International Theory

Original Papers

Enforcement and capacity building in international cooperation

Johannes Urpelainena1 c1

a1 Department of Political Science, Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, 712 IAB, New York, NY 10027, USA


I examine enforcement and capacity building in international cooperation. In a game-theoretic model, a wealthy donor gives foreign aid in exchange for policy implementation by a poor recipient. The recipient has limited capacity to comply with international agreements, so the donor is not sure if cooperation failure is caused by willful disobedience or unintended error. I show that if perceived cooperation failure prompts reciprocal suspension of cooperation, the donor and recipient have a common preference for capacity building. But when the donor can request compensation for perceived cooperation failure, it only chooses to build capacity if cooperation is otherwise impossible. Consequently, the choice of enforcement mechanism shapes capacity building. This result lays a foundation for a genuine synthesis between the enforcement and managerialist schools of compliance. It generates falsifiable hypotheses and explains why reciprocal enforcement, which unfortunately inflicts collateral damage on the victim, is often considered legitimate.


  • international cooperation;
  • compliance;
  • enforcement;
  • capacity building;
  • game theory


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