Who Cares About International Human Rights? The Supply and Demand of International Human Rights Law
23 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 30, 2011
Especially in circumstances of great asymmetry, international law can usefully be understood in terms of supply and demand, which highlights the costs and benefits to both the demanding state and the responding state. Human rights protection will often have this asymmetric character as between liberal democratic states and authoritarian states. It is not immediately obvious why liberal democratic states care about human rights in authoritarian states, but this article provides a taxonomy of bases for concern. It is also not immediately obvious why authoritarian states would enter into human rights treaties that constrain their actions. While they may have domestic reasons to use international law to “lock-in” certain behaviors, assuming that international law serves this purpose, or to signal to either external audiences or internal audiences what type they are, these types of reasons seem less plausible and general than a simpler exchange-based model under which other states provide some valuable consideration or refrain from taking harmful action in exchange for human rights protection. International law can serve as a tool for exchange of consideration - for reciprocal and linked exchange - that disrupts existing political equilibria, allowing a superior political outcome for each state under asymmetry. International law may also address the collective action problem that may arise among liberal democratic states as they determine how to share the costs of inducing authoritarian states to protect human rights.
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