Call for abstracts: PluriCourts Research Conference on Compliance Mechanisms

PluriCourts issues this call for abstracts on the topic of “International Courts versus Compliance Mechanisms: Comparative advantages of non-compliance mechanisms and complaint procedures.”


Many international treaties establish “in-house” mechanisms to facilitate implementation and promote compliance of parties. Some treaty regimes have particular complaints procedures and dispute resolution bodies to hear complaints by parties, private entities or affected non-party stakeholder, such as individuals and communities. Other have facilitative committees that aim to help parties to overcome implementation or compliance challenges.

Multilateral environmental treaties that include such non-compliance mechanisms (NCMs) are, for example, the Montreal Protocol, CITES, Rotterdam (PIC) Convention, Paris Agreement and Kyoto Protocol under UNFCCC, Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Nagoya Protocol under CBD, Minamata Convention London Protocol, or the UNECE Water Convention.

Also, human rights treaties have established complaint procedures to national human rights committees as well as individual communications under the human rights treaty bodies, such as the Human Rights Committee or the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Many other examples exist, such as the Inspection Panel of the World Bank and Grievance Redress Mechanisms (GRM) for Investors in World Bank projects, and non-compliance mechanisms under arms control and disarmament treaties.

These mechanisms exist alongside other means of dispute resolution, for example through International Courts and Tribunals (ICTs). Yet, the functions of these mechanisms are in some cases overlapping with those of ICTs, ranging from clarifying obligations and providing authoritative interpretations, rendering advisory opinions, inquiring into Parties’ compliance challenges and providing suggestions for addressing them, to the resolution of disputes between parties.

In this project, we asks:

  • Whether and why in some circumstances the use of more informal NCMs might be more effective to bring states into compliance with their treaty obligations or address situations of non-compliance than the recourse to ICTs for breach of a treaty;
  • How NCMs and other means of dispute resolution, such as international courts, relate to each other; and
  • What their comparative advantages and disadvantages are.

The working hypothesis is that there is an “interest-outcome” conundrum: the broader the (legal) interest is shared among states (e.g. global public goods, common concerns), the less desirable is a particular result and the more relevant is (some ownership of the) process. For broadly shared interests, NCMs provide a “safer” avenue for states to address concerns than “independent ICs”.

Topic coverage:

This call for abstracts invites contributions related to the three main questions outlined above, as well as on the following topics:

Comparison of NCM versus ICTs in terms of:

  1. Nature of interest to be pursued (e.g. global public goods and common interest norms),
  2. Nature of the process and decision-making (ownership, rules-based, influence, transparency, democratic etc.)
  3. Nature of outcome of the process (e.g. to achieve a result or stimulate process, or binding or non-binding decisions)
  4. Independence and accountability (i.e. legitimacy), in particular with regard to election and composition, and professional standards, and procedural rules
  5. Why and under which circumstances NCM are set up
  6. Which ”legal interests” or ”cases” or ”issues” are more prone to ”in-house” processes than to adjudication? (e.g. questions of capacity or financial constraints, prevention of non-compliance, issues pertaining to collective interests/global commons)?
  7. What is the relationship between the ambition expressed in primary treaty rules? agreement on compliance approach, and the level of compliance?
  8. Differences between facilitation and deterrence/ enforcement; and their consequences.


The deadline for submission of abstracts is June 30, 2021. Abstracts should be no more than 500 words and submitted via the online portal nettskjema.

Submit abstract


  • June 30, 2021: expression of interest with provisional paper title and abstract (max 500 words)
  • August, 2021: Decision on acceptance of proposals
  • October 27-28, 2021 Research Conference
  • January 30, 2022 Papers due (max 8000 words)

Selected abstract authors will be notified in August 2021. PluriCourts plans a research conference (either hybrid or online) October 27-28, 2021 with the selected authors and invited speakers to discuss the contributions. Papers (max. 8.000 words incl. footnotes) are due on 30 January 2022. Contributions will be published in an edited volume by Cambridge University Press (tbc) or a special edition of a legal journal (tbc). This project is administered by Prof. Dr. Christina Voigt.


Christina Voigt
Karoline Hovland Lyngstadaas

About PluriCourts

PluriCourts is a multidisciplinary Centre of Excellence whose overriding research objective is to analyse and assess the legitimate present and future roles of the international judiciary in the global legal order. The PluriCourts' Research Plan is available here.


Published Apr. 30, 2021 1:44 PM - Last modified June 16, 2021 1:45 PM