Debating World Politics: The Liberal Turn in the United Nations and its Limits.

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Daniel Finke


Aarhus University


DKK 840,162




Monograph Fellowships


With the fall of the Berlin Wall, a truly liberal vision of world politics gained momentum. Under the concepts of "human security" and "human development", UN programs aim at empowering individuals thus bypassing their national governments. Recently however, an increasing number of states openly emphasize sovereignty over individual rights. Can the liberal vision of world politics succeed? The monograph answers this question by analyzing the debates at the UN General Assembly over the last 25 years. Specifically, it explains why governments have different positions on global politics. In doing so, it explores the relevance of regime type, institutions and ideologies. Moreover, the monograph analyzes the implications of positions revealed during UNGA debates for foreign policy actions.


Previous research has analyzed patterns of conflict in the UN General Assembly by studying observable voting behavior and co-authorship of UN resolutions. Over the last two years, we made a ground-breaking effort to analyze all speeches held before the UN General Assembly over the last 25 years. The resulting corpus includes more than 30,000 individual speeches with a total length of over 6 million words. Analyzing this data will offer a complete picture of the UN's agenda and member states' positions of key issues of global politics since the fall of the Berlin wall.


First, we will update and clean our data base on debates in the UN General Assembly. Next we will apply computer-assisted text analysis to the speeches. This method enables us to measure governments' changing priorities and positions on key issues of global politics. The monograph thus offers a unique opportunity to analyze this rich, complex, and nested data set. It will deliver the first data-based book to systematically study the changes of the UN agenda and states' foreign policy positions by applying computerized text analysis to UNGA speeches.

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