Global Environmental Politics

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Praise for Ken Conca’s new book, An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance

Cover Art for An Unfinished Foundation

Professor Ken Conca’s new book will be released by Oxford University Press on August 10th, 2015

Update: We’ve gotten word from Professor Conca that An Unfinished Foundation was released on July 13th, 2015, ahead of the planned release. 

On August 10th, 2015 Global Environmental Politics Professor Ken Conca’s new book, An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance, will be released on Oxford University Press in paperback and hardcover (Links to order: paperback and hardcover. The E-book version may already be available; check with your preferred E-book store).

A summary of the book’s arguments can be found in an except that Conca shared as a blog post for McGill University’s International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy.

Furthermore, read below for the official summary of An Unfinished Foundation, as well as praise for the book.

Official Summary of An Unfinished Foundation:

This book examines the origins, effectiveness, and limitations of the United Nations system’s approach to global environmental governance. The UN Charter mandates the global organization to seek four noble aspirations: international peace and security, rule of law among nations, human rights for all people, and social progress through development. On environmental issues, however, the UN has understood its charge much more narrowly. It works for “better law between nations” and “better development within them” while treating peace, security, and human rights as unrelated to the world’s environmental problems. A performance assessment of this selective approach shows that, despite some important gains, it is failing for some of world’s most pressing and contentious environmental challenges, and has lost most of the political momentum it once enjoyed. By not treating the environment as a human rights issue, the UN fails to mobilize powerful tools for accountability in the face of pollution and resource degradation. Similarly, ignoring the conflict potential around natural resources and environmental protection efforts causes the UN to miss opportunities to transform the destructive cycle of violence and vulnerability around resource extraction. The book traces the history of the UN’s approach, maps its increasingly apparent limits, and suggests needed reforms to use conflict sensitivity, peacebuilding, accountability mechanisms, and rights-based approaches as tools in the UN’s environmental work. The UN’s environmental efforts require not just a managerial reorganization but a conceptual revolution—one that brings to bear the full force of the organization’s mandate.

Praise for An Unfinished Foundation: 

“Ken Conca argues carefully and persuasively that the United Nations must do much more to incorporate principles of human rights and conflict resolution into its environmental policies. His diagnosis is on target, and his concrete proposals would make international environmental protection more transparent, more responsive, and more effective.” John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment

“Ken Conca’s well-deserved reputation as an active, engaged, and insightful analyst is burnished further with his persuasive probing of the United Nations as an essential institution hobbled by a feeble and wrong approach to environmental challenges. This book is a wake-up call for those who dismiss international organizations as insignificant. An Unfinished Foundation makes a compelling case that a narrow focus on development and international law deprives the world organization of the leverage that would result from reframing the issue to include the peace- and rights-related dimensions of global environmental governance.” Thomas G. Weiss, author of What’s Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It

“Without discounting or distorting the important work of the United Nations, Conca conducts a critical analysis of the international body’s record on environmental issues and sets out a bold but pragmatic agenda for reform and renewal. This book should inspire a vital debate about how the UN can live up to the full promise of its mandate, in order to tackle the most serious challenges facing humanity.” Athena Ballesteros, Director, Sustainable Finance Center, World Resources Institute

Author: sisgep

The Global Environmental Politics program in the School of International Service at American University offers a unique, specialized, and world-leading graduate environmental studies education. We have two degree tracks: Global Environmental Policy (GEP), and our dual-degree Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (NRSD) option with the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. Join us!

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