Papers in Progress
“Human Rights Triage: Do Human Rights INGOs Advocate Where They Are Most Effective?”
Why do international human rights nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) ignore certain causes, countries, and victims and prioritize others? Plausibly, human rights INGOs advocate where they are most effective. They gain authority and legitimacy not by dumping all of their resources into lost causes, but by prioritizing causes, countries, and victims where they are more likely to be effective. At first glance, the lost cause hypothesis is intuitive and plausible. However, the evidence suggests a surprising result: human rights INGOs do not appear to make effectiveness their key objective, which implies that an interest in maximizing effectiveness is not the key determinant influencing their de facto triage. I develop many specific observable implications based on the assumption that effectiveness is the key objective. I then evaluate these implications against the empirical record, examining whether human rights INGOs systematically monitor their own effectiveness, whether external or internal accountability standards hold them to being effective, whether charity rating agencies grade human rights INGOs based on effectiveness criteria, whether their donors make charitable giving decisions based on a consideration of the charity’s effectiveness, and whether human rights INGOs prioritize cause areas that have been demonstrated by experimental studies to be the most cost-effective. I systematically find a lack of support for the claim that effectiveness is a key objective for human rights INGOs. This finding raises important questions for scholars of human rights INGOs. If effectiveness is not their key objective, then what is? Is human rights advocacy the most effective route to advancing human well-being?
“Human Rights Treaty Obligations and State Commitment” with Wayne Sandholtz
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? Research on human rights treaty commitment analyzes the costs of ratifying treaties in terms of regime type and other state-level attributes. But 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.
"Conquering Alone: Rent Addiction and Territorial Conquest" with Christopher J. Fariss, Benjamin A.T. Graham, and Jonathan Markowitz
What determines states’ foreign policy goals and military objectives? We argue that regime type and land-rent dependence conditions states’ war aims. Autocracies, especially those who are dependent on territory for rents, have a stronger interest in seeking control over territory. We develop a novel measure of land-rent dependence, with 200 years of data coverage, to evaluate the empirical linkages between land-dependence, regime type, and war aims. After estimating numerous models with alternative specifications, we find robust support that land rent-dependent autocracies are more likely to project power to take territory. The global reduction in land rent-dependent economies offers an explanation for the decline in the frequency of territorial conflicts since the end of World War II.
"The Role of NGOs in Drafting Human Rights Treaties: Imprecision or Socialization?" with Barbara Koremenos
The Continent of International Law (Koremenos 2016) assumes a strategic bargaining model between states during treaty negotiation. One finding is that states use imprecise language to solve severe distribution problems when trying to codify and export norms. However, in the human rights context, NGOs are often closely involved in negotiations, sometimes even drafting the initial treaties. How does the introduction of non-state actors into the model influence or modify the rational design of human rights legal agreements? We probe three possible conjectures. (1) Treaty language becomes less precise given that states must accommodate yet another actor with more extreme preferences. (2) NGOs socialize states into adopting preferences closer to theirs, mitigating the distribution problem and resulting in more precise language. (3) Optional protocols accommodate the preferences of NGOs. We map the drafting process of human rights treaties, tracking the evolution of imprecise language and the addition of optional protocols as NGOs and other states work to both draft treaties as well as socialize the negotiating states. We aim to uncover whether NGOs socialize states and thereby help create precise human rights treaties or, if the introduction of NGOs works against their very aims and forces states to adopt imprecise language.