The Role of Trust in International Law

93 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2006

See all articles by Richard Bilder

Richard Bilder

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: 1981


This paper discusses: (1) how attitudes of trust and distrust affect nations' efforts to reach international agreement or other forms of international cooperation; (2) the factors that influence such attitudes of trust and distrust and how such attitudes can be changed; and (3) where distrust obstructs the reaching of international agreement, how such obstacles can be overcome.

The paper suggests that trust is a psychological device through which people, including diplomats and government officials, seek to manage the risks inherent in their cooperative and other interactions, including their international dealings. More specifically, the paper discusses the problem of risk in interpersonal and international relations, the concept of interpersonal and intergroup trust, the relevance of trust to the reaching of cooperation, an extensive survey of the factors which may affect trust or distrust, the interrelation of international law and trust, and hypotheses concerning the broader role of trust in international law and relations.

For the subsequent development of certain ideas in this paper, which is to be revised and updated, see RICHARD B. BILDER, MANAGING THE RISKS OF INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1981) and Richard B. Bilder, "Beyond Compliance: Helping Nations Cooperate" in D. SHELTON (ed). COMMITMENT AND COMPLIANCE: THE ROLE OF NONBINDING NORMS IN THE LEGAL SYSTEM (Oxford University Press, 2000), at p. 65.

Keywords: international law, international relations, international agreement, international cooperation, risk management, trust

JEL Classification: K33, C70, D78, D80, D81, D82

Suggested Citation

Bilder, Richard, The Role of Trust in International Law (1981). Available at SSRN: or

Richard Bilder (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

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