Research

U.N. General Assembly

Book project

TRADING SOVEREIGNTY FOR SELF-DETERMINATION
States in the global south have developed extensive mechanisms within their regional organizations to monitor and enforce their own compliance with international norms, including sometimes extensive monitoring by these regional organizations. What explains the decision to create and expand these mechanisms? After at least a century of resisting imperial and colonial domination and decades of using regional organizations to “jealously” protect their sovereignty, why have so many states adopted positions that compromise on non-intervention? I argue that states created these mechanisms as part of a strategy to subtly challenge the authority of powerful Western states in order to increase their self-determination.

As shifting global norms legitimized and encouraged enforcement by powerful states, states in the global south faced a new decision: not whether human rights should be enforced, but who should enforce them. Rejecting one-sided enforcement by former colonial and imperial powers, these states attempted to shift enforcement out of the global level and into their regional organizations through a two-part strategy in which they created, accepted, and expanded regional mechanisms and then simultaneously argued that extra-regional actors should defer to regional enforcement.

I find a clear and persistent pattern of states preferring regional enforcement to enforcement by extra-regional actors. Counter to the expectations of existing research, states that were proponents of international human rights were among the most vocal critics of global enforcement. States that were themselves guilty of abusing human rights were willing to delegate more authority at the regional level than the global level. These otherwise puzzling behaviors can be explained by the drive for international self-determination. In Latin America and Africa, faced with mounting pressure from the West that stood to undermine their self-determination, states moved towards regional intervention. Conversely, in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, states encountered little to no enforcement pressure, and regional mechanisms came about much later and were granted very little authority.

Working papers

Trading Sovereignty for Self-Determination: Regional organizations, institutional power, and human rights

Power and the Politics of Norm Institutionalization

Norm alienation: Why “good” states oppose international norms

Works in progress

International Self-Determination and Backlash

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Illiberal Regional Organizations and Autocratic States
(with Melissa Samarin)


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