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Research for the Real World

International Interactions Policy Blog

International Interactions is a peer-reviewed journal with direct relevance to a wide and interdisciplinary audience. Readers include political scientists, economists, historians, mathematicians, statisticians, anthropologists, sociologists, and other social science researchers with an interest in international relations, as well as informed professionals in business and government.

Launched in 2019, II‘s blog synthesizes scholarly findings for a practitioner audience. Each blog post describes the policy takeaways of a recent II article, in the authors’ own words, for use by engaged policymakers who can apply this research to current issues and challenges. 

Read the most recent blog posts below. Previous posts are archived by topic: conflicthuman rightsleadership, and political economy.

Compliant or Defiant? Economic Sanctions and the United Nations General Assembly Voting by Target Countries | June 2022

Adhikari, Bimal, Jin Mun Jeong, and Dursun Peksen, Compliant or Defiant? Economic Sanctions and the United Nations General Assembly Voting by Target CountriesInternational Interactions (2022). Free Access until August 31, 2022>>

Economic sanctions are tools of economic statecraft frequently used by powerful countries, especially the United States (US). Sanctions are employed particularly to inflict economic pains on the target economies so that targeted leaders abandon policies that are considered undesirable by sender states. However, we have little understanding of how sanctions shape the foreign policy behavior of sanctioned governments. Do economic sanctions incentivize target leaders to pursue foreign policies that are more in line with those of sender states? Or do they defy sanctions and counter the economic coercion by pursuing dissimilar foreign policies? We examine voting patterns of the US and targets of US sanctions in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) using data on US sanctions and UNGA voting for over 150 countries over the 1984-2006 period. Our findings suggest that economic sanctions exacerbate tensions between target countries and the US. We also find that more severe sanctions result in greater voting divergence between target and sender states in the UNGA.

Target states are likely to use the UNGA as a platform to bring attention to the pains caused by sanctions on the general public and to cast the US as the primary cause of the suffering. Targeted leaders also exploit the annual sessions of the UNGA, which are widely covered by media, to denounce the US as a reckless superpower seeking to interfere in the domestic affairs of unfriendly regimes. Leaders of target states, such as Burundi, Iran, Nicaragua, and Zimbabwe, have regularly used the UNGA platform to criticize the US’ sanctioning behavior, blaming sanctions for impeding development and prosperity.

We use UNGA voting patterns to study the impact of sanctions on bilateral relations. The UNGA is generally considered to be a weak institution (at least compared to the UN Security Council) as resolutions passed by this body of the UN are nonbinding. However, the UNGA is the most representative body of world opinion, where the US has often found itself to be in a relatively weak position. Moreover, major powers often compete for the support of other countries for their preferred policies in the UNGA as higher support in the UNGA is considered greater approval for their vision of the world order. For instance, in recent years, China has been actively courting states to shift their support from US-backed policies to those that are more in line with its preferred policy positions. It is conceivable that, given the frequent use of economic sanctions and its failure to get target countries to change their behavior, the US may lose its influence in the global arena, and thus, may inadvertently contribute to the rise of rival powers such as China. Full article >>

Domestic Politics and Requests for UNESCO’s International Assistance Program | June 2022

Hyo Won Lee, Yena Kim & Whasun Jho, Domestic Politics and Requests for UNESCO’s International Assistance ProgramInternational Interactions (2022). Free Access until August 31, 2022>>

The world has recently witnessed increased participation from non-democratic countries in international institutions, including cultural ones such as UNESCO’s International Assistance (IA) program. The IA program provides financial assistance to all members of the World Heritage Convention and its goals include assisting with the inscription of heritage sites on UNESCO lists and establishing an international management and mo nitoring system for cultural preservation. Then, despite the merits, why do only several authoritarian countries request IA programs whereas others don’t? We argue that differences in domestic political institutions within autocracies influence the decision-making of such states in requesting IA programs. This is because these programs serve as a useful tool for incumbent regimes to generate public support or to maintain their status. Our research implements negative binomial regressions for 131 authoritarian countries between 1979 and 2014 and demonstrates that politically competitive regimes are more likely to request IA programs than noncompetitive ones. Full article >>

Funding: This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2020S1A5C2A03093177)

Looking for more? Explore previous International Interactions blog posts by topic:

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