International Relations/Political Science
15 February 2022

How non-state actors can hold states accountable regarding international treaties

What mechanisms foster states’ compliance with international treaties? In his master dissertation, Louis Bodmer relies on the concept of “treaty accountability network” to map accountability holders and identify accountability mechanisms. His findings, which he details in this interview, won him the 2021 International Relations/Political Science Department Prize and are now published in open access thanks to the support of the Vahabzadeh Foundation.

How did you choose your research topic?

I have been focusing on the role of civil society and international organisations throughout my studies and I was eager to merge this question with the one of accountability in international governance. Hence, I was able to join these topics and take as case study a domain that particularly interested me in my professional life, which is child rights and their actual implementation. 

What are your thesis questions and methodology?

My thesis analyses the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international organisations (IOs) and how they hold states accountable regarding specific conventions they ratified. Moreover, it implies that a network is formed by these actors and that there are ways to indirectly hold governments accountable through the empowerment of populations. 

In order to answer these questions, I opted for a small-N qualitative case study as I wanted to focus on specific organisations to better understand their specificities. I based my research mainly on content analysis, and interviews that supplemented my findings. 

Can you tell us about those findings?

I was able to confirm the central role of NGOs and IOs as accountability-holders in the context of the UN Child Rights Convention and demonstrate the different means they have to increase states’ accountability to their commitments. Direct and indirect accountability mechanisms have been identified and these concepts have been proven to be relevant in this context. Moreover, the importance of a treaty accountability network (TRAN) as a theoretical tool for other treaty analyses is to be highlighted as it offers new insight into how, by whom and with what roles treaties are surrounded.

Thus, one can confirm that NGOs and IOs have a substantial role to play in holding states accountable. This accountability focuses on citizens’ empowerment. Notably, participation is a strong transformative factor in this direction. States’ responses to their commitments may vary but the case of Switzerland shows that the country has created specific accountability pathways for the population to voice its concerns.

Moreover, the relation between members of the TRAN and states appears to be more cooperative than I thought before. It is also possible to note that IOs are more inclined to work together with states without confronting them while NGOs are more inclined to opt for a confrontational posture. 

What are you doing now?

I am currently employed by the World Health Organization in Geneva, working in its Multisectoral Engagement for Health Security Preparedness Unit. While I am extremely interested in my current work, which notably implies the creation of a multisectoral network, I keep somewhere in my mind the idea of developing further my research on networks and the role of civil society and IOs in international relations. 

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States’ Compliance to International Treaties: Accountability Mechanisms Pertaining to States, IOs and NGOs was published thanks to the financial support of the Vahabzadeh Foundation. It reproduces Louis Bodmer’s master dissertation (supervisor: Liliana Andonova), which won the 2021 International Relations/Political Science Department Prize.

How to cite:
Bodmer, Louis. States’ Compliance to International Treaties: Accountability Mechanisms Pertaining to States, IOs and NGOs. Graduate Institute ePaper 43. Geneva: Graduate Institute Publications, 2022.

Banner picture: excerpt from an image by Yuri Turkov/
Interview by Nathalie Tanner, Research Office.