BOOKS

Mexico City, 1975: When the Year of the Woman Was Born

From 1975 to 1995, the United Nations sponsored four international conferences on women that produced wildly optimistic blueprints for concrete gains. Some people dismiss these forums and the programs for action that they generated as lacking strategies to carry them out. Others insist that the conferences raised awareness, shaped aspirations, fostered activism and, in countless … Read more

BOOKS

An Eloquent Homage to Syria’s Past, in Case It Has No Future

As one of the world’s oldest areas of human settlement, Syria has seen it all: glory and irrelevance, conflict and calm, dynamism and stagnation, tyranny and tolerance. While it has gone through long periods of international obscurity — pretty much ignored by the Roman and Ottoman Empires, for example — it has at times also … Read more

BOOKS

The UN Is Complicated, So Here is a Dictionary to Help Figure It Out

To provide readers who want information about the United Nations that is intelligent and concise yet comprehensive is a challenging task for every author: he or she must outline a puzzling system of principal organs, specialized agencies, programs, funds, commissions and committees that produces large piles of resolutions, declarations and conventions on topics such as … Read more

BOOKS

In Europe and the US, Will Young People Prolong Populism’s Appeal?

In one of several recent books looking for the meaning of populism’s surge in the 21st century, not only in the United States and Europe but also well beyond Western borders, the author Yascha Mounk, a German-born scholar at Harvard, offers the startling assumption that populism as a solution to political and economic problems is attracting … Read more

BOOKS

In a World of Evolving UN Sanctions, an Emphasis on the Humanitarian Effects

Debates over how to deal with issues like North Korea’s nuclear weapons or the reliability of Iran to adhere to its role in a multiparty nuclear deal have brought questions about the value, design and human effects of sanctions to the fore at the United Nations and in national capitals. Are sanctions a tool of … Read more

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BOOKS

Have You Read the Koran? An Invitation to Non-Muslims

Early in October, as director of Public Affairs Programs for the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, I interviewed Gary Wills, the prize-winning historian and religious scholar, to discuss his latest book, titled “What the Qur’an Meant: And Why It Matters.” The book is an invitation to all non-Muslims to engage in a conversation … Read more

BOOKS

A Hint on Confronting Islamist Power. Or Maybe Not.

Will it never end? When will time run out on the array of shape-shifting militant Islamist movements intent on moving into shaky trouble spots around the world to impose their extreme ideology, harness the population and hijack the local economy? How long will it take for the international community — the ubiquitous West — to … Read more

BOOKS

America’s Pledge to the Paris Agreement Doesn’t Hinge on Washington

When Donald Trump, defying science and public opinion, reversed American policy and announced in June that the United States would leave the universally endorsed 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, his decision may have given more impetus to a growing trend away from reliance on shortsighted national politicians. In country after country, the focus is … Read more

BOOKS

The Secret Work on War-Crime Trials Before Nuremberg

It is widely believed that the Allied powers were in the dark about the “final solution” — the Nazi campaign to exterminate Europe’s Jews — until the discovery of the death camps, strewn with corpses and emaciated inmates, at the end of World War II. Yet Russia, Britain and the United States publicly declared their … Read more

BOOKS

Misogyny Didn’t Stop Them: The World’s Most Important Female Leaders

From Asia and Africa to Europe and the Americas, women remain important forces of change as government leaders in the modern era. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister after its independence, was one of the earliest — and the only woman in India — to hold that position, from 1966 to … Read more

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BOOKS

Surviving a Sea That Stole Almost Everything: One Refugee’s Story

“I represent just one voice among the millions who risk their lives every day in order to live a life of dignity,” writes Doaa Al Zamel, a young Syrian woman who survived a horrific journey across the Mediterranean. “Every family in my country has lost so much that they have had to rebuild their homes … Read more

BOOKS

The Rules of War Need a Major Overhaul

Donetsk People's Republic fighters in Ukraine

Evidence is piling up: the global security framework that emerged from the ashes of World War II is no longer capable of pursuing international peace. The arrangement, conceived by the major powers that won the war, has expanded into a grab bag of rules and institutions that the crises of our own era have gradually … Read more

BOOKS

Explaining the Nobel Peace Prize

Since 1901, Nobel Prizes have been presented to the designated laureates at ceremonies held on Dec. 10 , the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. As stipulated in his will, the prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine and literature are awarded in Stockholm, presented by the King of Sweden. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded … Read more

BOOKS

In Rio, the Middle Class Awakens to Demand Its Due

Rio de Janeiro is a spectacular city, situated between mountains and the ocean, broad enough to encompass a national forest and the justly famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana. It’s the subject of song and story, and this year it pulled off a spectacular and joyous Olympic games. Rio is also a city of contrasts, … Read more

BOOKS

Traits of an Outstanding Leader: A Primer for the Next UN Secretary-General

At the end of this year, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will complete his 10-year tenure and the ninth secretary-general will take office on Jan. 1. Whether the new secretary-general will be male or female, most would agree that he or she be someone with strong moral courage and integrity; act as a voice for … Read more

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BOOKS

Confronting a Father’s Sex Change and a ‘New Self’

In 2004, the American writer Susan Faludi, the author of “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,” received an email from her estranged father, Steven, announcing that he had undergone sex-reassignment surgery and was no longer, according to him, “impersonating a macho aggressive man that I have never been inside.” It wasn’t the news, Faludi … Read more

BOOKS

Staying Ahead of the UN: What to Read for the Upcoming Migration Summit

On Sept. 19, the United Nations will hold its first-ever high-level summit meeting on refugees and migrants, which, given a staggering 65 million people now on the move, may rank as the organization’s most pressing global issue for years to come. With this conference in mind, PassBlue is introducing a series of book notes focused … Read more

BOOKS

Africa’s War Problem

Too much of Africa is a mess. While there are, of course, great success stories, many countries continue, despite the end of colonialism and the Cold War, to suffer wildly from poverty, illness, corruption, coups and wars — too many compared with the rest of the world. Even as an outsized slice of United Nations … Read more

BOOKS

For Russia and All Other Nations, Geography Is Still Destiny

Our communications and travel technological advances of the last half century or so have made the world feel very small and suggest that rivers, mountains and even oceans are no longer barriers. That may be true of travel, at least for Americans or Europeans (O.K., Australians too) on vacation, but recent news stories describing the … Read more

BOOKS

Ancient Rome: An Empire With Surprising Relevance Today

Who isn’t fascinated by ancient Rome, which continues to engage our imaginations: how did the Romans have the engineering skills to construct those enormous buildings, and entertain us with statues, plays and art and inform our politics? The Cambridge University professor of classics and blogger Mary Beard’s “SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome,” which surveys … Read more

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