The Continent of International Law
This working paper introduces a new project on international institutional design, the Continent of International Law (COIL). The unit of observation in COIL is an international agreement drawn from a random sample across four issue areas: economics, environment, human rights, and security. The theoretical portion of COIL articulates a set of cooperation problems including enforcement problems, distribution problems, three (independent) kinds of uncertainty, commitment problems, and problems of externalities, deadlock, and coordination, and provides concrete definitions and examples.Each agreement is coded for its underlying cooperation problems using background research and expertise in the sub-issue area. More than one answer can be chosen for each agreement, which gets around the problems of having to force real-life issues into 2x2 games. The theoretical premise is that cooperation problems are the driving force behind institutional design and that one cannot compare across agreements without first understanding the underlying cooperation problems the agreements are trying to solve. A completely different set of coders code 500+ questions of institutional design. This separation of coders allows for the testing of theories connecting cooperation problems to institutional design. To show how the data can be exploited, I present a variety of descriptive statistics as well as an operationalization of the important but difficult-to-measure concept of the incomplete contract. Among the findings presented are the following: With respect to cooperation problems, uncertainty about behaviour plagues human rights cooperation over 50% of the time, but rarely does so for economic cooperation. Human rights is the issue area in which parties are most likely to try to resolve uncertainty about preferences while they never do in economic agreements. With respect to design provisions, take nonstate actors as an example: Almost half of the agreements mention them, with human rights agreements alluding to them almost ¾ of the time. The most common nonstate actor is an IGO, but in economics, individuals sometimes play a role in dispute resolution. NGOs are mentioned in about 20% of human rights agreements but rarely if ever in the other issue areas.