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  • Cited by 14
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2021
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Book description

International treaties are the primary means for codifying global human rights standards. However, nation-states are able to make their own choices in how to legally commit to human rights treaties. A state commits to a treaty through four commitment acts: signature, ratification, accession, and succession. These acts signify diverging legal paths with distinct contexts and mechanisms for rights change reflecting legalization, negotiation, sovereignty, and domestic constraints. How a state moves through these actions determines how, when, and to what extent it will comply with the human rights treaties it commits to. Using legal, archival, and quantitative analysis this important book shows that disentangling legal paths to commitment reveals distinct and significant compliance outcomes. Legal context matters for human rights and has important implications for the conceptualization of treaty commitment, the consideration of non-binding commitment, and an optimistic outlook for the impact of human rights treaties.


'In this important study, Professor Comstock argues that understanding the different legal pathways to treaty commitment also sheds crucial light on compliance. Through this well-justified, more nuanced, approach, the author uncovers new evidence that international human rights law can - under the right social and legal conditions - matter for the protection of civil liberties and women's rights.'

Jana von Stein - Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, The Australian National University

'UN Human Rights Treaties and Legal Paths for Commitment and Compliance by Audrey L. Comstock is an ambitious, carefully-researched and well-written book that explains why and how international human rights law can shape states' human rights practices. Comstock unpacks four different treaty ratification types and connects these ratification types with compliance. Over the course of careful and broad-reaching empirical analysis, this book provides readers with insights into how states' domestic context intersects with the specific features of international human rights law. In doing so, this book fills an important gap in the existing literature: it connects the dots between states' commitment to human rights treaties and their subsequent compliance with them.'

Courtney Hillebrecht - Samuel Clark Waugh Distinguished Professor International Relations at University of Nebraska-Lincoln

'Most people assume that states have to ratify a treaty in order for it to be effective but Committed to Rights presents a more nuanced account of treaty approval. Countries can also commit to treaties through signature, accession and succession, which Comstock identifies as distinct 'legal commitment paths.' She squeezes a surprising and compelling amount of analytical juice out of these legal distinctions and demonstrates the distinct way that each them shapes a country's performance on human rights.'

Lisa Baldez - Professor of Government, and Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies, Dartmouth College

‘Comstock’s [work] provides the international relations and international law literatures with a clear and important takeaway: the different legal pathways states take to commit to human rights treaties matter. The questions raised about the selection into commitment types are fruitful topics for future research to complement this book’s bold emphasis on expanding scholarship’s view of treaty commitment and its impact on compliance. This work will have a broad impact on the scholarship of international law, human rights, and compliance.’

Rachel J. Schoner Source: Law and Politics Book Review

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