Bribery at the UN

The United Nation’s Security Council has 5 permanent members and 10 non-permanent members, the latter are elected from regional groups and serve two year terms.  Yesterday Eric Werker presented a fun paper at GMU showing that US foreign aid increases dramatically to countries elected to the Security Council.

    The result isn’t that surprising but Werker did a good job of ruling out explanations other than bribery.  Foreign aid, for example, increases just as a country joins the council and drops just at it leaves.  Foreign aid also increases especially dramatically in important years, as measured by the number of New York Times stories involving the council.  Perhaps most interestingly, although US foreign aid is larger for democracies than for autocracies on average, autocracies get bigger increases in aid when they join the council.  The result makes a lot of sense.  Autocracts can sell their votes more easily than democratically elected leaders (no domestic constituencies to worry about) and transactions costs are lower – the aid goes directly to the vote seller.