Christoph Mikulaschek — 2018 Merze Tate Award Recipient

The American Political Science Association (APSA) will present the Merze Tate Award to Dr. Christoph Mikulaschek at the 2018 APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition, the world’s largest gathering of political scientists and source for emerging scholarship in the discipline. The $750 award recognizes the best dissertation on international relations, law, and politics.

Christoph Mikulaschek is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Department of Government. His research interests focus on the political economy of international organizations and international security. His dissertation investigates how great powers engage in power-sharing in order to attain unanimity in international organizations, which enhances compliance and the signaling effect of these institutions. In a separate study Christoph leverages two original national surveys in Iraq to investigate Iraqi public attitudes toward ISIS, the Iraqi government, and U.S. airstrikes against ISIS. His research combines experiments and causal inference based on natural experiments with case studies that rely on elite interviews and participant-observation of closed-door negotiations. Christoph’s research has been published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution and the Review of International Organizations, and it is under review (R&Rs) in the American Journal of Political Science and International Organization. Christoph obtained a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton, a Masters in international affairs from Columbia, and undergraduate law degrees and certificates from the University of Vienna and the University Paris II.

Christoph Mikulaschek’s excellent dissertation “The Power of the Weak: How Informal Power-Sharing Shapes the Work of the United Nations Security Council” taps into important questions in international relations theory. To what extent can minor states constrain great powers? Do institutional norms and rules matter in shaping state behavior? The dissertation cuts innovatively into these broad questions by calling our attention to the divergence between formal rules and informal practices at the UN Security Council. Whereas the formal rules favor the great powers and require only narrow majorities to pass UNSC resolutions, in practice the great powers often pursue unanimity, particularly when seeking approval for controversial and resource-intensive interventions. This and other informal power-sharing practices enable minor powers to exert more influence on UNSC decisions than they could if the formal rules and/or the balance of material power between member states determined the outcome. Why do great powers make significant concessions to secure the formally-unneeded votes of weaker states? Mikulaschek insightfully explains that they do so because unanimity provides states with a strong signal they can use domestically to mobilize resources for implementing the UNSC’s policy. To support his argument, Mikulaschek combines sophisticated quantitative analyses with rich qualitative accounts that betray intimate familiarity with the inner workings of the Council. The dissertation is meticulously-researched and extremely well-written. It makes a significant original contribution to the study of international organizations and, more broadly, the dynamics of power in world politics.