"We the Peoples": Reclaiming an Ethic of Solidarity

Global Governance

Author/s (editor/s):

Lorraine Elliott

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:

Lorraine Elliott, ‘ “We the Peoples”: Reclaiming an Ethic of Solidarity’, Global Governance, 25(2) 2019: 199-216.

The John W. Holmes Memorial Lecture Series was inaugurated in 1989 in honour of one of the founding members of the Academic Council on United Nations System (ACUNS). John Holmes, diplomat and scholar, served on both the 1987-1988 provisional committee and the planning committee for ACUNS’ founding conference. My purpose in this lecture in memory of John Holmes is to focus attention on the value of returning to theory in seeking to re-embed solidarity as a core principle of the UN system. We all know how the UN Charter begins with the words ‘We the peoples’, a phrase that has become a leitmotif of the UN system despite contestation over just what it means. But ‘We the peoples’ is more than a lexical artifact about agency and ownership. It constitutes a ‘significant advance in the normative vocabulary of international relations’, an internationalist or even cosmopolitan identity based on an implicit promise of solidarity. It is that joining of solidarity with ‘We the peoples’ that I want to focus on today.

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