The United Nations Security Council from an Organizational Perspective

The United Nations Security Council from an Organizational Perspective
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Actions of and in Organisations
Existing situation
UN Security Council as Organization
Project Description

In this long-term project, the United Nations Security Council is analysed as an organization. The project has been partly funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Peace Research Foundation (DSF). The Security Council is authorized to make formally binding decisions with very far reaching implications for world politics, including the authorization of the legitimate use of force and the imposition of mandatory economic sanctions in case of threats to international peace and security. While it is formally an organ of the United Nations Organization, its decisions arise from the interaction of its member states, in particular the permanent five members. They are hardly influenced by interaction with other UN organs, including the UN Secretariat. For this reason, the Security Council is a perfect object to study the evolution and effects of organizational rationales in member-dominated international organizations. We expect that organizational structures evolve that are difficult to evade even for the world’s most powerful states and may significantly influence collective decisions.

The aim of the project is to identify the evolution and effects of organizational rationales that produce collective decisions, which cannot be explained by the aggregation of member states’ preferences, even though all decisions are exclusively made by the member states. (1) If repeated collective decisions are informed by precedents and previous cases in similar situations, doctrines and practices evolve that guide later decisions. These doctrines and practices may shape and constrain the room for pursuing case-specific preferences even of powerful member states. (2) The delegation of implementation decisions to sanctions committees fundamentally reshapes the institutional setting, in which member states operate. It divides governance in complementary functions fulfilled by the Council and its committees and may foster the emergence of consistent and norm-guided decision-making, even though sanctions committees are composed of all Security Council member states. Accordingly, Security Council decisions cannot always be explained exclusively by knowing only the preferences of member states and formal decision rules. Hence, the organization gains influence, or autonomy, although all collective decisions arise from interaction of member states.
International Organizations