Conflict and Compliance: State Responses to International Human Rights Pressure

Conflict and Compliance: State Responses to International Human Rights Pressure

Conflict and Compliance: State Responses to International Human Rights Pressure

Conflict and Compliance: State Responses to International Human Rights Pressure


International human rights pressure has been applied to numerous states with varying results. In Conflict and Compliance, Sonia Cardenas examines responses to such pressure and challenges conventional views of the reasons states do--or do not--comply with international law. Data from disparate bodies of research suggest that more pressure to comply with human rights standards is not necessarily more effective and that international policies are more efficient when they target the root causes of state oppression.

Cardenas surveys a broad array of evidence to support these conclusions, including Latin American cases that incorporate recent important declassified materials, a statistical analysis of all the countries in the world, and a set of secondary cases from Eastern Europe, South Africa, China, and Cuba. The views of human rights skeptics and optimists are surveyed to illustrate how state rhetoric and behavior can be interpreted differently depending on one's perspective.

Theoretically and methodologically sophisticated, Conflict and Compliance paints a new picture of the complex dynamics at work when states face competing pressures to comply with and violate international human rights norms.


This book has its origins in the streets of Cairo. As a visiting fellow there years ago, researching the Arab world’s relations with European countries across the Mediterranean, I was struck by a prominent gap: the disparity between the numerous international cooperation agreements that governments concluded and the daily conditions of people on the ground. This contradiction led me to question more generally the sources of compliance with international norms and the conditions required for human rights protection. The result is this book, which has nothing to do with Egypt per se but focuses on the multiple and complex ways in which states around the world respond to human rights pressure.

Despite my attention to states as political actors, or the role of national leaders and activist organizations, the key protagonists are the victims of abuse. Their stories have both inspired and haunted me. And I do little justice to them here other than to use their full names whenever possible in the text, a small symbol of their significance.

In this book I seek, above all, to unify disparate fields of study, contributing to the growing volume of social science research on human rights. Theory and methods are therefore used in the book as tools to illuminate complex patterns of interaction. As such, I have cast my net broadly to benefit from the insights of international relations, international law, comparative politics, sociology, and history, as well as studies from other disciplinary perspectives. On the empirical side, the scope is also deliberately broad, presenting in-depth cases from Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, a statistical survey of all the countries in the world in the 1990s, and a brief application of the argument to a set of prominent cases spanning the globe: Eastern Europe, South Africa, China, Israel, and Cuba. My aim is to bolster the argument’s persuasiveness by submitting it to a variety of tests and circumstances. For example, although the Latin American cases compose the bulk of the book, they . . .

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