Tagged: international law

Zoe Williams

Investor-State Dispute Settlement in Europe

In the last few months, criticism of  TTIP’s proposed investor-state dispute settlement  (ISDS) provision has become  so mainstream that even The Economist is questioning whether it’s such a good idea. More to the point, some of the biggest players this side of the Atlantic have also come out against it, largely it would seem, mirroring public sentiment.   French officials now claim that TTIP is a no-go if ISDS is kept in, while Germany has spoken out against its inclusion in TTIP, and has gone so far as to backtrack on agreements already made, saying that they want ISDS scrapped from CETA, the EU-Canada free trade agreement (which, until recently, nobody outside of Canada seemed to care about).

The perception of the  threat that ISDS poses is connected to the different health, food and environmental standards in Europe and the US. ISDS allows investors to sue host state governments for unfair or discriminatory treatment, and critics argue that investors will use arbitration (or even the threat of it) to force Europe to lower its regulatory standards based on treaty provisions. As proof of the potential for investors to employ ISDS to attack regulatory standards, critics frequently cite the cases of Philip Morris v. Australia, in which the tobacco company is suing over the country’s decision to require plain packaging of cigarettes, and Swedish energy company Vattenfall suing Germany over Merkel’s nuclear phase-out.

A threat does exist, as investors, and more importantly, arbitration lawyers are expanding the use of investment arbitration. As this article/advertisement  written by arbitration lawyers suggest, there is money to be made by actively looking for “innovative” uses for ISDS.

However, others argue that Europe’s sudden distrust of ISDS is hypocritical. European states, or at least European investors, have been a driving force behind ISDS in the past. The first Bilateral Investment Treaty was signed by Germany (with Pakistan) in 1959, and since then,  EU member states have signed at least 1400 BITs. Between 2008-2014 alone, EU investors made up 53% of all claimants in investor-state disputes.

Of course, more interesting to critics is likely the track record of EU states as respondents in these lawsuits. So here’s a breakdown of the cases Europe has faced so far, based on my own research.

eu

 

Here we see the EU member states which have been respondents in arbitration cases. The majority are transition economies, although Spain, Germany, Belgium and the UK have also been faced lawsuits. The concentration of disputes in formerly Communist countries is not surprising, given the logic that has (up until TTIP and CETA) governed BITs. That is, these agreements have usually been signed by pairs of countries between which the investment generally flows only in one direction – most often from developed to developing countries (or at least countries perceived to have unreliable domestic courts).  In other words, when the US and the Czech Republic signed a BIT in 1991, the implicit goal was to protect US investments in the Czech Republic. On the other hand, Western European states and the US have not found it necessary to sign BITs between themselves, as both sides have been confident in the domestic courts and investment climate of the other. At least, until now.

industries

The above shows the industries most often implicated in investor-state disputes involving EU members. How does this compare to investment disputes worldwide? At the global level, electricity and other energy, as well as oil, gas and mining, are the industries that see the greatest number of disputes. Not surprising, given that these industries are often politically interesting already. Extractive industries seem to attract  a range of governance problems, while public utilities are often are privatized to the detriment of low-income consumers.   What appears to be Europe-specific here is the concentration of cases in media and health insurance (although both relate to a number connected cases in Czech Republic and Slovakia).

measures

And here we have a breakdown of the state “measures” which are triggering disputes in Europe. The top two categories are the very specific measure of canceling an agreement, permit, or license of an investor, while the second category – regulatory change – encompasses a range of measures  which effect an entire industry or even the general public.

Finally, how litigious are US companies? Of the 561 known arbitration cases listed on UNCTAD’s IIA database, 124 cases, or 22%, involve US investors.  It’s impossible to know how often US investors will use ISDS under TTIP, if the agreement ultimately includes the provision. All we can say for certain at this point is that if it is left in, a great deal more of global FDI flows will suddenly be covered by ISDS.

Note: Edited to add French dispute to graph which had previously been left off.

Salvador Santino Jr Regilme

Human Rights Research in Political Science

santinoHR

Despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and the apparent triumph of liberal democracy, human rights abuses remain pervasive in many parts of the world. State-sanctioned abuses such as extra-judicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, and political imprisonments are still widespread in some parts of contemporary Asia, Latin America, and Africa — in particular, even in those countries that are self-proclaimed liberal democracies. What causes state-initiated human rights abuses? What is the current state of political science literature with regard to the causes of human rights norm compliance?

Taking stock of our knowledge about the topic is not only important for academic reasons, but it is also a crucial task toward better global governance of the human rights regime. On that regard, the table below from Google books Ngram Viewer shows the annual frequency of usage of the term “human rights” in millions of digitized books; it reveals that the increase in usage started sometime around the late 1940s, perhaps just right after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

ngramHR

In a recent article in Third World Quarterly, I provided a critical survey of contemporary scholarship on the causes of human rights norm compliance and deviations. The article revisits the state of the literature in comparative politics and International Relations with regard to the causes of human rights abuses. Notably, comparative politics scholars focus on intra-national variables as they explain variations in human rights compliance over time, while International Relations scholars emphasize the overwhelming importance of transnational and systemic variables. Thus, I argue that we have yet to see more systematic studies that examine the links between transnational and domestic factors as they jointly produce variations in human rights compliance over time.

The empirical implication of my argument is that the human rights crisis in the Global South (e.g. post-9/11 Pakistan) cannot be solely explain by pinpointing either the internal governance problems of the Pakistani state or by zooming into the failures of transnational civil society movements to put pressure on the government. On that regard, the article enumerates some pathways the current social science scholarship must traverse in order to better understand the causal underpinnings of human rights abuses in the developing world. If my arguments are correct, then the policy implication is clear: in many cases, human rights crises in the Global South ought to be posited as a global governance problem that requires the cooperation of transnational and domestic actors.

In addition, students and scholars of human rights might find it useful to also refer to other important and very recent works on the topic: Emilie M. Hafner-Burton’ Making Human Rights a Reality; Thomas Risse and colleagues’ edited volume called The Persistent Power of Human Rights: From Commitment to Compliance; Sonia Cardenas’ Conflict and Compliance: State Responses to International Human Rights Pressure; David Karp’s Responsibility for Human Rights; Courtney Hillbrecht’s Domestic Politics and International Human Rights Tribunals; and Cindy Holder and colleagues’ Human Rights: The Hard Questions, among others.

Finally, these recent pieces of scholarship could provide us a better understanding of the causes and the consequences of human rights abuses, which in turn, could give us a stronger foundation for crafting effective public policies for stronger human rights compliance.

Mathis Lohaus

Bavarian Nepotism (“If it Happened There…”)

This post pays homage to Joshua Keating, who has written a number of articles for Slate in which he describes news events from the U.S. “using the tropes and tone normally employed by the American media to describe events in other countries.

CSU leadership in Bavaria, 1976 (CC Wikimedia Commons)
CSU leadership in Bavaria, 1976. CC-BY-SA Wikimedia Commons

BERLIN, Germany — Observers familiar with the political process in the German South were not surprised: after the details of a high-level nepotism scandal in the West European country’s most populous state were uncovered a few weeks ago, very little has happened.

The affair started in fall 2013, with a book published by university professor Hans Herbert von Arnim. While academic publication usually garner little attention in the country  –a number of tabloids dominate the market in the South– the book’s claims of nepotism were sufficient to spark interest at least among political opposition figures, who demanded an investigation. After several months of refusing to comment on the issue, the Bavarian government gave in to a ruling from a local court and published some findings. (Initially, these were accessible through the Bavarian public broadcasting service, but that site no longer appears to be functional.)

According to the report, Bavarian minister of education Ludwig Spaenle has dished out a grand total upwards of 810,000 USD to his wife since 1997. That equals 30 years of the current median household income in Germany. Altogether, members of the conservative-religious CSU party, which rules Bavaria since 1957, handed out almost 1.8 million USD of taxpayer money to their spouses over the last years.

Local officials point out that this is not illegal. The group of CSU silver-backs simply took advantage of a loop hole in the state’s laws (which the insular Bavarians are proud to defend against influences from the federal government). Since the year 2000, politicians have been banned from hiring family members and spouses — but lawmakers allowed for a continuation of existing contracts. This is why the current Bavarian prime minister, a veteran of the CSU who has weathered many scandals in the past, insists that none of the people involved will have to leave office.

The case appears symptomatic of broader problems in Germany. In the Southern state of Bavaria, a small group of elites have had a grip on power for almost 60 years. They are supported by a powerful business and agricultural lobby (the latter of which employs only a small fraction of the workforce, but receives lavish subsidies from the European Union). Traditionally, politics in the Southern state are shaped by social conservatism, local business interests, and a latent xenophobia. No wonder, then, that few people seem to care about a waste of taxpayer money at the top.

Perhaps the problem runs even deeper: one should not forget that Germany, despite its economic might and seemingly unquestionable democratic credentials, has yet to ratify the 2003 UN Convention Against Corruption. After more than ten years of dragging their feet –because of reluctance to curtail the freedom of members of parliament– federal officials have recently indicated that this might happen before the end of the year. Judging from recent events in Bavaria however, the prospect of real change remains slim. Instead, it seems likely that local customs remain entrenched, and  German politicians will find ways to bend the rules in their favor.

Mathis Lohaus

Notes on MPSA 2014

mpsa2014

At the beginning of April, I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association  in Chicago. Some reflections:

  • MPSA makes an effort to address grad students. Multiple poster sessions take place in the exhibition hall (so you actually run into them), and there’s a reception for first time attendees as well as a mentoring session.
  • While I did not sign up for mentoring, I attended the reception. It’s a great idea and free food is always nice. However, there are no real guidelines for the hosts, who are supposed to give advice to a bunch of grad students at their table, and at least my table did not fill up as planned. Maybe it would make more sense to have some sort of intro speech and then form groups?
  • Can we get better WiFi in the hotel?
  • Compared to #ISA2014 – which Felix Haas has thoroughly analyzed – the #MPSA2014 Twitter activity was underwhelming. @EvilMPSA and @DrunkMPSA were great, though.
  • The smartphone/tablet app was a good idea poorly executed. The search function did not work consistently, the dates and times were messed up (leading me to miss stuff), and sometimes it wouldn’t display the room. I think the best idea would be to have a good mobile website, on which you could display room numbers after people log in with their MPSA account.

Now let me shout out a non-exhaustive list of people whose presentations I found interesting (dropping the non-IR stuff I attended):

  • I liked what Swati Srivastava had to say about varieties of constructivism in IR. She argues that “thin” vs. “thick” is not very helpful, and we should instead look two dimensions: how does the author assume that social construction work, and at what level of analysis?
  • Jonathan Ring presented two papers on the diffusion of gender quotas. One used agent-based modeling, the other dyadic event history analysis. I hope we’ll learn more about mechanisms of diffusion from Jon’s work.
  • Ari Weiss presented research on which states are more likely to be involved in international conflict after regime change.  While some explanatory factors were not addressed yet, I found the approach extremely interesting and am looking forward to further results.
  • Finally, my co-panelists tackled the politics of global anti-corruption from different perspectives: Ellen Gutterman works on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, how it is enforced, and what that means for IR theory. Hongying Wang presented an overview of how the rise of China affects anti-corruption. And Holger Moroff spoke about how global anti-corruption is based on a very narrow consensus between powerful actors.
Mathis Lohaus

Links: International Law; Mali; Rwanda; Blogs in Germany

With a couple of bloggers back from ISA and MPSA, I hope we’ll be able to do some follow-up work in the next days. Meanwhile, here are some links to start the week:

At e-IR, Eric Lenier Ives writes about international law as the “permissive promise”:

[I]nternational law reflects a real-world distribution of power such that nations are free, in a sense, to test the will of other nations, to stretch the law and assert their own sovereignty. (…) Though international law may allow for this elasticity, and though it may be abused, it is precisely this relaxed approach that allows international law to act as both a codification of appropriate norms and a growing, living system.

Kim Yi Dionne takes a look back at what happened in Mali since 2012. In particular, she points to a discussion of a recent Afrobarometer poll: “In a complete reversal of opinion from one year earlier, two out of three Malians say that their country is moving in the ‘right direction’ at the end of 2013.”

Laura Seay has put together a very instructive reading list 20 years after the incident that triggered the Rwandan genocide. These are her opening remarks:

Everything that has happened on and since that day twenty years ago is under dispute. From the question of who shot down the plane, to which members of the regime were involved in planning and executing the genocide, to the number of people killed overall, to whether and how revenge killings unfolded, to the continuation of Rwanda’s civil war on the soil of Congo/Zaire and the tremendous suffering that has occurred there, too, to whether the Rwandan government’s success in poverty reduction is justified by its repressive authoritarianism – all of it is contested.

On a completely different note: Now we have some backing for my perception that German scientists don’t really use Twitter. In this recently published survey [in German], 15% of respondents said they use microblogs, and 61% of that subgroup then said they actively post. 30% of all respondents said they use blogs, with a third of that subgroup saying they write posts themselves. Overall, male respondents were much more likely to report an active use of (micro)blogs.

A rather curious finding: The number of people saying they don’t know what a blog is was higher than the number of people saying they don’t know what a microblog is. I guess there really is a lot of hype around Twitter. (The questionnaire mentioned Twitter as an example of the latter category, but did not mention WordPress or any other recognizable brand name for the former.)

Finally, the list of links curated by our colleagues at the Bretterblog [in German] is worth checking out as usual. (Uh, I’m doing meta-links now, I guess!?)

Zoe Williams

What we talk about when we talk about compliance

How to write about, or whether to even use, the concept of compliance is something I’ve struggled with in my own work. I was therefore thrilled to read Lisa Martin’s convincing piece on what she deems is a misguided use of compliance in IR (go here for an earlier version free to download).

Essentially, Martin argues that IR scholars have devoted time and resources to studying states’ compliance with international institutions, despite the fact that compliance is not what they are interested in. A central question for IR scholars is determining causal effects – answering the counterfactual of how real state behaviour would differ in the absence of the institution of interest. These interesting indicators are observed changes in behaviour, and the substantive content of state policies. A focus on compliance, she argues, could lead us to miss these entirely.

To illustrate this, Martin gives the example of a state with low levels of environmental regulation, ratifying an environmental treaty. Upon joining,

“The institution provides knowledge and capacity, and in response State B modestly improves its performance on emission indicators. However, it still falls short of institutional requirements. If compliance were measured dichotomously, State B would be found out of compliance.”

Continue reading

Mathis Lohaus

Links: Graduate Conferences; Betrayers’ Banquet; Blogging Awards; Compliance

Two calls for graduate conferences

Today, I’d like to share two calls for applications for graduate conferences:

  • First, our colleagues at the Graduate School of North American Studies hold a conference on “Trust Issues. Community, Contingency, and Security in North America”. It’ll take place here in Berlin on May 9 and 10, 2014. The full call is on their website, and you can apply until February 9.
  • Second, a group of graduate students at Georgetown’s Center for German and European Studies organizes the 2014 Transatlantic Policy Symposium on “Hot Wars and Cold Wars: Europe’s Near Abroad“. The deadline is on the coming Monday! Again, all information can be found on their website.

Then, there is an intriguing case of applied game theory. A company in London organizes an event called The Betrayers’ Banquet. For £ 99, you can spend an evening enjoying a “32 course banquet with an embedded implementation of the iterated prisoner’s dilemma”:

The event works as follows:

A banqueting table is set with 48 chairs, 24 on each side, at which players are seated at random. For a period of two hours, the food is served in small portions every fifteen minutes, and varies in quality; at the top end of the table, it is exquisite – food you could expect at a fancy restaurant. At the bottom end, the food is charitably described as unpalatable. In between, it is a spectrum between these two extremes.

At regular intervals, pairs of opposing diners are invited to play a round of the prisoner’s dilemma with each other; They are each provided with a small wooden coin with symbols on each side representing cooperation and betrayal, which they place on the table concealed under their palms, and then simultaneously reveal:

• If they both cooperate, then they are both moved up five seats towards the good food.
• If they both betray, they are both moved five seats down towards the worse food.
• If one betrays and one cooperates, the betrayer moves up ten seats, and other down ten seats.

If any of our readers were in London and willing to go, I’d love to hear their experiences. In the comments at Marginal Revolution (where I learned about this), the game designer chimes in: “People are cutthroat, especially when they’re drunk and hungry.”

Somehow I had missed that the Duck of Minerva crew has announced the 2014 Blogging Awards and Reception at ISA. Please make sure to nominate excellent bloggers and/or go to the show, which was a lot of fun last year.

Also at the Duck: Burcu Bayram discusses Lisa Martin’s recent article “Against Compliance”. This discussion is relevant for several of my colleagues and I hope we will be able to follow up on this… (yes, this is a hint to a certain co-blogger)

Sören Stapel

Links: German elections, grad student advice, IL/IR symposium, O’Bagy

Election Day in Germany is on Sunday. Yesterday was the information event for my tasks as a poll worker on Sunday. As we all know, Germans are said to be very organized and efficient, but can be harsh. This event proved the rule. And I feel like making fun about one specific disadvantage of being German:

German elections and forecasting

Back to serious issues. A few weeks ago I somehow lamented about the state of forecasting Germany’s federal elections in 2013. Sadly, I wasn’t aware of Kai Arzheimer’s work. In the mid of August, he has launched a series of blog posts on forecasting the German elections and some follow-ups here, here, here, and here. But you could also have a glance at his code and data for replication or just visit his blog in general which is very entertaining.

He also has a piece in the online edition of Al Jazeera on Germany’s elections, the EU, and the future of the Euro.

The European Council on Foreign Relations is currently running a great series looking at how the German elections being viewed from by other EU partners. So far, the series covered Poland, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Britain, and Spain.

Scholars from the Social Science Research Center in Berlin (WZB) have looked at party manifestos of all German federal elections. Their data is now available and they have published some at the Democracy & Democratization blog. See also their introduction to the Manifesto project. The online edition of the newspaper Die Zeit also presented some of their findings (in German). The base line is: political parties differ on many issues in their party manifestos and there is a general turn to the left regarding both economic and socio-political dimensions (less market-oriented and more progressive). But, of course, exceptions prove the rule. Continue reading

Mathis Lohaus

Syria, Chemical Weapons & Civil War: Is A Bad Plan Better Than No Plan?

syriareport

Yesterday, the United Nations published their report on the use of chemical weapons (CW) in Syria on August 21. You can read the conclusions above. Bottom line: Sarin has been used, but the report doesn’t explicitly blame either the Syrian regime or the rebels.

A few days earlier, on September 14, the Syrian government has officially requested to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). This is a reaction to the U.S. threat to launch an attack, paired with new diplomatic efforts by Russia (and others?). The UN has received all necessary documents now and the accession will be effective in mid-October.

So instead of witnessing yet another U.S. military campaign to punish a dictator, now we’re all warm and fuzzy about international law? It’s almost as if they are following Richard Price’s guide in Foreign Affairs step-by-step. German critics of an intervention (please note the great series of posts at Sicherheitspolitik-Blog) should be happy, too.

In addition, it looks like the UN Security Council – after months of paralysis and a grand total of one single press release mentioning Syria in 2013 – might actually pass a resolution soon. So Russia and the U.S. seem to have agreed on … something. To me, it is not entirely clear what to expect – but it seems to be focused on taking CW out of the picture.

Continue reading