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Are New Democracies Better Human Rights Compliers?

  • Sharanbir Grewal and Erik Voeten


Recent scholarship finds that new democracies are more likely than established democracies to make binding commitments to international human rights institutions. Are new democracies also better at following through on these commitments? Stated differently, does their greater willingness to join international institutions reflect a genuine commitment to human rights reform or is it just “cheap talk?” We analyze this question using a new data set of more than 1,000 leading European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) cases. Since new democracies face judgments that are more difficult to implement than established democracies, we employ a genetic matching algorithm to balance the data set. After controlling for bureaucratic and judicial capacity, we find that new democracies do implement similar ECtHR judgments initially more quickly than established democracies, but this effect reverses the longer a judgment remains pending. Although new democracies have incentives to implement judgments quickly, they sometimes lack checks and balances that help ensure implementation should an executive resist.



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International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
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