The United Nations and Democracy in Africa
Labyrinths of Legitimacy
By Zoë Wilson
Routledge – 2007 – 256 pages
This book explores UN bureaucracy and the development dysfunction it sows in four 'most different' African countries: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and Tanzania. Wilson's original purpose for researching this book was to uncover new solutions to some of the United Nations' most vexing implementation problems. Yet, as research unfolded, it became clear that the reasons for those problems lay tangled up in bureaucratic and philosophical quagmires of a much more fundamental nature. The United Nations and Democracy in Africa is the documentation not only of these bureaucratic and philosophical absurdities that find expression through development practice, but also the journey of the author from ardent defender of the UN to profound sceptic.
"Zoe Wilson's innovative study shows how recent critiques of mainstream development thinking have been incorporated into the programs and policies of UN agencies as what she terms 'minor discourses', in a complex and uneasy jumble with the older, 'top-down' models that continue to be dominant. Her analysis of the political effects of this apparent confusion sheds a powerful light on how and why UN interventions based on what seem to be the most benevolent principles so often turn out badly for the 'ordinary people' they are intended to benefit."
James Ferguson, Professor and Chair, Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford University
1. Power, Politics and Doomed Projects 2. Policies and Institutions: 'Unpopular Among Some - or Even a Majority - of the Population' 3. Human Development Reports: 'Universally Valued by People of the World Over' 4. The Millennium Road Map: 'Urging States,' 'Encouraging Governments' and 'Working within the United Nations' 5. From Global Ideas to Regional Road Maps: 'Whereby a Whole Community… Settles for a Wrong Choice of Priorities' 6. Country Level: 'Systemic Dissemination of Information, so as to Promote Universal Understanding…' 7. Wishful Thinking, Willful Blindness and Artful Amnesia 8. Paradoxes and Dilemmas of Institutional Change: Human Rights and Livelihoods in Rural War-torn Angola 9. Minor Discourses and the Performance of Irony
Zoë Wilson completed her Doctorate in Political Science at Dalhousie University (Canada) in 2004 and is a specialist in local implementation of global norms and standards. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Civil Society in South Africa. Recent articles appear in Journal of Peacebuilding and Development and the edited volume: Gender, Complex Emergencies, and Peacekeeping: National and International Feminist Perspectives.