Complexity and Compliance in the International Human Rights Regime

“Complexity and Compliance. How does the International Human Rights Regime Perform?”
(with Cristiane Carneiro, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Research on international regimes has increasingly focused on the role of institutional complexity. Also, research has shown the growing level of complexity of human rights regimes. Even though the human rights literature has largely focused on explanations of the conditions under which countries comply with their obligations, whether and how institutional complexity affects the compliance record of countries remains largely unknown. This project aims to fill this gap and looks at the influence of treaty ratification on compliance through the angle of regime complexity. We investigate the link between institutional complexity and compliance with respect to the Inter-American Human Rights System. In a first part, we present a theoretical argument why and how institutional complexity influences compliance with human rights. In the second part, we rely on a measure of institutional complexity based on states’ subscription to human rights treaties and their decision density on human rights to analyze the effect of complexity on compliance. Results based on the prohibition of torture show that complexity influences the level of compliance, however, not necessarily in the expected direction.