Out now: “International bureaucrats in the UN Security Council debates: A speaker-topic network analysis”. 

With Stefan Eckhard (@S_eckhard), Ronny Patz (@ronpatz), and Mirco Schönfeld (@TWlyY29).


Drawn from this database, we look specifically at the UNSC debates on the situation in Afghanistan between 1995-2017 and conduct a speaker-topic network analysis to see who spoke when and about what.

Our focus is on the UN bureaucrats. We show that the UN secretariat and other representatives play an active role even in a venue were bureaucratic agency seems unlikely—the UNSC. The paper has both a quantitative and qualitative component.

In the quantitative component we combine Structural Topic Modeling and Network Analysis techniques to observe ‘speaker position’, ‘topic introduction’, and ‘topic evolution’. We observe the UN bureaucracy, at times, acts as an autonomous speechmaker introducing and pushing its own topics.

In the qualitative component we explore the concrete contributions the Secretariat made in relation to the topic ‘security and reform’. We show officials tabled a controversial policy option—expanding int. troops beyond Kabul—that was eventually accepted by the UNSC.

Overall, we find that bureaucrats—even in the UNSC—are able to (co-)shape what is considered relevant, how particular problems are understood, and, ultimately, what solutions are under consideration.

For those interested: Here is an online tool with which you can study and organize the data yourselves: https://dmwg.shinyapps.io/lingopac/.


Social Distance in International Relations (SoDiIR)
Individual Fellowship

I am thrilled to announce that I obtained an Individual Fellowship under the EU Horizon2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions for my project on Social Distance in International Relations (SoDiIR)!

The below gives you a bit of a preview of what I will do… but more will come.

To offer a more comprehensive account of humanitarian selectivity, this project studies the socio-emotional microfoundations of foreign policy decisions. I look specifically at ‘social distance’ and the emotional reactions and socio-emotional norms that shape people’s, and therewith countries’, political priorities and willingness to engage with the hardship of others.

Whilst international relations are generally understood as a set of inter-state relations, I explicitly look at international relations as a set of socio-emotional relations between people(s). From this perspective states are not unitary actors. They are constituted by the people that live inside them and the ideas, norms, pre-dispositions and historical understandings that dominate in a society. Within this socio-normative context, a context that enables certain and constrains other types of behaviour, events are interpreted and reactions to those events are formulated. Although generally distinguishing between civil society and the distinct group of (foreign policy) ‘decision makers’, only recently have IR-scholars started to study the people that constitute the state as emotional beings. Building on this constructivist literature on emotions in IR, I am interested in how narratives on human suffering are created, the extent to which they are influenced by socio-emotional relations between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ – the experienced social distance – and how these narratives ultimately inform foreign policy.

Presenting a new data-set: ‘The UN Security Council Debates’ (1995-2017)

We are proud to present a whole new speech corpus with all 65.393 individual contributions as part of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) debates between January 1995 and December 2017.

Available at Harvard Dataverse

Curious about what this is and what you can do with it?! We added a paper that explains in more detail how the data-set is constructed and that gives some first examples of what the data-set can reveal and what it can be used for. This paper is available on the arXiv as well as here on my website.

Developed together with:

  • Mirco Schönfeld, Technical University Munich (@TWlyY29)
  • Steffen Eckhard, University of Konstanz (@s_eckhard)
  • Ronny Patz, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich (@ronpatz)