The Role of Previous Resolutions in the Practice of the Security Council

Niccolo Ridi, Lorenzo Gasbarri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


This Article focuses on one of the most ubiquitous and visible features of United Nations Security Council (U.N.S.C.) resolutions: the almost inescapable inclusion of a wealth of references to previous resolutions. We ground our study on a novel dataset of all 2,489 resolutions adopted by the U.N.S.C. from 1945 to 2019, and, with the employment of text-as-data computational analysis, we analyze the normative effects of recalling previous resolutions. After introducing this topic, reviewing the literature, and describing the potential of text-as-data approaches for the study of international organizations, we posit that references to previous resolutions have an impact both for interpretation and law-making. We highlight the implications for the interpretation of the U.N. Charter itself, showing the relevance of citations for revealing the content of subsequent practice and subsequent agreements. Our claim here is for a broader use of network analysis and the data we gathered to answer essential questions of United Nations law, such as the evolution of U.N.S.C.’s competences. Concerning law-making, we show the role of citing previous resolutions in the identification of established practice, asking whether competences not included in the U.N. Charter may have developed as a matter of established practice. We also offer normative conclusions concerning the limits of Security Council action by applying the notion of norm diffusion to the empirical data on the inclusion of human rights language in U.N.S.C. resolutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-640
Number of pages70
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2023


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