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January 8 Seminar: Jana von Stein

Jana von Stein will present, Making Promises, Keeping Promises: Ratification and Compliance in International Human Rights Law (The Case of the International Labor Organization Equal Remuneration Convention)

Leah Halvorson Email LeahHalvorson

 Many – if not most – human rights treaties specify no requirements for entry or punishments for non-compliance. If these treaties have no “teeth” of their own, why does anyone not sign? Why would anyone comply with the international legal commitment? I argue that a government’s decision to commit to a human rights regime that does not have “teeth” of its own depends on its expectation that the agreement’s stipulations will be enforced domestically. Democracies will ratify such treaties only when they know they will not be punished domestically – i.e., when they are engaging in compliant behavior. Non-democracies do not face the threat of domestic enforcement or punishment, and therefore the extent of compliant behavior will bear little relation to the decision to ratify. This also has important implications for subsequent treaty compliance. Democracies are more likely to keep their international promises – in large part because they only make promises they know they can keep. On the other hand, there is little reason to believe that ratification should improve the human rights practices of non-democracies. I explore these propositions empirically by examining ratification of and compliance with the International Labor Organization Equal Remuneration Convention. The statistical results should be regarded as preliminary, but for the most part lend support to the arguments developed herein.

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