Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Jeff Keuss

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Ruth Ediger

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Bradley Jensen Murg


United Nations, Security Council, Path Dependence, Institutional Reform


This paper explores United Nations Security Council reform from a historical perspective. Using the concept of path dependence, the paper shows how features put in place at the Security Council’s formation have limited options for reform in the present. The Security Council’s concert of power model, separation from the General Assembly, distinction of membership types, and high barrier for change serve as mechanisms of path dependence. These features resulted from the Security Council’s formation during WWII in the wake of the failed League of Nations. The inability of current reform movements to bring about change illustrates the Security Council’s continued institutional resilience. In light of this, possible outcomes for the Security Council include partial reform of the body or full or partial replacement by another institution. Institutional resilience makes a massive overhaul of the Security Council’s structure unlikely, and keeps power in the hands of the body’s five permanent members. Through its analysis, the paper demonstrates how understanding the influence of historical factors can provide a useful framework for interpreting current issues in international organization.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Program


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