Theses Doctoral

Why Surrender Sovereignty? Empowering Non-State Actors to Protect the Status Quo

Katzenstein, Suzanne

Why do states create new judicial tools that severely limit or altogether undermine their sovereignty? Why do some states choose, moreover, to become leading innovators, adopting these new types of enforcement mechanisms significantly earlier than their peers? This dissertation focuses on the creation of investor-state arbitration provisions in Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), especially its independent prosecutor provision. For all their differences, investor-state arbitration provisions and the ICC share three institutional features that, in combination, pose unprecedented constraints on state sovereignty: they are judicial, they entail compulsory jurisdiction, and they grant non-state actors - private investors or an independent prosecutor - the authority to initiate legal proceedings against states and state officials.

The introduction of transnational and supranational judicial mechanisms is a strategy of the strong, not the weak. Contingent on the mobilization of transnational advocacy networks, powerful states turn to sovereignty-constraining tools in response to two core features: an international legal crisis and a relatively empty international judicial landscape. In the aftermath of legal crisis, the creation of sovereignty-constraining tools helps powerful states both to increase the efficacy of legal rules that have been challenged and to validate the authority of legal rules that have been undermined. This argument is counter-intuitive: powerful states turn to costly new judicial mechanisms not to transform but to protect the status quo. To advance this claim I examine both failed and successful attempts at creating novel judicial mechanisms in investment and international criminal law across the twentieth century. I use qualitative and historical analysis at the global level and statistical cross-national analysis at the state level.
In the case of BITs, developing countries in the 1970s expropriated foreign property on a large scale and challenged traditional investment rules in the United Nations, thus triggering a crisis for the investment regime. In response, powerful states turned to investor-state arbitration provisions, not simply the BITs themselves, as a strategy to protect the existing regime. In the case of the ICC, Nazi Germany's territorial aggression and the 1990s mass atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda prompted legal crises for the territorial integrity principle and the human rights regime respectively. Seeking to bolster territoriality and human rights, powerful states experimented with the establishment of a criminal court. They failed in the 1950s and succeeded in the 1990s.

Transnational Advocacy Networks (TANs) were of critical importance. Their interactions with states were reciprocal and strategic. TANs invented and promoted the two forms of judicial mechanisms at the global level, thus influencing state receptivity; they also molded their strategies and substantive goals to suit state preferences

A discussion of the effects that crisis and transnational advocates have on the creation of investor-state arbitration provisions and the ICC yields new insights into existing scholarship on transnationalism, credible commitment, legalism, and rational design. This analysis, moreover, has broad implications for our understanding of the forces that can lead to profound political and legal change.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Snyder, Jack Lewis
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 4, 2013