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How Much is a Seat on the Security Council Worth? Foreign Aid and Bribery at the United Nations
August 29, 2006 10:24 AM   Subscribe

How Much is a Seat on the Security Council Worth? Foreign Aid and Bribery at the United Nations. A paper from a doctoral student at the Harvard Business School, and an employee of the National Bureau of Economic Research has found a correlation between serving on the United Nations Security Council, and the amount of aid received from the United States and the UN. The paper will be printed in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Political Economy. From the abstract: "Ten of the fifteen seats on the U.N. Security Council are held by rotating members serving two-year terms. We find that a country’s U.S. aid increases by 59 percent and its U.N. aid by 8 percent when it rotates onto the council. This effect increases during years in which key diplomatic events take place (when members’ votes should be especially valuable) and the timing of the effect closely tracks a country’s election to, and exit from, the council. Finally, the U.N. results appear to be driven by UNICEF, an organization over which the United States has historically exerted great control." The Harvard Business School working paper can be found here. Commentary from Steven Levitt (the co-author of Freakonomics) can be found here.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (17 comments total)

 
Remember that we Americans must open our minds to new frontiers of potential.
posted by davy at 11:41 AM on August 29, 2006


I think the paper is fascinating, but it would also be interesting to correlate aid with pro-US votes while on the Security Council. That makes the bribery case stronger.

From a policy issue, I don't actually see a problem with this. For smaller countries this is strategic behavior - one of hte few instances where the more powerful countries needs the less powerful for something, so they make us pay. I'm sure extending this analysis back through the Cold War will reveal similar behavior with respect to soviet influence.

What will become interesting is whether China comes into its own, and the aid packages become competitive.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:08 PM on August 29, 2006


Interesting. Thanks for posting this.
posted by bhouston at 12:35 PM on August 29, 2006


(Actually, Werker is faculty here at HBS.)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:10 PM on August 29, 2006


Really? Thanks, I don't recall him. His email address was NBER, so I figured that was the primary relationship.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:31 PM on August 29, 2006


How much aid does Israel get from US? Why is Israel then NOT allowed a seat?
posted by Postroad at 1:56 PM on August 29, 2006


I have an old version of this paper at my desk (from October 2005) that drew some interesting conclusions about dictatorships - though it looks like that has been removed in the refereeing process.
posted by milkrate at 1:56 PM on August 29, 2006


Pastabagel - the old version of the paper had a model specification that included how closely their voting matched the US.
posted by milkrate at 2:00 PM on August 29, 2006


How much aid does Israel get from US?

Almost all of it.
posted by thirteen at 2:25 PM on August 29, 2006


How much aid does Israel get from US? Almost all of it.

Wrong. Counting both military and economic aid, FY2004:

Iraq: 18.44 billion
Israel: 2.62 billion
Egypt: 1.87 billion
Afghanistan: 1.77 billion
Columbia: .57 billion
Jordan: .56 billion
Pakistan: .39 billion
Next up are Liberia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ethiopia.

Israel is still a large receiptiant of aid, but aid for Israel has been decreasing in both real and percentage terms over the last decade. Even the Middle East as a whole (not counting Iraq) only gets 34% of the US aid budget (down from 58% in 1994).
posted by blahblahblah at 3:29 PM on August 29, 2006


Is anyone actually surprised by the correlation? My surprise was not in the correlation, but that it was so easily illustrated - we've the subtlety of a brick, apparently.
posted by FormlessOne at 3:31 PM on August 29, 2006


Incidentally, here is a great chart of foreign aid from various countries. The US only gives an embarassing .22% of GDP as aid (up from .12% in 2002). Sweden gives .9%.
posted by blahblahblah at 3:32 PM on August 29, 2006


blahblahblah, I think thirteen possibly meant "of the aid Israel receives, almost all of it comes from the United States."

2.62 billion doesn't sound like a lot, but considering Israel has about 6.3 million folks total, the "dollars per person" figure is quite a bit higher. Just this year, we sent over approximately $413 per person in Israel. By comparison, Egypt has nearly 79 million folks - we send each of them a mere $23 or so. Even Iraq, a country decimated by war, waste, and wanton destruction, a country which desperately needs aid, gets about $688 per person.

It'll be interesting to see how the aid picture falls out near the end of Bush's term.
posted by FormlessOne at 3:44 PM on August 29, 2006


FormlessOne, ah, I misread thirteens comments.

A key issue about aid when doing this sort of calculation is also its type. The US gives military aid, which is used to buy American weapons; and economic aid, which is meant to help the poor. Israel used to receive a lot of both, but economic aid is being phased out, though it is still receiving $2 billion in military aid. Below is a chart of US economic aid (called Official Development Assistance and Official Aid, or ODA/OA). Lots of interesting stuff: especially the amount going to Russia and the Congo:


posted by blahblahblah at 3:58 PM on August 29, 2006


Aid is used to bribe countries in Security Council votes? Big breaking news...
posted by Skeptic at 4:18 PM on August 29, 2006


Incidentally, here is a great chart of foreign aid from various countries. The US only gives an embarassing .22% of GDP as aid (up from .12% in 2002). Sweden gives .9%.
posted by blahblahblah at 6:32 PM EST on August 29 [+] [!]


It's not embarrassing. We're not tithing. Look at the actual dollar figure, the US gives 9 times what sweden gives, and double what Japan (#2) gives.

And I note that China isn't even on the list. They have a $2.2 trillion GDP, and are growing at 10% per year. Any plans to contribute? Apparently ,they have money to burn on a space program, maybe they should pick up the slack a little.

And how about Russia? Considering the vast majority of defense spending in the last 50 years has been primarily to defend against them, and considering they invaded half of Europe, do they feel any obligation to contribute.

Oh, that's right. We sent them $737 million in aid.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:48 PM on August 29, 2006


Really? Thanks, I don't recall him. His email address was NBER, so I figured that was the primary relationship.

No problemo. I only know this because he's a really nice guy when he's in the library.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:12 PM on August 29, 2006


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