Landmark Study Shows the UN Prevents War

Landmark Study Shows the UN Prevents War
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As written in the United Nations Charter, the organization’s first core responsibility is “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

In the years since that document came into force in 1945, some have questioned how well the UN has lived up to this charge. New research, based on sixty-six years of data, has provided an answer on whether the UN prevents war.

Researchers from Dartmouth and Ohio State recently completed a review of thousands of UN General Assembly voting records from 1946 through 2011. Their findings suggest that “the process of nations working together over time builds trust and facilitates fast, transparent communication that raises the chance of resolving crises peacefully”. According to one of the researchers, “While the UN obviously does not prevent all armed conflict…our analysis provides evidence that the UN is more than just a witness of changing policy preferences, the world body impacts future decisions, particularly by suppressing conflict."


Their research showed that through the mechanism of intensified diplomatic interactions, unique to the UN, the organization has been able to better achieve its primary goal of maintaining international peace and security. This study is not alone in demonstrating the positive impact of the UN around the world.

With respect UN peacekeeping, a past Columbia University found that deploying UN peacekeepers reduces the likelihood that a country will witness a revival of armed conflict by about half. In 2014, Steven Pinker of Harvard University stated in response to the question whether UN Peacekeeping works that, “The answer from the statistical studies is: absolutely, they work massively. A country is much less likely to fall back in civil war if they’ve got armed peacekeepers. And the better financed and armed the peacekeeping force, the more effective they are.”

Of course, as noted, the UN does not stop all armed conflict but it’s presence has played an indispensable role in reducing past conflict and in minimizing current conflagrations.

This year alone, the UN is helping stabilize communities in Iraq that have been liberated from control by ISIL, combatting al-Qaeda affiliates in Mali, and sheltering hundreds of thousands of civilians in South Sudan from the threat of escalating violence.

Going forward, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made prevention a key pillar of his leadership of the UN, calling for “a surge in diplomacy for peace.” While achieving peace around the world is no small task, when the world mobilizes in support of the UN, a more peaceful world is possible.

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