Veto Players and Conditional Commitment to U.N. Human Rights Agreements
27 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 26 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 25, 2011
Why do states conditionally commit to multilateral human rights agreements through the use of treaty reservations? Despite continued attention to this question, the extant theoretical explanations – which often focus on cultural and normative concerns – remain unsatisfactory and incomplete. We propose and test a new systematic explanation for conditional commitments by turning to theories of veto players and policy change. Attaching reservations to multilateral treaties allows states to resolve disagreements between veto players and make ratification more likely. As the number of veto players increases, the likelihood of disagreement over proposed policy change also in- creases. To test this theory, we use data from the U.N. Treaty Series on reservations attached to the 15 treaties that constitute the body of United Nations human rights agreements from 1965-2008. Employing two separate measures of political constraints, we find that an increase in the number of veto players results in states attaching more reservations to human rights treaties. Additionally, we find little systematic support for competing hypotheses drawn from the international law literature that focus on normative, sociological, and/or cultural explanations. These results are robust across a variety of modeling specifications.
Keywords: veto players, human rights, treaties, international relations
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