Following the Flag or Following the Charter? Examining the Determinants of UN Involvement in International Crises, 1945–2002

This paper compares the explanatory power of two models of UN intervention behavior: (i) an “organizational mission model” built around the proposition that variations in the amount of resources that the UN devotes to different conflicts primarily reflect the degree to which a conflict poses a challenge to the UN’s organizational mandate of promoting international peace and stability and (ii) a “parochial interest model” that revolves around the purely private interests of the five veto-holding members of the UN Security Council (the so-called P-5), i.e., interests that are either unrelated to or at odds with the UN’s organizational mandate. Examining data on UN conflict management efforts in more than 270 international crises between 1945 and 2002, we find that measures of the severity and escalatory potential of a conflict are significantly better predictors of the extent of UN involvement in international crises than variables that measure P-5 interests that do not align with the UN’s organizational mission of acting as a global peacemaker. This suggests that the UN adheres more closely to the humanitarian and security mission laid out in its Charter than critics of the organization often suggest.