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International Law: Understanding Compliance and Enforcement

Jana von Stein


Subject International Studies » International Law

Key-Topics international cooperation, multilateralism, social norms

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444336597.2010.x


Extract

Comment on this article   The anarchic nature of the international system has long been considered a “problem” for international law. If there exists no authority higher than the state, why do governments ever abide by the pacts they make with each other? As Keohane (1984 :99) notes, “The puzzle of compliance is why governments, seeking to promote their own interests, ever comply with rules” that are not in their immediate self-interest. Similarly, Franck (1988 :705) muses, “The surprising thing about international law is that nations ever obey its strictures or carry out its mandates.” International law has puzzled scholars and policy makers for centuries. Is international law really “law”? When do – and don't – states comply? Who enforces international law, and why should governments expect their cooperation partners to abide by their commitments at all? If we do observe compliance, what – if anything – does this tell us about the usefulness of international law as a tool for effecting real changes in state practice? This essay engages these and related questions, drawing chiefly from the political science literature, but also from scholarship in international law, economics, and political philosophy. Understanding the “compliance and enforcement” debate is in part an exercise in definitions. Introductory textbooks often define (public) international law as a body of rules ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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