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3 - Pathways to international cooperation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2009

Kenneth W. Abbott
Affiliation:
Professor of Law and Commerce Northwestern University School of Law; Director Northwestern Center for International and Comparative Studies
Duncan Snidal
Affiliation:
Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy University of Chicago
Eyal Benvenisti
Affiliation:
Tel-Aviv University
Moshe Hirsch
Affiliation:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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Summary

How do states and other international actors move from one level or type of cooperation (which might be the absence of cooperation) to stronger levels or types? While international cooperation sometimes occurs in “big bangs,” in which states jump suddenly from low to high levels of cooperation on an issue, cooperation typically advances incrementally through one, or sometimes several, way stations, such as non-binding declarations, vague undertakings and narrowly plurilateral agreements. These incremental processes can be understood in terms of movement along three important dimensions of cooperation: substantive content, participation and – of special importance for this volume – legalization. In this chapter we identify three alternative routes to cooperation – “pathways” – that correspond to these three dimensions and examine the circumstances under which particular strategies of gradual cooperation will be more effective and are therefore more likely to be chosen as pathways to cooperation.

Our general argument is that states often cannot move directly to a cooperative solution because of informational, bargaining and distribution problems that hamper collective action. We begin with one such problem: the uncertainties that actors commonly face regarding the nature of particular issues, the nature and capabilities of potential cooperators, and political reactions at home and abroad. The three stylized gradual processes we identify here have as their key features that they (i) allow states to limit their commitments at any point in time to the level of cooperation they find appropriate given their uncertainty, and (ii) provide states with opportunities to resolve these uncertainties and undertake greater (joint) cooperative commitments as they are ready to do so. Each pathway offers advantages for dealing with particular types of uncertainty.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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  • Pathways to international cooperation
    • By Kenneth W. Abbott, Professor of Law and Commerce Northwestern University School of Law; Director Northwestern Center for International and Comparative Studies, Duncan Snidal, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy University of Chicago
  • Edited by Eyal Benvenisti, Tel-Aviv University, Moshe Hirsch, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Book: The Impact of International Law on International Cooperation
  • Online publication: 06 July 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511494147.003
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  • Pathways to international cooperation
    • By Kenneth W. Abbott, Professor of Law and Commerce Northwestern University School of Law; Director Northwestern Center for International and Comparative Studies, Duncan Snidal, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy University of Chicago
  • Edited by Eyal Benvenisti, Tel-Aviv University, Moshe Hirsch, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Book: The Impact of International Law on International Cooperation
  • Online publication: 06 July 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511494147.003
Available formats
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Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Pathways to international cooperation
    • By Kenneth W. Abbott, Professor of Law and Commerce Northwestern University School of Law; Director Northwestern Center for International and Comparative Studies, Duncan Snidal, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy University of Chicago
  • Edited by Eyal Benvenisti, Tel-Aviv University, Moshe Hirsch, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Book: The Impact of International Law on International Cooperation
  • Online publication: 06 July 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511494147.003
Available formats
×