Is there a ‚Depth versus Participation‘ Dilemma in International Cooperation?

Bernauer, Thomas; Kalbhenn, Anna; Koubi, Vally; Spilker, Gabriele (2013). Is there a ‚Depth versus Participation‘ Dilemma in International Cooperation? Review of International Organizations, 8(4), pp. 477-497. Springer 10.1007/s11558-013-9165-1

[img] Text
art%3A10.1007%2Fs11558-013-9165-1.pdf_auth66=1391631356_f6448df858b1c7d684e540a9aaa4823d&ext=.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to registered users only
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (257kB) | Request a copy

Much of the International Relations literature assumes that there is a “depth versus participation” dilemma in international politics: shallower international agreements attract more countries and greater depth is associated with less participation. We argue that this conjecture is too simple and probably misleading because the depth of any given cooperative effort is in fact multidimensional. This multidimensionality manifests itself in the design characteristics of international agreements: in particular, the specificity of obligations, monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, dispute settlement mechanisms, positive incentives (assistance), and organizational structures (secretariats). We theorize that the first three of these design characteristics have negative and the latter three have positive effects on participation in international cooperative efforts. Our empirical testing of these claims relies on a dataset that covers more than 200 global environmental treaties. We find a participation-limiting effect for the specificity of obligations, but not for monitoring and enforcement. In contrast, we observe that assistance provisions in treaties have a significant and substantial positive effect on participation. Similarly, dispute settlement mechanisms tend to promote treaty participation. The main implication of our study is that countries do not appear to stay away from agreements with monitoring and enforcement provisions, but that the inclusion of positive incentives and dispute settlement mechanisms can promote international cooperation. In other words, our findings suggest that policymakers do not necessarily need to water down global treaties in order to obtain more participation.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


02 Faculty of Law > Department of Economic Law > World Trade Institute
10 Strategic Research Centers > World Trade Institute

03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Economics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Bernauer, Thomas and Koubi, Vally


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 380 Commerce, communications & transportation
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science








Dino Collalti

Date Deposited:

03 Feb 2014 21:21

Last Modified:

12 Nov 2019 15:10

Publisher DOI:





Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback