Academic report

Co-Sponsorship, Note Verbale, and Association Behaviour at the Unga: An Analysis of the Death Penalty Moratorium Resolutions

By Daniel Pascoe & Sangmin Bae, on 22 April 2021


Since December 2007, seven resolutions in favour of a universal moratorium on death penalty executions have been adopted by the UN General Assembly. In an earlier paper (Pascoe and Bae 2020) we examined UN member states’ voting patterns over these seven resolutions, asking why some countries vote in a manner seemingly contradictory to their domestic death penalty practices. With a slightly different focus, we now further explore idiosyncratic state behaviour, this time through an analysis of co-sponsorship and the note verbale of dissociation. Our assumption is that states which plan to vote ‘yes’ in the plenary will also co-sponsor the resolution beforehand. We also presume that states which vote ‘no’ in the plenary will sign the note verbale invariably circulated several months later, as a further means of condemnation.

However, when it comes to the moratorium resolutions, not all member states fit into either of these binary categories. Many countries situate themselves in between the two groups of ‘genuine’ supporters and opponents. These countries in the middle evince inconsistency between their plenary votes and what we term their ‘association behaviour’ before or after the plenary, consisting of co-sponsorship and adherence to the note verbale. This paper analyses these groups of countries to determine the underlying causes for their ambivalent, or even contradictory, positions concerning the moratorium resolutions. The findings of this research stand to enrich not only the academic literature on international organizations, but also to inform the campaigning efforts of abolitionist UN member states and non-governmental organizations.

  • Document type Academic report
  • Themes list Moratorium