Women, Peace and Security: Security Council Open Debate 2019
Women, Peace and Security: Security Council Open Debate 2019
Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Quest for Power in International Politics: Campaigns by and Selection of Non-Permanent Members to the United Nations Security Council

Research project
Active research
Project size
4 950 000
Project owner
Department of Political Science

Short description

This project studies why and how states campaign for a seat in the UN Security Council.

Aim of the project 

In one part of the project we have contributed with a novel systematic theoretical and empirical exploration of why states find a non-permanent seat in the UNSC attractive. Three conceptualizations of power; to influence, to network and to gain status, guided the analysis. A telephone interview survey with diplomatic staff at member states’ permanent missions to the United Nations in New York gave original and unique empirical knowledge of state perceptions of power. The candidature for a seat comes with expectations of influencing decision-making, despite modest estimations of the opportunity to have impact. Opportunities to network and to gain status are not very frequent reasons for a candidature. Diplomats’ estimations are nevertheless higher on the opportunity to actually establish relevant relationships and to gain status brought by a seat.

In another part of the project we have studied what accounts for a successful candidature to the United Nations Security Council. Previous research has overlooked the importance of the campaigning carried out for this purpose, and available explanations cannot account for the outcome in the 2016 election. Surprisingly, Sweden had a first round victory after being rated number three of the three available candidates in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG). Aiming at explaining the 2016 election outcome and specifying the relevance of campaigning to the selection of non-permanent members of the Security Council, our work has for example compared the campaigns carried out by Sweden and the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the term 2017-18. Based on the results, a successful candidature requires not only merits through a record of previous and current multilateral contributions. It also takes very active involvement by members of the government, as this underline dedication and competence to specified themes of the campaign message. We suggest that three features of campaigning; contributions, dedication and competence, form a broader insight of relevance to the further study of candidatures for membership of the Security Council. Thus, we have conclude this work by presenting a new theoretical framework with three different logics of campaigning. We suggest that this framework may be applicable also to other types of international campaigning.

In a final and third part of the project this framework has been applied to six different cases, Iceland, Austria, Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Research Group

  • Fredrik Dybfest Hjorthen, Post Doc, University of Oslo
  • Ulrika Möller, Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science
  • Ann-Marie Ekengren, Professor, Department of Political Science
  • Baldur Thorallsson, Professor, University of Iceland
  • Tarja Seppä, Senior Lecturer, University of Tampere.