A Summer Reading List for Glum Multilateralists

A Summer Reading List for Glum Multilateralists
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Refugee Summit, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 17, 2020 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Stewart M. Patrick, who will return next week.

What books should admirers of the United Nations and international cooperation dive into this summer? Tomes about international institutions rarely make great beach reads. But with pandemic staycations still keeping the beach out of reach for many of us, they are not as heavy a lift this year as they were in summers past. And with foreign policy pundits sounding the alarm over a “crisis of multilateralism,” it can even be refreshing to dig into books that explain how the organizations involved actually work—or put their current travails in a historical perspective. Here are four good recent ones.

Karel van Oosterom’s “With an Orange Tie: A Year on the Security Council” is an enjoyable insider’s account of how high-level United Nations diplomacy works in practice. Van Oosterom became the Dutch permanent representative to the U.N. in 2013, and is now moving to be ambassador in London. His book recounts the year he represented the Netherlands as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council in 2018, including the rough debates he endured on issues including chemical weapons in Syria. But he also shows how ambassadors in New York are able to cut deals on many issues behind the scenes despite their public rows. He has a good eye for the absurdities of diplomacy, too. The funniest moment in the book may be when council consultations are brought to a sudden halt by the British ambassador, who breaks protocol by eating a sandwich.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review