The Power of the Weak: How Informal Power-Sharing Shapes the Work of the UN Security Council

Abstract: To what extent is the work of international organizations shaped by their most powerful members? Can minor powers influence the decisions taken at these organizations? This paper presents the argument that great powers engage in power-sharing in order to attain unanimity inside international organizations, which enhances compliance and reduces the cost of implementing their decisions. An analysis of the UN Security Council tests this argument. Challenging the conventional wisdom that minor powers’ influence on the Council is negligible, this paper identifies a series of informal power-sharing practices, which promote consensus and augment minor powers’ influence far beyond what one would expect on the basis of the material capabilities and formal voting power of these states. The study relies on a novel design-based approach, which exploits exogenous variation in Africa’s participation on the Security Council to estimate the influence of African states inside this body. Non-parametric permutation tests and a qualitative case study show that African states have a substantial impact on the Council’s response to civil wars in Africa between 1988 and 2014. During years when a given African region is represented on the Security Council, the UN deploys an average of 920 more peacekeepers and allocates larger peacekeeping budgets to civil-war countries in that region than during years without a member of the Council from that region. This effect of a seat on the Council is particularly pronounced during crises, when great powers are most eager to attain unanimity through power-sharing, and while minor powers benefit from the informal authority of the Council’s rotating presidency. Informal power-sharing inside international organizations such as the Security Council, motivated by the self-interests of powerful states, enhances the influence of minor powers.

The paper is available under this link.

The Promise of Peacekeeping: Protecting Civilians in Civil Wars, with Allison Carnegie. Under Review (R&R), International Organization.

Abstract: Do peacekeepers protect civilians in civil conflict? Securing civilian safety is a key objective of contemporary peacekeeping missions, yet whether these efforts actually make a difference on the ground is widely debated. This paper argues that because peacekeeping forces often need to maintain close ties with host governments, peacekeepers reduce civilian fatalities inflicted by rebels, but not those caused by governments. To test our claim, we overcome common problems of endogeneity and selection bias by using a novel natural experiment. Specifically, we leverage exogenous variation in which countries hold power in the United Nations Security Council to show that states that wield more power send more peacekeepers to their preferred locations, and that these peacekeepers in turn help to protect civilians from rebel factions.

The paper is available under this link.

Issue linkage across international organizations: Does European countries’ temporary membership in the UN Security Council increase their receipts from the EU budget?, forthcoming in Review of International Organizations.

Abstract: What explains the outcome of interstate negotiations in international organizations (IOs)? While existing research highlights member states’ power, preference intensity, and the IO’s institutional design, this paper introduces an additional source of bargaining power in IOs: Through issue linkage members of an IO leverage privileged positions in other IOs to obtain more favorable bargaining outcomes. Specifically, European Union members are more successful in bargaining over the EU budget while they hold a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Inside the UNSC EU members can promote security interests of other European countries, and they can use their influence to secure side-payments from the EU budget. The study tests this argument by investigating new EU budget data, and it shows that EU members obtain 1.7 billion Euro in additional net receipts during a two-year UNSC term, on average. Thus, bargaining processes in the EU and the UN are intricately linked.

The article is available under this link.

Winning Hearts and Minds in Civil Wars: Governance, Leadership Change, and Support for Violence in Iraq, with Saurabh Pant and Beza Tesfaye. Under Review (R&R), American Journal of Political Science.

Abstract: The ‘hearts and minds’ model of counterinsurgency holds that civilians are less likely to support an insurgency if the government provides basic public services and security. Building on this model, we argue that a major political event that raises popular expectations of future public service and security provision will increase support for the government and decrease sympathy for the insurgency. To test this argument, we leverage a unique research design opportunity that stems from the unforeseen announcement of the resignation of Iraq’s divisive prime minister in August 2014 while an original survey was being administered across the country. We show that the leadership transition led Iraq’s displeased minorities to shift support away from the insurgency to the government. In line with our argument, this realignment was due to rising optimism among minorities that the new government would provide basic services and public goods – specifically security, electricity, and jobs.

The paper is available under this link.

Lessons on political violence from America’s post-9/11 Wars. With Jacob Shapiro. Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(1): 174-202.

A large literature has emerged in political science that studies the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This paper summarizes the lessons learned from this literature, both theoretical and practical. To put this emerging knowledge base into perspective we review findings along two dimensions of conflict: factors influencing whether states or sub-state groups enter into conflict in the first place; and variables affecting the intensity of fighting at particular times and places once war has started. We then discuss the external validity issues entailed in learning about contemporary wars and insurgencies from research focused on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars during the period of U.S. involvement. We close by summarizing the uniquely rich qualitative and quantitative data on these wars (both publicly available and what likely exists but has not been released) and outline potential avenues for future research.

The article is available under this link.

The Peace Science Digest 1(6) featured a summary of the article.

Cueing Foreign Elite Consensus or Divisions: The Effect of Unanimity in International Organizations on Public Opinion

Abstract: This study presents the first experimental evidence to test the proposition that a single international organization can convey various different signals to members of the American public. Specifically, a unanimous vote conveys a cue of consensus among foreign elites in support of a policy, whereas approval despite dissent or non-approval due to a veto signals that foreign elites are divided over the policy. Drawing on American public opinion scholarship, which shows that members of the public tend to be rationally ignorant about foreign policy and form an opinion by observing unity or disagreements among well-informed and trusted elites, this paper argues that the signaling effect of international organizations on public opinion depends on whether they cue consensus or divisions. Two survey experiments administered to a national sample of U.S. citizens test this argument in the issue area of international security. The study finds that the unanimous endorsement of a U.S. military intervention by the UN Security Council increases popular support for the use of force by six to ten percentage points, in comparison to the Council’s approval of the same action despite dissent. In addition, unanimous approval – as opposed to approval by a divided organization – significantly reduces the likelihood that Americans blame their own government for unanticipated difficulties that arise during the intervention. In line with elite cue theory, the large majority that views the UN Security Council as an at least somewhat trustworthy foreign elite is driving these effects.

From Paper to Peace? Compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions in Civil War

Abstract: How do international organizations influence the behavior of states and nonstate actors? How do they secure compliance with the rules they adopt? This paper investigates the puzzle of compliance with resolutions issued by the UN Security Council. The existing literature on compliance with international regimes and armed conflict termination does not explain why warring factions comply with international organizations’ demands for the cessation of hostilities. This paper aims to close this lacuna and presents explanations of compliance derived from managerialism, enforcement theory, and the literature on international security organizations. The study empirically tests the competing arguments using original data. The findings corroborate enforcement theory, but they do not lend support to managerialist explanations of compliance. This paper introduces a new data set on compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. It presents the results of the first empirical analysis of compliance with a large set of Security Council resolutions to date.

Policy research

Mikulaschek, Christoph, Terje Rod-Larsen, and Hans Winkler (eds.). 2010. The UN Security Council and the Responsibility to Protect: Policy, Process, and Practice, special issue of Favorita Papers, 2010/1.

Boutellis, Arthur and Christoph Mikulaschek. 2012. Strengthening Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation: Istanbul Retreat of the UN Security Council. New York: International Peace Institute.

Mikulaschek, Christoph and Paul Romita. 2011. Conflict Prevention: Toward More Effective Multilateral Strategies. New York: International Peace Institute.

Cockayne, James, Christoph Mikulaschek, and Chris Perry. 2010. The UN Security Council and Civil War: First Insights From a New Dataset. New York: International Peace Institute.

Cockayne, James and Christoph Mikulaschek. 2008. Transnational Security Challenges and the United Nations: Overcoming Sovereign Walls and Institutional Silos. New York: International Peace Academy.