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Mershon Center Speaker Series
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Erik Voeten
"Are liberal international institutions responsive to backlash? Evidence from the European Court of Human Rights"
Friday, February 22, 2019, 03:30pm - 05:00pm
Mershon Center for International Security Studies
1501 Neil Ave.
Columbus, Ohio 43201

Erik Voeten

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Erik Voeten is the Peter F. Krogh Professor of Geopolitics and Justice in World Affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and Government Department. He has completed research on the United Nations, the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights and broader issues of international law and cooperation.

His research has been published in journals such as American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Politics and Journal of Conflict Resolution. Voeten is the editor of the academic journal International Organization. He teaches classes on international relations theory, international institutions, and statistical methods.He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University.


International courts and other liberal international institutions are increasingly facing backlash from consolidated liberal democracies. Do liberal international institutions respond in order to keep their traditional allies on board?

We examine this question in the context of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). We evaluate two mechanisms. First, governments that are critical of the Court may nominate more deferential judges. Second, judges may behave in a more deferential way towards consolidated democracies in order to prevent future backlash.

We evaluate these ideas with a new dataset of all ECtHR judgments. We estimate ideal-point models based on dissenting opinions and find that governments have indeed started to appoint more restrained judges. Five of the Court's six most deferential judges were appointed after the 2012 Brighton conference, which strongly signaled a preference for restraint. We then use matching and a difference-in-differences design to estimate changes in the Court's restraint versus the United Kingdom and other consolidated democracies.

We find strong evidence of a new variable geometry, in which consolidated democracies are increasingly given more deference compared to non-consolidated democracies. The United Kingdom is an especially large beneficiary. The evidence thus suggests that the Court has been responsive to its critics.


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