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UN Intervention and the Duration of International Crises

37 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 7 Apr 2011

Kyle C. Beardsley

Emory University

Date Written: 2010


This paper examines the effect of UN actions on the duration of international crises. Four different types of action – assurance, diplomatic engagement, military involvement and intimidation – and three different outcomes – compromise, victory and stalemate – are considered. After building on the existing literature to develop expectations of how a third-party like the UN might shape crisis trajectories, hypotheses are tested using the International Crisis Behavior (ICB) data and a new events dataset on UN activity. Results from competing-risks models reveal that UN military involvement in particular does well to manage crises, in the sense that it decreases the risk of one side achieving victory and, in the long run, it increases the ability for the belligerents to reach a compromise. In contrast, UN uses of assurances actually hasten the time until victory and delay the time until compromise. Also, simple intimidation appears to be mostly irrelevant, except that in the long run it is associated with quicker victories. On a more positive note, both assurance and diplomatic engagement tend to decrease the time until stalemates are achieved. Finally, intervention timing matters, as earlier UN involvement is most effective at decreasing the time until compromise and stalemate. In total, the findings suggest that while the UN can do well to speed up the time until compromise and delay the achievement of victories, its bias toward peace often limits its relevance, and it must also be wary of introducing perverse incentives especially through the adoption of half-measures.

Keywords: United Nations, Duration, International Crisis Behavior, UNIEvents

Suggested Citation

Beardsley, Kyle C., UN Intervention and the Duration of International Crises (2010). Available at SSRN: or

Kyle C. Beardsley (Contact Author)

Emory University ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-7506 (Phone)

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