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Beyond Academia

International Interactions Authors Talk Policy Relevance

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International Interactions is a peer-reviewed journal with direct relevance to a wide and interdisciplinary audience. Readers include political scientists, economists, historians, mathematicians, statisticians, anthropologists, sociologists, and other social science researchers with an interest in international relations, as well as informed professionals in business and government.

This newly launched blog initiative aims to synthesize scholarly findings for a practitioner audience. Each blog post describes the policy takeaways of a recent II article, in the authors' own words, and is accompanied by a period of free access to the original published article. This is an exciting new opportunity to share the important scholarly work of the journal with engaged policymakers who can apply this research to current issues and challenges. 

Check out our first blog posts below!

Human Rights: International Norms, International Shaming

Zhanna Terechshenko, Charles Crabtree, Kristine Eck & Christopher J. Fariss

Key takeaways from "Evaluating the influence of international norms and shaming on state respect for rights: an audit experiment with foreign embassies" — in the authors' own words

Published Article: Zhanna Terechshenko, Charles Crabtree, Kristine Eck & Christopher J. Fariss (2019), "Evaluating the influence of international norms and shaming on state respect for rights: an audit experiment with foreign embassies," International Interactions. DOI: 10.1080/03050629.2019.1622543

Note: This article is open access.

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Zhanna Terechshenko, PhD Candidate, Penn State

Zhanna Terechshenko is a PhD Candidate in Political Science and Social Data Analytics at the Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania, USA. Learn more about Zhanna here, and follow her on Twitter @z_terechshenko.

Charles Crabtree, PhD, Dartmouth College

Charles Crabtree, PhD, is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. Learn more about Dr. Crabtree here, and follow him on Twitter @cdcrabtree.

Kristine Eck, Uppsala University

Dr. Kristine Eck is an Associate Professor and Director of the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Uppsala University, Sweden. Learn more about Dr. Eck.

Christopher J. Fariss, University of Michigan

Dr. Christopher J. Fariss is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan, USA. Learn more about Dr. Fariss here, and follow him on Twitter @cjfariss.

How do international norms affect respect for human rights? A large and lively literature debates the extent to which and why states comply with international norms. Perhaps the dominant view in this literature is that states abide by international law to placate other important global actors, such as human rights organizations. According to this view, adherence with international norms should be highest when external actors have the power to sanction states for noncompliance. 

We conducted an audit experiment with foreign missions to investigate the extent to which state agents observe international norms and react to the prospect of international shaming. Following a common audit study design, our experiment involved emailing 669 foreign diplomatic missions in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom with requests to contact domestic prisoners. According to the United Nations, prisoners have the right for individuals to contact them. We randomly varied two aspect of our request: (1) whether we reminded embassies about the existence of an international norm permitting prisoner contact and (2) whether the putative email sender is associated with a fictitious human rights organization and, thereby, has the capacity to shame missions through naming and shaming for violating this norm. We found strong evidence for the positive effect of international norms on state respect for human rights. Contra to the literature's expectations, though, we found that the potential of international shaming does not increase the probability of state compliance. The positive effect of the norms cue disappears when it is coupled with the shaming cue, suggesting that shaming might have a ‘backfire’ effect. We speculate that when bureaucrats at foreign missions receive both cues, they might prefer not to respond than to reply in a way that might be unsatisfying to an individual with potential shaming power. Avoidance might be seen as a better option than an unsuccessful attempt at compliance.

These findings have clear policy implications for human rights organizations (HROs) and states seeking to enforce human rights norms. In particular, our finding on the joint effect on norms and shaming highlights an important proviso for human rights advocates that there may be unintended and deleterious consequences to efforts aimed at inducing compliance if they increase the risk to individual agents. This finding can possibly explain why some HROs prefer to use soft tactics over hard pressure on states and their agents in order to change their behavior. While our explanation of this finding remains speculative, it suggests that future research should investigate the parameters under which state agents are willing and able to respect rights. In addition, the empirical evidence for the effect of international norms suggests the importance of addressing human rights issues through international law and international community pressure in improving human rights practices across states.

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A New Dataset on the First Intifada

Eitan Y. Alimi, Gregory M. Maney & Alon Burstein

Key takeaways from "Beyond the media’s radar: Introducing the Intifada Non-Media-Based Dataset" — in the authors' own words

Published Article: Eitan Y. Alimi, Gregory M. Maney & Alon Burstein (2019), "Beyond the media’s radar: Introducing the Intifada Non-Media-Based Dataset," International Interactions, DOI: 10.1080/03050629.2019.1614572

Note: This article is free-access until August 31, 2019.

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Prof. Eitan Alimi, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Eitan Alimi, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Political Sociology at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. Learn more about Prof. Alimi.

Dr. Gregory Maney, formerly of Hofstra University

Gregory Maney, PhD, was the Harry H. Wachtel Distinguished Professor for the Study of Nonviolent Social Change at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, USA. Prof. Maney passed away in 2017. Learn more about his life's work and legacy.

Alon Burstein, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Alon Burstein is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. Learn more about Alon.

This article introduces the Intifada Non-Media-Based Dataset (INMBD). While many conflict and contention datasets rely on media news coverage in order to identify and code contentious events, INMBD uses strictly non-media-based sources, primarily Israeli security forces field reports. The dataset covers over 23,000 insurgent and repressive events which occurred in the Israeli-Palestinian cycle of contention between 1987 and 1993: The First Intifada.

The uses of such data are illustrated both empirically and theoretically. First, a discussion regarding the justification for, and usage of such non-media based data is presented, unpacking both the strengths and weaknesses of relying on media and non-media based accounts. The rationale for such a new dataset regarding the Israeli-Palestinian case specifically is then developed, followed by an unpacking of the richness and distinctness of events INMBD contains. Specific attention is paid to the type of and access to the data collected, the different variables in the dataset, the coding procedures, as well as to the development and fine-tuning of the magnitude of contentious events involving all actors that were part of the cycle of contention.

Thereinafter, the article demonstrates the exceptional potential such an elaborated dataset contains by analyzing the association between state repression and insurgent violence during the rapid events of the First Intifada. Demonstrating both the benefits of aggregational flexibility in such analysis as well as the importance of analyzing nuances among different kinds of repression / insurgent activity, the groundwork is laid for future developments utilizing such data specifically, as well as more broadly for developing complementary similar datasets regarding comparable cycles of contention elsewhere.

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IMG Lending and FDI Outflows: A Sectoral Perspective

Michael Breen and Patrick J. W. Egan

Key takeaways from "The Catalytic Effect of IMF Lending: Evidence from Sectoral FDI Data"—in the authors' own words

Published Article: Michael Breen & Patrick J. W. Egan (2019), "The Catalytic Effect of IMF Lending: Evidence from Sectoral FDI Data," International Interactions. DOI: 10.1080/03050629.2019.1582530

Note: This article is free-access until June 30, 2019.

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Dr. Michael Breen, Dublin City University

Dr. Michael Breen is an Associate Professor at the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. Learn more about Dr. Breen here, and follow him on Twitter @mbreen3. 

Dr. Patrick J. W. Egan, Tulane University

Dr. Patrick J. W. Egan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Learn more about Dr. Egan.

Country partnership with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is ideally rare and short in duration. States turn to the IMF in times of economic crisis, which usually involve some combination of increasing national debt, balance of payments problems, and dwindling foreign reserves. The conditional loans provided by the IMF serve as a temporary solution to balance of payments issues, providing a capital influx in exchange for various policy shifts designed to bring about macroeconomic stabilization. The IMF has always viewed its loans as a stopgap measure; normally only a portion of the capital flows necessary to correct a deficit are lent to countries in crisis. The rest is expected to come from private capital markets. Indeed, the entire rationale for IMF lending rests on a conundrum: private capital is unwilling to finance a current account deficit, yet the IMF’s involvement is supposed to be a signal for private capital flows to resume. This ‘catalytic’ mission of the IMF is expressly stated as one of its three main goals, alongside adjustment to shocks and avoiding future crises.

IMF programs are supposed to function as seals of approval for various forms of investment to resume, but there is precious little evidence to support the catalytic ideal. What explains this gap between expectations and reality? This paper proposes that the potential for IMF catalysis depends in part on the characteristics of incoming investment in crisis-hit countries. We argue that the IMF is indeed sending multiple and potentially contradictory signals to private capital with the announcement of a rescue package. We consider the varieties of audiences receiving IMF signals. That is, the sectoral distributions of direct investment in countries before and after IMF agreements. We argue that IMF programs can have varied effects on different forms of investment, depending on the attitudes toward risk and other intrinsic characteristics of firms, which vary systematically across sectors. While the overall evidence linking IMF partnership with a resumption of capital flows in crisis-hit countries is underwhelming, there are important variations in the catalytic effect by industry. Certain sectors are likely less receptive to the catalytic signal of IMF programs (if it exists) than others.

Like previous studies, we find a reliable anti-catalytic effect of IMF programs on the overall stock of inward FDI. However, our central empirical finding is that this exodus is primarily driven by a select few sectors, including the financial industry and construction. We argue that the anti-catalytic effect of IMF lending depends crucially on two sector characteristics: dependence on external finance and fixed assets, which become sunk costs in host countries. We argue that when sectors couple high dependence on external finance with low sunk costs, firms are more likely to use an IMF agreement and attendant funds as an opportunity to deleverage or reduce risk exposure in crisis-hit countries. This results from moral hazard, but not for future investments. Rather, IMF liquidity provision encourages firms that have already taken on risk to exit. In contrast, we find no evidence of an anti-catalytic effect in sectors with high sunk costs. We argue that these sectors are less vulnerable to moral hazard, and instead interpret an IMF agreement as a signal that their assets are less likely to be expropriated. However, our results do not demonstrate a catalytic effect in these sectors, only an absence of exodus. Therefore, our results suggest that an IMF agreement is on balance unlikely to generate substantial broad-based inflows of any long-term capital. Instead, FDI flight may be severe depending on the type of investments prominent in the country at the time of crisis.

IMF programs are associated with a substantively large and negative effect on investment in financial and construction-related FDI, two sectors that exhibit a high degree of external capital dependence and low sunk costs. The prospect of austerity measures, limited growth, and structural adjustment likely combine with these sectors’ relatively leveraged positions at the time of crisis to prompt exit. The funds provided by the IMF also likely allow these firms to recoup some losses before leaving. IMF support may allow risk-imbued actors to survive and either exit or prevent new entrants from entering the market. In either case, the IMF program does not prompt a new wave of investment but instead signals the fulfillment of moral hazard dynamics for firms already in country. In contrast, FDI in high sunk cost, low external dependence sectors do not experience similar exodus after IMF programs. Where investors are tied and perhaps risk-averse, the information provided by partnership with the IMF may serve as a critical signal regarding the returns on future investment, diminished likelihood of expropriation, and/or the possibility of future bailouts.

One implication of our findings is that the failure of IMF programs to generate sustained inflows of international capital may have less to do with the IMF itself and more to do with the changing nature of international investment. Since the 1990s, FDI has diversified greatly in developing countries. Natural resource FDI has declined as a proportion of overall FDI flows in these countries, and service sector investments have increased substantially. As investment patterns change, large outflows of investments after crises and IMF interventions perhaps become more understandable.

Our findings also have implications for host country governments and international organizations. Greater attention should be paid to the specific types of investments entering developing countries before and after economic crises. If mobile firms with high external dependence do indeed anticipate crises and subsequent bailouts, it would suggest that these types of investments do not represent sustainable vehicles for industrial upgrading in fragile economies. High acceptance of risk and financial hedging against crises may produce outflows of investment. At minimum, analysts and policymakers alike should consider the types of investment common in crisis-hit countries and how these investors are likely to respond to an IMF agreement.

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International Interactions

International Interactions is a leading interdisciplinary journal that publishes original empirical, analytic, and theoretical studies of conflict and political economy. The journal has a particular interest in research that focuses upon the broad range of relations and interactions among the actors in the global system. Relevant topics include ethnic and religious conflict, interstate and intrastate conflict, conflict resolution, conflict management, economic development, regional integration, trade relations, institutions, globalization, terrorism, and geopolitical analyses. The journal aims to promote interaction among social science disciplines by encouraging interdisciplinary work among political scientists, economists, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, statisticians, and mathematicians.

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