What is it about?

This paper uses game theory to model self-enforcing mechanisms (decision-making rules) in international organization. The study pays special attention to the United Nations. One clear implication of the study is that non-permanent Security Council seats are assigned as an incentive for compliance with costly actions.

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Why is it important?

This is the first study that attempts to rationalize and understand the existence and structure of the Security Council. More specifically, based on reasonable stylized facts, this paper shows that the optimal (for the UN creators) way to design a decision-making rule that is self-enforcing is to unevenly distribute power among UN members. This optimal distribution of power remarkably mimics the way decision-making power is distributed via Security Council seats: the model rationalizes the existence of a council with permanent members who have veto power, non-permanent members with a fixed term, and even the exact numbers of permanent members, non-permanent member, and the required votes to approve a Security Council resolution.


It is very interesting that the model did not assume any structure of the organization and ended up with something so similar to the Security Council. The model simply starts with a set of countries that may or may not benefit from taking a collective action. Yet, the model shows that the "optimal" equilibrium of the game can be implemented via stochastic voting power, and that can be further mapped to a voting council with all the characteristics observed in the Security Council.

Johann Caro-Burnett
Hiroshima University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Optimal voting rules for international organizations, with an application to the United Nations, Journal of Public Economic Theory, July 2022, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/jpet.12607.
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