The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 163–191 | Cite as

Non-compliance by design: Moribund hard law in international institutions



States often create international institutions that impose legally binding rules on member states, and then do not even attempt to enforce these rules. Why? In this article, we present a game-theoretic model of moribund hard law in international institutions. We show that if some states face domestic pressure to negotiate a hard law treaty, their incentive to insist on hard law in the negotiations is maximized when less enthusiastic states expect that the hard law will probably not be enforced. Domestic proponents of hard law reward states for negotiating a hard law treaty, while states that oppose hard law can accept it because they expect no enforcement. As a form of informal governance, moribund hard law allows non-compliance by design.


Informal governance Hard law Soft law Treaty design International bargaining Game theory Environmental agreements 

JEL Classification

F53 F55 

Supplementary material

11558_2012_9157_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (252 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Political ScienceDePauw UniversityGreencastleUSA
  2. 2.Political ScienceColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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