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Political Scientists, Students to Examine United Nations’ Inner Workings

August 16, 2017

Considering that the United States spends about $3.3 billion on United Nations-related activity each year, including peacekeeping — and President Donald Trump has proposed a 40 percent cut in that spending — this seems like a good time for U.S. policy makers to have a clear understanding of how the U.N. works and how to navigate its politics to get desired outcomes.

UC Merced political science professors Courtenay Conrad and Nathan Monroe secured a $118,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to assemble a team of graduate and undergraduate students to compile and analyze a massive database of U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) proceedings since the international organization was founded in 1945.

Because the majority of UNGA resolutions that reach the plenary floor pass, scholars often describe its votes as “consensual.” Conrad and Monroe say that’s because previous work hasn’t looked at the process by which resolutions come to the floor, missing out on important disagreement that occurs, for example, in UNGA committees.

“The UNGA is a very important body trying to legislate international issues of peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance and food production,” Monroe said. “People don’t often realize that the UNGA’s legislative process has important similarities to that of our own Congress.”