New International Organizations Blog: Eye on IOs

by Peggy McGuinness

Professor David Bosco has started a new blog focusing on international organizations, “Eye on IOs.” I like his subtitle — “A blog on the progress and pitfalls of international organizations.”  It reminds me of a chapter I wrote addressing “progress and paradox” in international security cooperation. (It is nice to have company as a moderate on questions of international institution building!)

Professor Bosco has  posted a comment on the Beth Simmons/Allison Danner study of ICC membership (“Credible Commitments”) published in the recent International Organization, in which they try to sort out the puzzle of why ICC membership is high among both peaceful “rule of law” states and conflict-prone states that lack strong rule of law. Bosco notes:

[Simmons and Danner’s] explanation is that states that have experienced recent conflict are using ICC ratification as a way of signaling (mainly to a domestic audience) their commitment to ratchet down violence by, in essence, tying their own hands:

This exposure to prosecution by an independent international institution acts as an implicit promise by governments that they will foreswear particularly heinous military options, and it endows that promise with a credibility that such governments would otherwise lack.

It’s a fascinating conclusion and their argument is well supported. But I wonder if there isn’t an alternative explanation in many cases: that states at high-risk for ICC scrutiny have chosen to “appease” the ICC by joining and, in some cases, even referring themselves to the court (as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda have done) rather than “confront” it by refusing to join. After all, as these countries well know, refusing to ratify the Rome Statute doesn’t immunize them; the Security Council can always expand the ICC’s jurisdiction to cover states not party to the statute, as it has done in the case of Sudan.

Professor Bosco’s alternative explanation sounds right — perhaps more so if measured against the relatively low short-term domestic political cost for conflict-prone states for joining an untested and slow (in comparison with alternative actions that could be taken) international institution.

Check out the full blog. And welcome to the blogosphere “Eye on IOs”!

One Response

  1. As someone who has been complaining for a while that it has seemed like ICL has swallowed the rest of international law, including IOs, I certainly welcome this blog!

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