International political borders have historically performed one overriding function: the delimitation of a state’s territorial jurisdiction, but today they are sites of intense security scrutiny and law enforcement. Traditionally, they were created to secure peace through the territorial independence of political units. Today borders face new pressures from heightened human mobility, economic interdependence (legal and illicit), and perceived challenges from a host of nonstate threats. Research has only begun to reveal what some of these changes mean for the governance of interstate borders. The problems surrounding international borders today go well beyond traditional delineation and delimitation. These problems call for active forms of governance to manage human mobility and interdependence. However, human rights norms sometimes rest uneasily alongside unilateral border governance. A research agenda that documents and explains new border developments, and critically assesses emerging rules and practices in light of international human rights, is an essential direction for international studies research.
International regulatory agreements depend largely on self-reporting for implementation, yet we know almost nothing about whether or how such mechanisms work. We theorize that self-reporting processes provide information for domestic constituencies, with the potential to create pressure for better compliance. Using original data on state reports submitted to the Committee Against Torture, we demonstrate the influence of this process on the pervasiveness of torture and inhumane treatment. We illustrate the power of self-reporting regimes to mobilize domestic politics through evidence of civil society participation in shadow reporting, media attention, and legislative activity around anti-torture law and practice. This is the first study to evaluate systematically the effects of self-reporting in the context of a treaty regime on human rights outcomes. Since many international agreements rely predominantly on self-reporting, the results have broad significance for compliance with international regulatory regimes globally.
The proliferation of Global Performance Indicators (GPIs), especially those that rate and rank states against one another, shapes decisions of states, investors, bureaucrats, and voters. This power has not been lost on the World Bank, which has marshaled the Ease of Doing Business (EDB) index to amass surprising influence over global regulatory policies – a domain over which it has no explicit mandate and for which there is ideological contestation. This paper demonstrates how the World Bank’s EDB ranking system affects policy through bureaucratic, transnational, and domestic-political channels. We use observational and experimental data to show that states respond to being publicly ranked and make reforms strategically to improve their ranking. A survey experiment of professional investors demonstrates that the EDB ranking shapes investor perceptions of investment opportunities. Qualitative evidence from India’s interagency EDB effort show how these mechanisms shape domestic politics and policy in the world’s second-largest largest emerging economy.
In recent decades, IGOs, NGOs, private firms and even states have begun to regularly package and distribute information on the relative performance of states. From the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index to the Financial Action Task Force blacklist, Global Performance Indicators (GPIs) are increasingly deployed to influence governance globally. We argue that GPIs derive influence from their ability to frame issues, extend the authority of the creator, and — most importantly — to invoke recurrent comparison that stimulate governments' concerns for their own and their country's reputation. Their public and ongoing ratings and rankings of states are particularly adept at capturing attention not only at elite policy levels but also among other domestic and transnational actors. GPIs thus raise new questions for research on politics and governance globally. What are the social and political effects of this form of information on discourse, policies and behavior? What types of actors can effectively wield GPIs and on what types of issues? In this symposium introduction, we define GPIs, describe their rise, and theorize and discuss these questions in light of the findings of the symposium contributions.
One way to tell if an international norm is robust is to assess the breadth of its support from a wide variety of important actors. We argue that, to assess norm robustness, we should look at the general beliefs, rhetorical support, and actions of both primary and secondary norm addressees (states and nonstate actors) at various levels: international, regional, domestic, and local. By way of example, we evaluate the robustness of international criminal law (ICL) norms by looking at the rhetoric and actions of a diverse set of international actors, including not only states and intergovernmental organizations but also ordinary publics, rebel groups, and nongovernmental organizations. Assessing evidence of norms beyond states leads us to conclude that the core ICL norms are robust, but their practical and institutional applicability are still contested. Contestation over applicability is important, and there are hints that it is growing, at least among some key actors, suggesting the possibility of ICL norm decay.
The past few decades have seen the proliferation of new laws criminalizing certain transnational activities, from money laundering to corruption; from insider trading to trafficking in weapons and drugs. Human trafficking is one example. We argue criminalization of trafficking in persons has diffused in large part because of the way the issue has been framed: primarily as a problem of organized crime rather than predominantly an egregious human rights abuse. Framing human trafficking as an organized crime practice empowers states to confront cross border human movements viewed as potentially threatening. We show that the diffusion of criminalization is explained by road networks that reflect potential vulnerabilities to the diversion of transnational crime. We interpret our results as evidence of the importance of context and issue framing, which in turn affects perceptions of vulnerability to neighbors’ policy choices. In doing so, we unify diffusion studies of liberalization with the spread of prohibition regimes to explain the globalization of aspects of criminal law.
International human rights law has attracted a barrage of criticism over the past decade or more. One critique views international human rights law as useless and argues that it has not managed to improve enjoyment of the rights it has set out to protect. Another critique goes further: it blames the legalization of international human rights norms for a series of negative outcomes, from the neglect of development to a crisis in the realization of social rights. Some even suggest that international legal obligations are to blame for the channeling of repressive tactics from areas that are clearly foreclosed by law to gray areas where rules are less clear.
These are important claims, because if true, they suggest that even if human rights treaties have improved some rights, the consequences might, on balance, be deleterious. If that is the case, we should rethink the strategy of legalizing human rights principles in formal agreements. But if these claims are wrong, they could undermine a global effort to improve the well-being of millions of people worldwide. Among liberal rights supporters, these claims, if correct, may reduce support for an international legal approach to human rights. Moreover, a vague belief that human rights norms have caused harm around the world adds fuel to an even more fundamental challenge: the “end times” of human rights that all governments should respect, and a concession to various religious entities, from the most humanitarian to the most brutal, to claim an unchecked moral authority to define and enforce, in any way they see fit, their own views of human rights and human wrongs.1 We leave it to another paper to document the disastrous consequences for human well- being if either state or religious authority (or their combination) create alternatives to international human rights law that non-believers and non- nationals have no right to question.
We argue that claims that international human rights law has had negative effects simply cannot be substantiated with evidence. We agree such law has not had positive effects everywhere, though the evidence of positive effects on average is quite strong. But claims of harm as a result of human rights law are utterly apocryphal. Even if, as the critics of international human rights law graciously admit, the glass is only “half-full,”2 harms claims rest on weak logic and no evidence.
In this chapter, we provide an empirical review that might plausibly speak to these claims. This is no easy task, because to answer fully and properly would require a series of counterfactuals about the world with- out international human rights law. Nor are the claims of the critics always articulated in ways that are amenable to empirical investigation. We think that an attempt to confront harms claims should address the following: Has the attention to human rights – especially those defined in the major treaties that seem to be favored by the Western World – diverted attention from more important matters, such as economic development or social justice? Have rights obligations in certain areas simply driven repression further underground, where it is harder to observe? We find there is practically no evidence that would justify answering these questions affirmatively. These issues are important because inter- national human rights law is undergoing a profound challenge. Stephen Hopgood, for example, claims that the international legal system is cracking under pressure by sovereign governments who claim it does not bind, and by resurgent religious organizations that claim it has lost – or never had – the moral authority to describe a set of universal rights in the first place.3 The very legitimacy of the system seems to be under siege.
This chapter proceeds as follows. The first section outlines some of the claims in the literature about the deleterious consequences assumed to be associated with the postwar “obsession” with international human rights. We describe three claims about the net consequences of such attention. First, some commentators have suggested that when governments com- ply with one obligation (e.g., the rights contained in the ICCPR), they strategically and intentionally violate other rights (e.g., engage in disappearances of political opponents). Second, some commentators claim that attention to human rights has crowded out attention to economic well-being through economic development. Third, some claim that individual civil and political rights have crowded out attention to social rights, such as a right to be educated, a right to health, and a host of labor rights. All of these claims go beyond the observation that human rights are often involved in political and policy trade-offs and thus are rarely perfectly realized. Rather, these critiques suggest that the legal regime has done net harm. Such musings have never been seriously tested with data and sound methods.
The second section of this chapter searches high and low for empirical evidence of a dark side – i.e., of net harms of international human rights law. This is a real challenge, not least because many such claims are not articulated precisely enough to be tested with evidence. Nonetheless, we have attempted here to collect evidence relevant to the thrust of the above critiques. The third section presents some simple findings. We find no credible evidence that attention to and compliance with international human rights law is causally connected with any of the negative consequences advanced by its critics. This null finding has huge implications for policy going forward. It suggests that while human rights are obviously never easy to realize in full, international human rights law is not responsible for the series of bad outcomes critics have claimed. In conjunction with other research pointing to systematic improvements in the rights international law has sought to protect,4 we argue that many detractors have been far off base. Governments may claim they cannot possibly achieve economic development or social rights and live up to their human rights obligations at the same time, and a few may strategically alter their repressive behavior to keep within the letter of the law, but, on average, there is no evidence that human rights law has forced, or even encouraged, such consequences.
Whether and how violence can be controlled to spare innocent lives is a central issue in international relations. The most ambitious effort to date has been the International Criminal Court (ICC), designed to enhance security and safety by preventing egregious human rights abuses and deterring international crimes. We offer the first systematic assessment of the ICC’s deterrent effects for both state and nonstate actors. Although no institution can deter all actors, the ICC can deter some governments and those rebel groups that seek legitimacy. We find support for this conditional impact of the ICC cross-nationally. Our work has implications for the study of international relations and institutions, and supports the violence-reducing role of pursuing justice in international affairs.
How does transnational legal order emerge, develop, and solidify? This chapter focuses on how and why actors come to define an issue as one requiring transnational legal intervention of a specific kind. Specifically, we focus on how and why states have increasingly constructed and acceded to international legal norms relating to human trafficking. Empirically, human trafficking has been on the international and transnational agenda for nearly a century. However, relatively recently – and fairly swiftly in the 2000s – governments have committed themselves to criminalizing human trafficking in international, as well as regional and domestic, law. Our chapter tries to explain this process of norm convergence. We hypothesize that swift convergence on norms against human trafficking and on a particular legal solution – criminalization – is the result of a specific set of conditions related to globalization and the collapse of the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. We argue that a broad coalition of states had much to gain by choosing a prosecutorial model over one that makes human rights or victim protection its top priority. We explore the framing of human trafficking through computerized textual analysis of United Nations resolutions – the central forum for debates over the nature of human trafficking and what to do about it. We look for evidence of how the framing of human trafficking has shifted over time, and of how the normative pressure as reflected in these documents has waxed and waned. We will argue that a binding legal instrument became possible because of the normative convergence solidified by linking human trafficking to transnational crime more generally.
Among the explanations for state ratification of human rights treaties, few are more common and widely accepted than the conjecture that states are rewarded for ratification by other states. These rewards are expected to come in the form of tangible benefits—foreign aid, trade, and investment—and intangible benefits such as praise, acceptance, and legitimacy. Surprisingly, these explanations for ratification have never been tested empirically. We summarize and clarify the theoretical underpinnings of “reward-for-ratification” theories and test these propositions empirically by looking for increased international aid, economic agreements, and public praise and recognition following ratification of four prominent human rights treaties. We find almost no evidence that states can expect increased tangible or intangible rewards after ratification. Given the lack of empirical support, alternative explanations seem more appealing for understanding human rights treaty ratification.
The ability to monitor state behavior has become a critical tool of international governance. Systematic monitoring allows for the creation of numerical indicators that can be used to rank, compare and essentially censure states. This article argues that the ability to disseminate such numerical indicators widely and instantly constitutes an exercise of social power, with the potential to change important policy outputs. It explores this argument in the context of the United States’ efforts to combat trafficking in persons and find evidence that monitoring has important effects: countries are more likely to criminalize human trafficking when they are included in the US annual Trafficking in Persons Report, while countries that are placed on a “watch list” are also more likely to criminalize. These findings have broad implications for international governance and the exercise of soft power in the global information age.
This article examines the process of consensus formation by the international community regarding how to confront the problem of trafficking in persons. We analyze the corpus of United Nations General Assembly Third Committee resolutions to show that: (1) consensus around the issue of how to confront trafficking in persons has increased over time; and (2) the formation of this consensus depends upon how the issue is framed. We test our argument by examining the characteristics of resolutions’ sponsors and discursive framing concepts such as crime, human rights, and the strength of enforcement language. We conclude that the consensus-formation process in international relations is more aptly described as one of ‘accommodation’ through issue linkage than a process of persuasion.
The core international human rights treaty bodies play an important role in monitoring implementation of human rights standards through consideration of states parties' reports. Yet very little research explores how seriously governments take their reporting obligations. This article examines the reporting record of parties to the Convention against Torture, finding that report submission is heavily conditioned by the practices of neighboring countries and by a government's human rights commitment and institutional capacity. This article also introduces original data on the quality and responsiveness of reports, finding that more democratic-and particularly newly democratic-governments tend to render higher quality reports.
International investment agreements (IIAs) are the primary legal instruments designed to protect and encourage foreign direct investment world-wide. This article argues that Asian countries have used IIAs just as much as have other regions of the world to attract foreign direct investment, but that their pattern of agreement provisions is somewhat distinctive. States in East and Southeast Asia have tended to enter into agreements that strike a balance somewhat more favorable to host states than to foreign firms, at least when compared to the rest of the world. This may be due to high growth in the region, which tends to strengthen host states’ bargaining power, and the availability of a wider range of macroeconomic tools available to many governments in the region to stimulate growth. A better bargaining position leads to less constraining IIAs, which may in turn help to account for the relative dearth of investment disputes involving East and Southeast Asian states, since weaker protections give foreign investors slimmer grounds to dispute their treatment. There is some evidence, however, that the terms of Asian IIAs are beginning to converge with investment agreements elsewhere in the world.
The regime for international investment is extraordinary in public international law and controversial in many regions of the world. This article explores two aspects of this set of rules: its decentralization and the unusual powers it gives to private actors to invoke dispute settlement. Decentralization has contributed to a competitive environment for ratification of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and has elevated the importance of dyadic bargaining power in the formation of the regime. Governments of developing countries are more likely to enter into BITs and tie their hands more tightly when they are in a weak bargaining position, which in turn is associated with economic downtowns of the domestic economy. Once committed, investors have sued governments with surprising regularity, arguably contributing disproportionately to legal awards that favor the private corporate actors who have the power to convene the dispute settlement system. One of the conclusions is that it is important not only to consider whether BITs attract capital - which hs been the focus of nearly all the empirical research on BIT effects - but also to investigate the governance consequences of the international investment regime generally.
This Article examines the adoption of rights in national constitutions in the post-World War II period in light of claims of global convergence. Using a comprehensive database on the contents of the world's constitutions, we observe a qualified convergence on the content of rights. Nearly every single right has increased in prevalence since its introduction, but very few are close to universal. We show that international rights documents, starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, have shaped the rights menu of national constitutions in powerful ways. These covenants appear to coordinate the behavior of domestic drafters, whether or not the drafters' countries are legally committed to the agreements (though commitment enhances the effect). Our particular focus is on the all-important International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whose ratification inclines countries towards rights they, apparently, would not otherwise adopt. This finding confirms the complementary relationship between treaty ratification and domestic constitutional norms, and suggests that one important channel of treaty efficacy may be through domestic constitutions.