Collaborative Research: Negotiating Compliance with the International Women's Rights Regime

Grants and Contracts Details


Overview: This project seeks to explain variation in state compliance with recommendations and rulings from international human rights institutions by moving beyond state-level characteristics and taking into account regime complexity and recommendation-level variables. The existing literature on compliance provides deep insight into how robust domestic institutions facilitate compliance with international human rights bodies. However, a major shortcoming of the current literature is the failure to explain important variation in compliance, particularly variation across and within robust democracies. We offer a course-correction by focusing, first, on the micro-level, namely the quality and density of individual recommendations, and second, on the macro-level, such as the embeddedness of those recommendations and the states receiving them within the larger context of the highly legalized, institutionalized and complex human rights architecture. Our underlying argument is that the quality and density of recommendations states receive, as well as states’ positioning within the international human rights architecture conditions pro-compliance constituencies’ ability to mobilize for compliance. To test this claim, we focus on compliance with women’s rights recommendations in European democracies. Our multi-method study proposes to construct and analyze a new dataset on women’s rights recommendations, a survey of stakeholders charged with implementing these recommendations and supplemental case studies. Intellectual Merit: Our project contributes to the fields of international law, international organizations, women’s rights and human rights. We make the following specific contributions. 1) We expand the concepts of commitment and compliance. Our research illustrates that while the current literature focuses on state commitment to international human rights treaties as a one-time static ratification decision, we argue that commitment consists of multiple interactions between the state and the institution in the post-ratification period. Many state interactions with international human rights institutions revolve around compliance, which we conceptualize as a process rather than an outcome. 2) Rather than focus on state-level factors, like democratic institutions as explanations for compliance, we shift our focus to recommendation-level characteristics. 3) We also shift our attention away from analysis of single institutions to the broader human rights regime and states’ positioning within that regime. 4) Our multi-method survey offers insight into how domestic actors navigate and process regime complexity. 5) We provide a comprehensive conceptual and empirical mapping and corresponding dataset of women’s rights recommendations, compliance and complexity that will facilitate future research by a wide range of scholars. Broader Impacts: This study’s broader impacts will reach four communities: 1) the scholarly community; 2) human rights policymakers and stakeholders; 3) undergraduate and graduate students; and 4) the broader community, including K-12 students. We have identified four main broader impacts of this work. First, our proposed project creates a new dataset on women’s rights recommendations -- The Women’s Rights Recommendations Digital Database (WR2D2). This dataset, which will be published on Harvard’s Dataverse as well as the PI’s personal and institutional websites, will be of use to both academics and policymakers seeking to improve the effectiveness of international human rights organizations. Second, this research will produce a set of academic articles, alongside each of which the PIs will publish a policy memo and/or op-ed to reach the policy community and broader audiences. Third, the PIs will mentor a team of undergraduate RAs and one graduate RA, providing guidance for younger scholars to improve their research skills. Fourth, the PIs will build on existing relationships with local civic and educational organizations, as well as local public broadcasting outlets, to create K-12 learning modules on human rights and women’s rights. By integrating our research into local initiatives in Nebraska and Kentucky, our project has the potential to broadly impact human rights education throughout two EPSCOR states.
Effective start/end date8/1/187/31/22


  • National Science Foundation: $110,354.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.