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Legitimacy and the UN Security Council Agenda

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2017

Brian Frederking
McKendree University
Christopher Patane
University of Missouri


Is the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) a legitimate organization? Do the veto powers legitimately pursue international security, or do they protect their narrow national interests? One way to evaluate the legitimacy of the UNSC is through its agenda. Does it address the most significant conflicts in world politics? Or is it influenced by the national interests of the veto powers? This article addresses these questions with a dataset that includes the number of UNSC meetings held and resolutions passed on 40 conflicts from 1991 to 2013. This analysis provides evidence for the legitimacy of the UNSC—conflicts with more refugees and more deaths are significantly more likely to be on the agenda. The analysis does not support critics of the UNSC—the national interests of the veto powers, measured as arms sales to and trade with the conflict participants, do not significantly alter the UNSC agenda.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2017 

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