What value were the widely publicized and well-attended United Nations-sponsored World Conferences in the 1990s? How important are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the success of such conferences? What was actually accomplished at the global meetings in Rio, Vienna, and Beijing? Were they worth the resources expended on them? Should conferences like the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, the Earth summit) or global conferences on human rights be held in the twenty-first century?
The authors of United Nations-sponsored World Conferences demonstrate through their case studies that answering these sorts of questions requires a focus on the follow-up to and implementation of the Conferences and not simply attention to the conferences themselves. They argue that the terms of public debate on the accomplishments of such conferences, and thus the future of similar conferences, must include a careful assessment of their impacts long after the final documents have been passed and the final gavels sounded, even after the “plus five” follow-up conferences have all been convened.
United Nations-sponsored World Conferences fills a gap in the literature on UN Conferences, multilateralism, and global governance. It also seeks to contribute to the ongoing international debate on whether such conferences are worthwhile by suggesting that previous works on such conferences have only told part of the story and thus should not, by themselves, be used as a basis for public policy decisions regarding their future.
Michael G. Schechter gained his PhD in political science at Columbia University. Since 1975 he has been a professor at James Madison College of Michigan State University. His interests include international law and organizations and processes of global governance. Professor Schechter is currently working on a book on global governance in the twenty-first century and has recently completed articles on a critical policy approach to the study of international relations and various forms of resistance to globalization.