Contextual Factors affecting the Influence of Non-Permanent Members of the UN Security Council

A number of studies offer indirect evidence that some non-permanent members (NPMs) of the UN Security Council have influence in the Security Council by leveraging their membership in order to benefit from more aid or reduced likelihood of international sanctions for poor governance.

Such studies are not particularly useful, however, as a means for understanding the true influence of NPMs for three reasons:

  1. they necessarily only look at some of the non-permanent member countries, that is low- and middle income countries in receipt of aid;
  2. they tell us little about the form which such influence takes, and what non-permanent members might do in return (if anything) for the pay-offs they appear to receive;
  3. they tell us little about the contextual conditions that shape the ability of non-permanent members to exercise influence in the Council.

The project examines three propositions about the contextual factors that shape the influence that non-permanent members have in the Security Council, and explores how these could be empirically examined. The three factors in question are

  1. the character of the non-permanent membership;
  2. the changing workload and working methods of the Security Council, most notably the establishment of a growing number of subsidiary organs to structure and manage a workload that has grown substantially since the end of the Cold War; and
  3. the changing dynamics between the permanent members, in particular the relationship between France, the United Kingdom and the United States (the so-called ‘P3’) on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other.


Lead researchers: Dominik Zaum, with Corinne Heaven