Global Governance Centre
03 May 2022

Understanding the Limitations of Behavioralism: Lessons from the Field of Maritime Delimitation

Just out: Dr. Ezgi Yildiz and Dr. Umut Yüksel’s new German Law Journal article on the impact of legal decisions on state policy-making.

Do states take court decisions into account when formulating policies? If so, how do they process new judicial input and make policies in response to them? Bringing in insights from behavioralist and rationalist perspectives, senior GGC researchers Ezgi Yildiz and Umut Yüksel seek to understand the impact of legal decisions on state policy-making in their new German Law Journal article.

While rational choice theorists often identify self-interest and incentives as structuring policy-making decisions, behavioralist scholarship casts doubt on whether decision makers are in fact capable of identifying and pursuing their interests in a rational manner. Drawing on rational and behavioral approaches, the authors formulate an alternative set of expectations about the process of policymaking. In the context of maritime delimitation, they explore how states come to consider and choose different methods for delimiting maritime boundaries in light of relevant decisions made by the International Court of Justice. Using a dataset of continental shelf delimitation policies, the article makes a surprising discovery: at least some states change policies in line with court decisions, thereby suggesting the power of international courts in policy-making processes.

This article is a part of Spark project, entitled Testing Focal Point Theory of International Adjudication, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation. It also received support from the Paths of International Law project, financed by the European Research Council.

Read the full article

Photo: "Dynamic Earth - Continental Shelf" by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC BY 2.0