



The UN is able to recognize key global challenges, but beset by difficulties in trying to resolve them. In this, it represents the current global political balance, but is also the only international institution that could move it forward.

Civil society can be a catalyst for this kind of change. In this book, Nora McKeon provides a comprehensive analysis of UN engagement with civil society. The book pays particular attention to food and agriculture, which now lie at the heart of global governance issues. McKeon shows that politically meaningful space for civil society can be introduced into UN policy dialogue. The United Nations and Civil Society also makes the case that it is only by engaging with organizations which legitimately speak for the 'poor' targeted by the Millennium Development Goals that the UN can promote equitable, sustainable development and build global democracy from the ground up. This book has strong ramifications for global governance, civil society and the contemporary debate over the future of food.

"Nora McKeon's book is a masterful investigation of how and why the UN system is (slowly) opening up to civil society - a key development in global governance. This is a major contribution and a rare bridge between academic scholarship and policy debate." - Mario Pianta, Professor of Economic Policy, University of Urbino, Italy

"This book is a tonic recipe for reinvigorating the UN by opening up its forums to the social actors most dramatically affected by globalization. This is required reading for all those concerned with global governance." - Henri Carsalade, Former Assistant Director-General, FAO

"Nora McKeon’s reflections will, we hope, contribute to making the UN the organization of 'we the peoples'." - Mamadou Cissokho, Honorary President, West African Network of Peasant and Agricultural Producers' Organizations (ROPPA)

Notes to editors
  • The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) was created in 1963 and is an autonomous UN agency engaging in multidisciplinary research on the social dimensions of contemporary problems affecting development. Through its research, UNRISD stimulates dialogue and contributes to policy debates on key issues of social development within and outside the UN system.
  • Nora McKeon studied history at Harvard University and Political Science. For many years she worked at FAO, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, dealing with participatory local development, capacity building for rural people’s organizations, and the overall responsibility for FAO’s relations with civil society. Now she left FAO and she is dividing her time between consulting, writing and lecturing.
  • Contents:
    1. Setting the Stage
    Scope and Methodology - A World Context in Flux: Challenges to Multilateralism and the Quest for Global Governance - Global Actors in Evolution: From International NGOs to Transnational Social Movements - Getting the Terms Straight
    2. The FAO, Civil Society and the Global Governance of Food and Agriculture
    - Background - Civil Society and the World Food Summit - From Commitments to Action: Civil Society and the FAO on the Trail of Elusive Political Will - The Global Food Crisis: A Political Opportunity for Civil Society?
    3. Comparative Look at UN-Civil Society Engagement
    - Civil Society Participation in Global Policy Forums - Civil Society and Summit Follow-up: Linking Global Commitments and Local Action - Governance of UN-Civil Society Relations: Interface Mechanisms and the Issues of Representativity, Legitimacy and Accountability - UN Reform Proposals, the Millennium Development Goals and Civil Society: Are We on the Right Track?
    4. Conclusions and Open Issues
    - Major Challenges for the United Nations in its Relations with Civil Society - Issues for Further Investigation

The United Nations and Civil Society: Legitimating Global Governance – Whose Voice? is copublished with Zed Books; hardback; ISBN: 9781848132740; 255pages; 2009; GBP 70.00. Order from Zed Books.