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Wikileaks Data and the UN Security Council

- November 29, 2010

Like “Charli Carpenter”:http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2010/11/diplomatic-shockers, I was a bit surprised by the topic areas most frequently discussed in the cables released in the latest Wikileaks dump. Aside from the very general and somewhat non-descript categories (e.g. “external political relations,” “economic conditions”), “human rights” leads “terrorism” before “UN Security Council” as the most frequent substantive topics of the cables.


Well, thanks to the phenomenal “Guardian datablog”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/nov/29/wikileaks-cables-data, you can download the key data in csv format. I did just that and created the graph above, which depicts the daily number of cables sent about the UN Security Council in the post-2006 period (for which the daily number of cables in the data is relatively constant). My first hunch was that elections for non-permanent membership would generate unusual amounts of lobbying. At first glance, this seems to only modestly increase traffic, aside from the unusual 2006 election in which Venezuela was defeated after 47 rounds of voting. Most of the spikes in communications occur around the substantive resolutions, such as the May 2008 compromise on Lebanon.

Obviously, one could delve much deeper into all of this. The data also include the sources and targets of communications, although the Guardian has not published the content of the cables other than a selective analysis (rightly, in my view) . While I share some of “Drew Conway’s reservations”:http://www.drewconway.com/zia/?p=2537, this type of data is exceptionally rare and could prove quite useful for researchers. A big reservation is that we do not have all cables sent in a given period nor do we know much about how the sample was drawn. I leave the deeper delving to others for the moment as I have classes to teach and meetings to attend.