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Deriving Data from Delegates to International Assemblies: A Research Note


Whether it is called an assembly, a conference, or something else, there is in most if not all international organizations an organ, for which the United Nations General Assembly is the prototype, in which the entire membership is represented. The importance of these bodies is generally acknowledged. Constitutionally, they usually have final authority in such matters as the appointment of the executive officer, the election of smaller organs, the adoption of the budget, and the determination of overall policy. Few studies of an international organization or of the interaction between a state or a group of states and an international organization can neglect the assembly of the organization under scrutiny.

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1 Claude Inis L. Jr, “The OAS, the UN, and the United States,” International Conciliation, 03 1964 (No. 547).

2 SeeHovet Thomas Jr, Bloc Politics in the United Nations (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1960); Hovet Thomas Jr, Africa in the United Nations (Evanston, III: Northwestern University Press, 1963); and Alker Hayward R. Jr, and Russett Bruce M., World Politics in the General Assembly (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1965).

3 Best Gary Lee, “Diplomacy in the United Nations” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 08 1960), p. 158.

4 See, for example,Conor Cruise O'Brien's chapter, “A Delegate at the General Assembly,” in To Katanga and Back (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962), pp. 1239; and Hadwen John G. and Kaufmann Johan, How United Nations Decisions Are Made (Leyden: A. W. Sythoff, 1960).

5 Robert Owen Keohane has provided a recent example of the data that can be gained through the skillful use of unstructured interviews. See hisPolitical Influence in the General Assembly,” International Conciliation, 03 1966 (No. 557).

6 As a sample seeGoode William J. and Holt Paul K., Methods in Social Research (New York: McGrawHill, 1952); Hyman Herbert H., with odiers, Interviewing in Social Research (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954); Kahn Robert L. and Cannell Charles F., The Dynamics of Interviewing: Theory, technique, and cases (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1957); Merton Robert K., Fiske Marjorie, and Kendall Patricia L., The Focused Interview: A Manual of Problems and Procedures (Glencoe, III: The Free Press, 1956); Parten Mildred B., Surveys, Polls, and Samples: Practical Procedures (New York: Harper & Bros., 1950); and Selltiz Claire and others, Research Methods in Social Relations (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1959).

7 See especiallyHeard Alexander, “Interviewing Southern Politicians,” American Political Science Review, 12 1950 (Vol. 44, No. 4), pp. 886896; Kincaid Henry V. and Bright Margaret, “Interviewing the Business Elite,” American Journal of Sociology, 11 1957 (Vol. 63, No. 3), pp. 304311; Appendix C, “Survey Interviewing Among Members of Congress,” in Robinson James A., Congress and Foreign Policy-Making: A Study in Legislative Influence and Initiative (Homewood, 111: The Dorsey Press, 1962), pp. 222234; and Weiner Myron, “Political Interviewing,” Chapter 6 in Ward Robert E. and others, Studying Politics Abroad: Field Research in the Developing Areas (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1964), pp. 103133.

8 Kincaid and Bright, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 63, No. 3.

9 Ibid., p. 307.

10 Best Gary L. conducted 78 structured interviews with members of permanent delegations to the UN in 35 days, or an average of 2.2 interviews per day (“Diplomacy in die United Nations,” p. 32). These interviews were conducted when the General Assembly was not in session. Chadwick F. Alger has conducted structured interviews with delegates to the General Assembly during the Assembly session. He was able to conduct 37 interviews in eighteen days, or an average of slighdy more than two per day (Alger Chadwick F., “United Nations Participation as a Learning Experience,” Public Opinion Quarterly, Fall 1963 [Vol. 27, No. 3], pp. 410426).

11 Similarly, in 1959Best Gary L. was able to interview one member from each of the 78 permanent delegations then in New York. He was forced to interview an individual other than the one whom he had selected randomly in only five instances (“Diplomacy in the United Nations,” p. 30).

12 However, Kamal M. Hagras, a diplomat of the United Arab Republic, had administered a written questionnaire to delegates who had participated in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). (See his United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: A Case Study in U.N. Diplomacy [New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965], pp. 125 ff.) All nine of his questions were open-ended, and he made no attempt to code and quantify the answers.

13 SeeWallace David, “A Case For and Against Mail Questionnaires,” Public Opinion Quarterly, Spring 1954 (Vol. 18, No. 1), pp. 4052.

14 Notably an article,The USSR and ILO,” International Organization, Summer 1960 (Vol. 14, No. 3), pp. 402428, and a book, The USSR and the UN's Economic and Social Activities (Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963).

15 Selltiz and others, p. 242.

16 Hagras merely says that “most of these individuals who were requested to answer the questionnaires showed willingness to cooperate.” In all, eighteen delegates seem to have given him completed answers (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, pp. 125, 156). In his study of New Haven, Connecticut, Robert A. Dahl mailed a questionnaire to members of local elites. The returns were so limited that he could not use the data. He had to draw a sample and conduct interviews (Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City [New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1962], p. 337). On the other hand, James N. Rosenau sent mail questionnaires to those individuals who attended the Conference on Foreign Aspects of United States National Security and obtained a 61 percent response (National Leadership and Foreign Policy: A Case Study in the Mobilization of Public Support [Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1963], pp. 49, 371).

17 Apter David, The Politics of Modernization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965).

18 This delegation includes more dian 3 percent of diose individuals attending the Conference.

19 O'Brien, pp. 27–29.

20 Haas Ernst B., Beyond the Nation-State: Functionalism and International Organization (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1964).

21 Parten, p. 73.

22 See Best; andAlger, Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 3.

23 For a glimpse at the imaginative ways sampling problems have been met in somewhat similar contexts seeBonilla Frank, “Survey Techniques,” in Ward and others, pp. 134152.

1 Harold Karan Jacobson is Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. The research described in this article which was conducted in 1965–1966 was made possible by a grant from the Social Science Research Council

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International Organization
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