Is There a 'Depth Versus Participation' Dilemma in International Cooperation?

Review of International Organizations 8/4: 477–497.

Posted: 5 Dec 2017 Last revised: 12 Dec 2017

See all articles by Thomas Bernauer

Thomas Bernauer

ETH Zurich

Anna Kalbhenn

European Central Bank (ECB)

Vally Koubi

University of Bern - Department of Economics

Gabriele Spilker

ETH Zurich - Center for Comparative and International Studies

Date Written: February 21, 2013

Abstract

Much of the International Relations literature assumes that there is a “depth versus participation” dilemma in international politics: shallower international agreements attract more countries and greater depth is associated with less participation. We argue that this conjecture is too simple and probably misleading because the depth of any given cooperative effort is in fact multidimensional. This multidimensionality manifests itself in the design characteristics of international agreements: in particular, the specificity of obligations, monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, dispute settlement mechanisms, positive incentives (assistance), and organizational structures (secretariats). We theorize that the first three of these design characteristics have negative and the latter three have positive effects on participation in international cooperative efforts. Our empirical testing of these claims relies on a dataset that covers more than 200 global environmental treaties. We find a participation-limiting effect for the specificity of obligations, but not for monitoring and enforcement. In contrast, we observe that assistance provisions in treaties have a significant and substantial positive effect on participation. Similarly, dispute settlement mechanisms tend to promote treaty participation. The main implication of our study is that countries do not appear to stay away from agreements with monitoring and enforcement provisions, but that the inclusion of positive incentives and dispute settlement mechanisms can promote international cooperation. In other words, our findings suggest that policymakers do not necessarily need to water down global treaties in order to obtain more participation.

Keywords: Treaty design characteristics, International environmental agreements

Suggested Citation

Bernauer, Thomas and Kalbhenn, Anna and Koubi, Vally and Spilker, Gabriele, Is There a 'Depth Versus Participation' Dilemma in International Cooperation? (February 21, 2013). Review of International Organizations 8/4: 477–497.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3080295

Thomas Bernauer (Contact Author)

ETH Zurich ( email )

Center for Comparative and International Studies
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Zurich 8092, 8092
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HOME PAGE: http://www.ib.ethz.ch

Anna Kalbhenn

European Central Bank (ECB) ( email )

Sonnemannstrasse 22
Frankfurt am Main, 60314
Germany

Vally Koubi

University of Bern - Department of Economics ( email )

Schanzeneckstrasse 1
Bern, CH-3001
Switzerland

Gabriele Spilker

ETH Zurich - Center for Comparative and International Studies ( email )

Haldeneggsteig 4
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

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