Who Runs the International System? Nationality and Leadership in the United Nations Secretariat
64 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2015 Last revised: 15 Nov 2017
Date Written: October 31, 2017
National governments frequently pull strings to get their citizens appointed to senior positions in international institutions. We examine, over a 60 year period, the nationalities of the most senior positions in the United Nations Secretariat, ostensibly the world's most representative international institution. The results indicate which nations are successful in this zero-sum game, and what national characteristics correlate with power in international institutions. The most overrepresented countries are small, rich democracies like the Nordic countries. Statistically, democracy, investment in diplomacy, and economic/military power are predictors of senior positions -- even after controlling for the U.N. staffing mandate of competence and integrity. National control over the United Nations is remarkably sticky; however the in influence of the United States has diminished as US ideology has shifted away from its early allies. In spite of the decline in US influence, the Secretariat remains pro-American relative to the world at large.
Keywords: United Nations, international institutions
JEL Classification: F5, F53, F59
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation