International Organization

Research Notes

Sticks and Stones: Naming and Shaming the Human Rights Enforcement Problem

Emilie M. Hafner-Burtona1

a1 Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. E-mail:


“Naming and shaming” is a popular strategy to enforce international human rights norms and laws. Nongovernmental organizations, news media, and international organizations publicize countries' violations and urge reform. Evidence that these spotlights are followed by improvements is anecdotal. This article analyzes the relationship between global naming and shaming efforts and governments' human rights practices for 145 countries from 1975 to 2000. The statistics show that governments put in the spotlight for abuses continue or even ramp up some violations afterward, while reducing others. One reason is that governments' capacities for human rights improvements vary across types of violations. Another is that governments are strategically using some violations to offset other improvements they make in response to international pressure to stop violations.

Emilie M. Hafner-Burton is Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.


I thank Chris Achen, Larry Bartels, Jiehua Chen, David Cingranelli, Wolfgang F. Danspeckgruber, Christopher Davenport, Jack Donnelly, James Fearon, Joanne Gowa, Darren Hawkins, Simon Jackman, Robert Keohane, Ron Krebs, David Lake, James Lebovic, Edward Mansfield, Adam Meirowitz, Alexander Montgomery, Howard Ramos, Kris Ramsey, David Richards, Tom Romer, Kim Lane Scheppele, Kathryn Sikkink, Jack Snyder, Alan C. Stam, Dirk Steen, Erik Voeten, Wendy Wong, and especially James Ron for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article, as well as Princeton University, Stanford Law School, Nuffield College at Oxford University, and the Center for Security and Cooperation at Stanford University for support during the writing of this project, the editors at International Organization, and two very helpful anonymous reviewers.