Precedent and doctrine in organisational decision-making: the power of informal institutional rules in the United Nations Security Council’s activities on terrorism

Thomas Gehring, Christian Dorsch, Thomas Dörfler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examine how and under what conditions informal institutional constraints, such as precedent and doctrine, are likely to affect collective choice within international organisations even in the absence of powerful bureaucratic agents. With a particular focus on the United Nations Security Council, we first develop a theoretical account of why such informal constraints might affect collective decisions even of powerful and strategically behaving actors. We show that precedents provide focal points that allow adopting collective decisions in coordination situations despite diverging preferences. Reliance on previous cases creates tacitly evolving doctrine that may develop incrementally. Council decision-making is also likely to be facilitated by an institutional logic of escalation driven by institutional constraints following from the typically staged response to crisis situations. We explore the usefulness of our theoretical argument with evidence from the Council doctrine on terrorism that has evolved since 1985. The key decisions studied include the 1992 sanctions resolution against Libya and the 2001 Council response to the 9/11 attacks. We conclude that, even within intergovernmentally structured international organisations, member states do not operate on a clean slate, but in a highly institutionalised environment that shapes their opportunities for action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-135
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 13 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Security Council
  • decision-making
  • doctrine
  • international organisations
  • precedent
  • terrorism

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Precedent and doctrine in organisational decision-making: the power of informal institutional rules in the United Nations Security Council’s activities on terrorism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this