My research interests lie broadly at the intersection of international law, diplomacy and domestic politics. One area of my research focuses on the impact of international criminal law and institutions on domestic accountability. From this area comes my work with Geoff Dancy on the relation between International Criminal Court investigations and domestic prosecutions, which has appeared in the American Journal of International Law and the American University International Law Review.
A second area of interest, which I develop in my dissertation, examines changes to the international investment regime. The institutions governing international investment have been under severe scrutiny in recent years; as many are noting the ways in which the investor-state dispute settlement system of arbitration encroaches on governments' ability to adopt desirable regulations. This growing dissatisfaction has already moved beyond rhetoric and states have started to push back. This pushback, however, takes different forms. Some states terminate investment agreements, while others keep signing them. Moreover, the content of investment treaties has changed substantially over time as drafters pay more attention to the ways in which arbitrators interpret them. My goal is to explain these different modalities of participation within the investment regime and under what conditions states pursue one or the other. In this project, I take variation in legal content seriously, as it can tell us much about what states want and expect from international law.
Multinational corporations have increasingly used international tribunals to challenge government regulations they claim violate investment treaties, and have been awarded millions of dollars when successful. In response, states have started to push back in different ways: while some now draft their investment treaties more carefully to reduce liability, others exit the international investment system entirely. My dissertation traces how this dissatisfaction has developed and demonstrates why states have reacted to their shared dissatisfaction differently.
My findings illuminate a shift in the investment regime towards a re-assertion of state sovereignty and, in doing so, I address an increasingly crucial question in International Relations. While the discipline has traditionally puzzled over the willingness of states to give up their sovereignty by entering into international institutions, the defining puzzle of our time is why and how are states beginning to scale them back.
Other research projects
I also have an interest in applied research. For the period January - July 2017 I was Team Leader of a group of scholars in a grant from USAID to research what makes a human rights awareness campaign successful. In 2015 I took part in a project to produce social science-based applied research for Human Rights Watch, specifically about possibilities and limits of systematically using international and local media to detect instances of human rights violations.
These projects were valuable opportunities to collaborate with colleagues from other fields and disciplines and to develop a sensitivity for the expectations and requirements of different audiences.