Human Rights Institutions, Sovereignty Costs, and Democratization
British Journal of Political Science, 45, 1–27
27 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 26 Jan 2018
Date Written: 2013
Why do countries join international human rights institutions, when membership often yields few material gains and constrains state sovereignty? We argue that entering a human rights institution can yield substantial benefits for democratizing states. Emerging democracies can use the “sovereignty costs” associated with membership to lock in liberal policies and signal their intent to consolidate democracy. We also argue, however, that the magnitude of these costs varies across different human rights institutions, which include both treaties and international organizations. Consistent with this argument, we find that democratizing states tend to join those human rights institutions that impose greater constraints on state sovereignty.
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