This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at


Project: Ethics and International Affairs

Divergent - and sometimes competing - conceptions of values and normative issues are creating tensions in the international arena. Inter-state/inter-cultural/civilizational divisions on normative issues are raising the spectre of conflict within and between communities; indeed, a 'clash of civilizations' has been forewarned. The evolution of democracy and respect for human rights provide a constant reminder of the controversies which arise around diversity, identity and community. Whether based upon religion, culture or ideology, these controversies introduce contention within and between states. In the past these differences have been mostly addressed within the boundaries of human rights scholarship. This project will show that they are part of the on-going debates on the establishment of an authentic international community - a community within which the rights enjoyed by states are linked to their duties towards other states, and also towards their own people. As a result, the project will stress the links between human rights issues and ethics in international affairs and will focus on two major sets of question. First, the project will demonstrate how human rights issues and international ethics are two sides of the same coin. Both are part of the making of a global community. Human rights and ethics in international affairs are at the heart of the governing norms of a global community. This raises questions regarding the level of cultural pluralism accepted within 'international norms' and the responsibilities of states, within and outside their borders.

Second, the project will seek ways to argue in favor of an understanding of human rights and ethics as integrated and inclusive as possible, while being respectful of cultural differences perceived as legitimate or acceptable. Is a consensus forming? Here, the project will look closely into the various forms of international negotiations aimed at settling disputes.

Considering the multifaceted dimension of the issue of ethics and international affairs, the project brings together lawyers, philosophers, historians and also political negotiators on human rights. It also calls upon international relations specialists focusing on pluralism within societies.

Project team
Daniel Warner (Project director), Deputy director, The Graduate Institute of International Relations, Switzerland.
Ethan Kapstein, Professor of Economics, University of Minnesota
Ibrahim Fall, Assistant-Secretary-General, UN Department of Political Affairs
Bertie G.Ramcharan, Director, Africa Division, UN Department of Political Affairs
Jack Donnely, Professor of International Relations, University of Denver
Fritz Kratochwil, Professor of International Relations, University of Munich
David Campbell, Professor of Politics, University of Newcastle, UK
Mark Gibney, Professor of Political Science, University if North Carolina, US
Roberto Toscano, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN, Switzerland
Francoise Héritier-Augé, Professor of Social Anthropology, College of France
Oran Young, Professor of Political Science, Dartmouth College, US.

For further information, please contact:
Dr. Jean-Marc Coicaud, Senior Academic Officer, Peace and Governance Programme (Email: