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Reviewed by:
  • International Institutions and National Policies
  • Amanda Kirk
Dai, Xinyan . 2007. International Institutions and National Policies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

The perennial questions asked by students of multilateralism are whether international institutions matter, and, if so, how and why do they matter? Xinyan Dai is not making a novel enquiry in her book International Institutions and National Policies, but she is providing a fresh and compelling answer. The usual way of addressing these questions is to focus on the "carrot and stick" of incentives for compliance and sanctions for non-compliance, with a regime's effectiveness determined by how well these mechanisms achieve measurable indicators of progress toward the institution's aims (e.g., a reduction in the concentration of a given pollutant or an increase in the numbers of an endangered species), controlling for factors outside the regime (e.g., the closure of a polluting industry due to exogenous economic forces). Another approach is to examine whether domestic legislation that correlates with the directives of the regime has been passed. Again, it is necessary to look for factors coincidental to the regime that could have influenced such legislation. It is here that Dai enters the fray. Her central argument is that international institutions can indirectly empower domestic constituencies to monitor and enforce compliance, a more subtle way of influencing national policies than the traditional carrots and sticks.

Dai parses her study into three distinct channels of enquiry, or puzzles, as she terms them. The first concerns the monitoring of states' compliance with (as distinct from implementation of) treaties. Do international institutions monitor compliance, she asks, and, if so, how do they do it? The second puzzle follows from a negative answer to the first: if international institutions lack the ability to monitor and enforce compliance, what compels states' compliance? The third and final question that Dai poses is driven by the second: how do weak international institutions influence states' compliance?

Her approach to the first question involves describing the incentive structures built into various financial, trade, security, human rights and environmental regimes for compliance monitoring. States are self-interested actors and they can often employ domestic stakeholders to monitor compliance for them when [End Page 148] it suits them. It all depends on their relationship to the victim constituencies. These constituencies, which Dai refers to as "victims of noncompliance," can perform the compliance monitoring that the institution is unable and the state is unwilling to undertake. She describes four distinct scenarios for the monitoring of regime compliance. In the first, the treaty organization itself has the resources and authority to monitor compliance, a scenario associated with only a few agreements such as the International Monetary Fund and the Non Proliferation Treaty. In the second, the state and the victims have a shared interest in monitoring compliance, as exemplified by the World Trade Organization. The third scenario involves monitoring by victims with the assistance of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) where there is no alignment of interest between states and victims, such as one might find in human rights conventions. The final scenario is associated with environmental agreements, and here it is NGOs who provide sometimes unsystematic monitoring of compliance, where states lack interest and victims lack ability to do so. Dai's use of different types of regimes here strengthens her argument by broadening its scope. It is hard to fault her well-researched and carefully analyzed conclusion that monitoring arrangements depend upon the availability of these victims to serve as low-cost monitors, and upon the interest alignment between the victims and their states. One possible problem here is that the scenario of an interest alignment between victim constituencies and states is used as both a prerequisite and an outcome of compliance. But this quibble is a molehill next to a mountain of good scholarship.

The resolution of the second question involves formalizing the findings of the first answer into a game-theoretic model that expresses national compliance as a reflection of the political leverage and monitoring abilities of domestic constituencies. These characteristics vary from constituency to constituency and from country to country, and Dai uses the 1985 Sulphur Protocol to the Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution...


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pp. 148-150
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