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.

Democratic Communities and Third-Party Conflict Management

We explore how the domestic political institutions of states in the neighborhood of international disputants affect the incentives for third-party conflict management. Existing scholarship has argued that as the number of democracies in the international system increases, disputants are more likely to want and find third-party conflict management. We propose two alternative explanations for the connection between democratization and changing patterns of conflict management that consider more localized mechanisms. We posit that neighboring democratic leaders, with stronger incentives to deliver public benefits, will be more willing to push for their involvement as third parties, particularly when the disputes are sufficiently salient to affect regional security dynamics yet not so difficult that protracted engagement is likely. We also posit that, since international organizations (IOs) tend to be more engaged in democratic communities, IOs will be more active peacemakers in disputes, especially intractable and violent ones, that occur in heavily democratic regions. Using event history analysis of the Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) data, we find support for these arguments. Disputants with many democratic neighbors are more likely to experience third-party conflict management by democracies—this effect is increasing in the salience and decreasing in the intractability of the dispute—and IOs—this effect is increasing in the intractability of the dispute. Counter to expectations based on a logic of norm diffusion, third-party conflict management is not more likely among democracies that are in dispute with each other nor when the proportion of democracies in the international system increases.