Not Fully Committed? Reservations, Risk and Treaty Design

17 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2006

See all articles by Laurence R. Helfer

Laurence R. Helfer

Duke University School of Law; University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts


This Essay responds to Reserving, a forthcoming Article by Professor Edward T. Swaine to be published in the Yale Journal of International Law. The Essay first reviews the Article's explanation of the complex and often counterintuitive rules that govern the filing of unilateral reservations to multilateral treaties. It then offers three modest additions to Professor Swaine's insightful contribution to the growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship on treaty design. First, the Essay applies Swaine's theory of state interests and information to a dynamic model that takes account of temporal issues such as when states file reservations and how treaty commitments change over time. Second, it extends Reserving's analysis to the flexibility devices that states employ when they preclude reservations or bargain around the default rules in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Third, it considers the relationships between reservations and other treaty flexibility tools and explores the consequences of those relationships for managing the risks of international agreement.

Keywords: international law, treaties, reservations, rational choice

Suggested Citation

Helfer, Laurence R., Not Fully Committed? Reservations, Risk and Treaty Design. Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 31, p. 367, 2006; Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 06-04; Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 06-08. Available at SSRN:

Laurence R. Helfer (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

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Box 90360
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University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts ( email )

University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law
Karen Blixens Plads 16
Copenhagen S, DK-2300


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