The Will and the Way: How State Capacity and Willingness Jointly Affect Human Rights Improvement
When should we expect compliance with international human rights norms? Previous literature on the causal mechanisms underlying compliance have focused independently on the roles of state willingness, thought of as the preferences of the regime leadership, and on state capacity, in improving human rights practices within a state. We build an argument that neither of these factors are sufficient on their own to improve compliance with human rights norms. Instead, improved human rights practices require both “the will and the way.” Our central hypothesis is that capacities and willingness, acting jointly, are key determinants of improvements in compliance with international human rights norms. The paper confirms this proposition using two-staged and single-stage regression models and a time-series cross-sectional approach at the country-year level. A highly capable bureaucracy and a state that has signaled its willingness through the acceptance of individual complaint and inquiry procedures in the UN treaty regime are jointly necessary for improved human rights practices.