Audrey L. Comstock

May 30, 2022

Committed to Rights

UN Human Rights Treaties and Legal Paths for Commitment and Compliance

Cambridge University Press 2021

International treaties are the primary means for codifying global human rights standards. However, nation-states are able to make their own choices in how to legally commit to human rights treaties. A state commits to a treaty through four commitment acts: signature, ratification, accession, and succession. These acts signify diverging legal paths with distinct contexts and mechanisms for rights change reflecting legalization, negotiation, sovereignty, and domestic constraints. How a state moves through these actions determines how, when, and to what extent it will comply with the human rights treaties it commits to. Using legal, archival, and quantitative analysis Committed to Rights: UN Human Rights Treaties and Legal Paths for Commitment and Compliance (Cambridge UP, 2021) shows that disentangling legal paths to commitment reveals distinct and significant compliance outcomes. Legal context matters for human rights and has important implications for the conceptualization of treaty commitment, the consideration of non-binding commitment, and an optimistic outlook for the impact of human rights treaties.

Audrey L. Comstock is an Assistant Professor of Political Science in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Arizona State University and Interim Director of the ASU Global Human Rights Hub. She received a PhD in Government from Cornell University. Her research focuses on the United Nations, international human rights law, negotiations, women's rights, and sexual exploitation and abuse.

Lamis Abdelaaty is an assistant professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. She is the author of Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees (Oxford University Press, 2021). Email her comments at or tweet to @LAbdelaaty.

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Lamis Abdelaaty

Dr. Lamis Abdelaaty is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and Senior Research Associate at the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. Her book, Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees, was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. Email her at
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