Do Human Rights Treaty Obligations Matter?
43 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 12 Aug 2019
Date Written: May 2, 2019
Why do some human rights treaties receive rapid and near universal commitment from states while others take decades for the majority of states to ratify? Little scholarship to date has analyzed the effects of treaty design, in particular, the substance of treaty obligations, on the likelihood of ratification. We analyze new data that code every provision of ten global human rights treaties for the strength and precision of the obligations they contain. We classify obligations that are strong, precise, and that require domestic action as “demanding.” We hypothesize that treaties containing more of these demanding obligations would be seen as more costly to ratify because they imply potentially greater policy adaptation or compliance costs. Event history analyses are consistent with that hypothesis. The addition of 15 demanding treaty obligations decreases the likelihood of ratification by nearly 20 percent, similar to the effect of moving from democracy to autocracy. This effect is consistent when controlling for various treaty, state, and global level factors that may also influence a state’s decision to ratify.
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