Explaining the Development of International Norms: The Humanitarian Turn at the United Nations Security Council
60 Pages Posted: 6 May 2019 Last revised: 8 Jul 2019
Date Written: March 31, 2019
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has transformed from a body almost exclusively focused on conflict to one that addresses a variety of issues. Unfortunately, we still lack clear understanding of why and when international institutions change their missions. The author argues that while international politics is usually characterized by inertia, shocks to the system, or focal point events, can compel actors to adopt new logics of appropriateness. Since 1945, the end of the Cold War and the signing of the Helsinki Accords stand out as such events. Through unstructured topic modeling, UNSC resolutions divide into the subjects of War, Punitive, and Humanitarian. The topic Humanitarian exploded in frequency after the Cold War, and more refined models show that words related to human rights and elections similarly increased after Helsinki. These changes are rapid and occur in the immediate aftermath of focal point events, showing their importance for norm diffusion.
Keywords: international law, constructivism, united nations, security council, text analysis, machine learning
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation