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Major — International Relations
Minor — Comparative Politics
International relations, International organizations, Organization theory
My research investigates efforts to strengthen the United Nations (UN) and starts with the observation that the United Nations talks a lot about democratization. The Secretary-General (UNSG) declares it a priority, and the Security Council and General Assembly resolve to support new and restored democracies. However, action does not always follow. The UN has an Electoral Assistance Division, but it rarely observes elections and largely limits itself to sending an electoral expert or two. In 2009, advocates of democratization even accused the UN of withholding evidence of electoral fraud in Afghanistan. That the UN would promote democracy at all is far from obvious. The UN Charter makes no reference to democracy, the US and EU prefer to fund other democracy assistance providers, and many members guard their absolutist view of noninterference closely. Given these constraints, it is unsurprising that UN talk about democratization is not always consistent with action. This dissertation investigates the causes and consequences of disparate talk and action by the UNSG when it comes to promoting democracy. It finds that irreconcilable conflicts among members cause disparate talk and action, and it identifies a previously overlooked source of conflict - the changing preferences of a powerful member. It also finds that disparate talk and action carries significant risks. Consequently, the disparity itself creates pressures from UN members that value democratization to align talk and action - even if conflicting member preferences are pulling talk and action apart. Specifically, this subset of members pressures the UNSG because (a) pseudo-democrats in some states exploit the disparity to legitimize fraudulent elections, and (b) action without talk sends a costly signal that the UNSG is not committed to supporting democratization in the future. These findings show that the UNSG's democracy talk is not cheap, but a costly signal to important subsets of states. At the same time, talk is not valuable enough to be a substitute for action and, without action, talk threatens the UNSG's legitimacy.
B.A. University of British Columbia
M.A. University of British Columbia
Dissertation Title: Pulled in All Directions: The UN Secretary-General and the Evolution of UN Democracy Promotion
Committee: Martha Finnemore (Chair), James Goldgeier, Erik Voeten (Georgetown University)
Presentations"Managing Great Expectations: Democracy Promotion in the UN Secretariat." Presented at the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Meeting. New Orleans. February 17-20, 2010."Negotiating Democratic Transitions: The Commitment to Electoral Provisions in UN Peacemaking Missions." Presented at the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) Annual Meeting. Vancouver. June 4-6, 2008."Norms and Interest Formation in International Mediation." Presented at the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Meeting. Chicago. February 28-March 3, 2007."Getting the 'Right' Agreement: International Norms and Mediator Preferences in the Bosnian Conflict, 1991-1995," Presented at the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Meeting. San Diego. March 22-25, 2006.