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May 9, 2007

World Public Favors New Powers for the UN

Most Support Standing UN Peacekeeping Force, UN Regulation of International Arms Trade

Majorities Say UN Should Have Right to Authorize Military Force to Stop Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Genocide

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a roundtable discussion to present the results of the seventh in a series of reports based on a poll of worldwide opinion on key global issues. The report was devoted to the United Nations’ role in world affairs. The meeting brought together citizens, members of leading think tanks, analysts, and media representatives.

ACNIS director of research Stepan Safarian delivered opening remarks. “According to the results of the international survey, the world public greatly favors giving the UN greater powers of intervention to prevent and handle global crises,” he said. “The opinions of Armenian respondents also reflect this international attitude. This can partly be explained by the fact that Armenia is located in a volatile region and face many security challenges.” ACNIS analyst Syuzanna Barseghian then presented survey results.

Publics around the world favor dramatic steps to strengthen the United Nations, including giving it the power to have its own standing peacekeeping force, to regulate the international arms trade and to investigate human rights abuses. 

Large majorities believe the United Nations Security Council should have the right to authorize military force to prevent nuclear proliferation, genocide and terrorism.  However support is not as robust among the publics polled for accepting UN decisions that go against their countries’ preferences.

These are some of the findings from a survey conducted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and WorldPublicOpinion.org, in cooperation with polling organizations around the world.  Respondents were interviewed in countries that represent 56 percent of the world’s population:  China, India, the United States, Russia, France, Thailand, Ukraine, Poland, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Peru, Armenia and Israel, plus the Palestinian territories.  Not all questions were asked in all countries.

The idea of “having a standing UN peacekeeping force selected, trained and commanded by the United Nations” gets support from majorities in 12 of the 14 countries asked (64% on average).  Peru is the most enthusiastic (77%), followed by Armenia (75%), France (74%), Thailand (73%), and the United States (72%).  In none of the countries polled do most respondents oppose this idea, though views are divided in the Philippines.

Support for “giving the UN the power to regulate the international arms trade” is also supported by majorities or pluralities in 12 of the 14 countries (55% on average).  France shows the greatest support (77%), followed by South Korea (75%), Israel (60%) and the United States (60%).  Only two publics tend to reject the idea:  Filipinos (58% say no) and Argentines (42% negative, 36% positive). 

Giving the UN authority “to investigate violations of human rights” receives very high levels of support (64% overall). Overwhelming majorities favor this idea in France (92%), the United States (75%), Peru (75%), and South Korea (74%).  No country is opposed, though Filipinos are divided.

“Despite well-publicized disagreements over the role of the United Nations in world affairs, this survey clearly shows that international public opinion has coalesced around the notion that the UN should be the vehicle for conflict resolution and international cooperation on a wide variety of pressing problems,” said Christopher Whitney, executive director for studies at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Steven Kull, editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org, adds, “While leaders of nation states may be wary of giving the United Nations more power it is clear that publics around the world are comfortable with the idea of a stronger UN,” Kull said.

Even the idea of giving the UN authority to fund its activities through a tax on the international sale of arms or oil is supported by nine of the 14 countries polled, though support is more moderate (on average 46% in favor to 37% opposed).   Among Americans, though, only 45 percent favor the idea, while 50 percent are opposed.

The poll also finds support for giving the UN Security Council the right to authorize the use of military force to address a wide range of problems.  Not surprisingly, using military force to “defend a country that has been attacked” is strongly supported.  In all countries polled, large majorities, ranging from 84 percent in France to 66 percent in India, believe the Security Council should have this right.

Clear majorities in 10 countries polled also favor a more controversial option of giving the Security Council the right to authorize the use of military force “to stop a country from supporting terrorist groups.”  Palestinians and South Koreans are the least supportive (61% each) while the most supportive are the Israelis (85%) and the French (84%).  Average support for this idea is 71 percent.

Publics show very strong support for allowing the UN Security Council to use military force to “prevent severe human rights violations such as genocide.” Very large majorities in all 12 countries polled on this issue agree that the Security Council should have the right to use force in such cases.  Majorities or pluralities in 12 countries go further and say the United Nations has the responsibility to use force to stop such abuses.

Interestingly, the Chinese (76%) show the strongest support for the idea that the UN has a responsibility to halt genocide, followed by Americans (74%) and Palestinians (69%).

Support is more modest for using collective force to stop nuclear proliferation. In eight out of 11 countries polled, the most common view is that the UN should have the right to use force to prevent countries from acquiring nuclear weapons.  But on average just 53 percent favor this option.  These results are particularly relevant to the international controversy over Iran’s decision to continue enriching uranium in defiance of the UN Security Council.

There is less enthusiasm about submitting to UN decisions even if this means going along with policies that are not a country’s first choice.  Ten of the 16 publics asked about this say that their country should do so, but only four of these are a clear majority, while six are pluralities.

For details, please see www.thechicagocouncil.org or www.worldpublicopinion.org.  WorldPublicOpinion.org is a publication of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. For the Armenian version, visit www.acnis.am.



Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2006, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, democratic development, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am ; or visit www.acnis.am.

Related Links

The Armenian version of the press release:

Armenian version

Full Report (PDF-format, 246 KBytes)

Questionnaire ( PDF-format, 157 KBytes)

Methodology/Research Partners ( PDF-format, 95 KBytes)

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