Agenda Setting and Cooperation in the UN General Assembly


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The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) offers all member states a unique platform to communicate their foreign policy preference on a broad set of issues. For this reason it has been described as the stage of world politics, leaving binding and costly decisions to the UN Security Council (Carroll et al. 2014). Hence, the UNGA provides a unique opportunity to study the patterns of interstate conflict and cooperation as well as to measure and explain governments’ foreign policy preferences. Yet so far, scholars’ attention has been almost exclusively on the observable votes cast in the UNGA. This focus can be criticized for two reasons: First, not all UNGA votes are being recorded. Accordingly, the study of observable votes may suffer from a selection bias. Second, votes represent the final decision in a complex policy making process. Therefore, voting behavior must be considered in its political context. Yet, existing studies of recorded votes ignore any information about cooperation and conflict that is observable during the agenda setting and the negotiation stage.
The research project is designed to overcome this weakness by studying the verbatims of all meetings in the UNGA plenary and its First Committee as well as all draft resolutions and amendments since 1993. In a first step we are going to process all available documents such that they can be analyzed by state-of-the-art text analysis software. At the same time we are going to extract relevant meta-information (e.g. authorship, dates, agenda items). Specifically, we plan to study the patterns of co-sponsorship in the UNGA using methods of social network analysis. All speeches and statements will be integrated in a machine-readable text corpus which, subsequently, can be used to analyze latent patterns of conflict and cooperation. Finally, the systematic enumeration of documents provided by the United Nations’ administration allows us to match draft resolutions and amendments to the corresponding speeches and statements as well as the recorded votes. Matching these data sets enables us to analyze the multi-stage decision making processes in the UNGA. Furthermore, matching these data sets allows us to study recorded votes in their political context.
The project contributes to answering the following questions: What is the role and importance of cooperation within and between regional groups during the agenda setting and the negotiation stage? Which factors do explain other patterns of cooperation and conflict among UNGA member states? What is the relevance of shared values, similar economic and security interests or personal contacts for the observed patterns of cooperation? Which are the most relevant sources of power used to exert influence on other member states? What is the effect of domestic developments such as changes of government composition or the type of regime on a member state’s foreign policy position?
Financing sourceOther public support (public)
Research programmeDeutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Internet address
Amount225,000.00 Euro

ID: 90664359