ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Resisting Easy Commitment: Why States Refuse to Join International Institutions With Minimal Sovereignty Costs

Alexandros Tokhi
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Tim Gemkow
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Alexandros Tokhi
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Open Panel

Abstract

Conventional wisdom holds that the less an international institution interferes with state policies, the more likely is a state’s commitment to this international agreement. We suggest that this argument is at best incomplete by drawing on domestic politics approaches in International Relations and comparative politics. We observe that some states resist ratifying international treaties although these represent easy commitments with marginal costs in terms of implementation requirements or policy change for them. Moreover, their accession might induce other states to commit as well for whom the commitment may be more meaningful and substantial. States resisting easy commitments thus forego opportunities to constrain others’ behavior at minimal costs. We argue, first, that resisting easy commitments is often the result of an executive’s policy concessions toward powerful domestic constituencies that consider government policies as being too conciliatory towards foreign states. Selective treaty non-accession can then serve as a device to alleviate the opposition of domestic interest groups toward other international commitments. Second, non-ratification can be a bargaining chip vis-à-vis other states in linkages across international regimes. We illustrate these mechanisms by demonstrating their relevance in two widely disparate scenarios: Egyptian non-accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and US American resistance to joining the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Finding similar mechanisms and outcomes in spite of the variation across regime type and policy issues strengthens the plausibility of our approach.