Beth Simmons

Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University

Biography

Beth Simmons is Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs and Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She received her PhD. from Harvard University in the Department of Government and has taught international relations, international law, and international political economy at Duke University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard. Her book, Who Adjusts? Domestic Sources of Foreign Economic Policy During the Interwar Years, 1924-1939, was recognized by the American Political Science Association in 1995 as the best book published in 1994 in government, politics, or international relations. She has worked at the International Monetary Fund with the support of a Council on Foreign Relations Fellowship (1995-1996), has spent a year as a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (1996-1997), spent a year in residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford (2002-2003), and was a Fellow at the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice at New York University 2009-2010. Her new book, Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2009) won the 2010 American Society for International Law’s Certificate of Merit for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship, the American Political Science Association’s Woodrow Wilson Award for best book published in government, politics or international relations, and the International social Science Council’s Stein Rokkan Award for a very substantial and original contribution to social science research. Simmons was elected in April 2009 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her current areas of research interest are the development of international rules for the protection and promotion of foreign direct investment, international legal cooperation to address transnational crime, and the diffusion of human rights through international and domestic law and politics.

Hyeran Jo & Beth A. Simmons, Can the International Criminal Court Deter Atrocity? An Analysis of Violence against Civilians in Civil Wars, 70 Int'l Org. 443 (2016).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Human Rights Law
,
Foreign Relations
,
Laws of Armed Conflict
Type: Article
Abstract
Whether and how violence can be controlled to spare innocent lives is a central issue in international relations. The most ambitious effort to date has been the International Criminal Court (ICC), designed to enhance security and safety by preventing egregious human rights abuses and deterring international crimes. We offer the first systematic assessment of the ICC's deterrent effects for both state and nonstate actors. Although no institution can deter all actors, the ICC can deter some governments and those rebel groups that seek legitimacy. We find support for this conditional impact of the ICC cross-nationally. Our work has implications for the study of international relations and institutions, and supports the violence-reducing role of pursuing justice in international affairs.
Cosette D. Creamer & Beth A. Simmons, Ratification, Reporting, and Rights: Quality of Participation in the Convention against Torture, 37 Hum. Rts. Q. 579 (2015).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Human Rights Law
Type: Article
Abstract
The core international human rights treaty bodies play an important role in monitoring implementation of human rights standards through consideration of states parties’ reports. Yet very little research explores how seriously governments take their reporting obligations. This article examines the reporting record of parties to the Convention against Torture, finding that report submission is heavily conditioned by the practices of neighboring countries and by a government’s human rights commitment and institutional capacity. This article also introduces original data on the quality and responsiveness of reports, finding that more democratic—and particularly newly democratic—governments tend to render higher quality reports.
Handbook of International Relations (Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse & Beth A. Simmons eds., SAGE 2nd ed. 2013).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Foreign Relations
,
International Law
Type: Book
Beth A. Simmons, Treaty Compliance and Violation, 13 Ann. Rev. Pol. Sci. 273 (2010).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Treaties & International Agreements
Type: Article
Abstract
International law has enjoyed a recent renaissance as an important subfield of study within international relations. Two trends are evident in the recent literature. First, the obsession with theoretical labels is on the decline. Second, empirical, especially quantitative, work is burgeoning. This article reviews the literature in four issues areas—security, war, and peace; international trade; protection of the environment; and human rights—and concludes we have a much stronger basis for assessing claims about compliance and violation now than was the case only a few years ago. Still, the literature suffers from a few weaknesses, including problems of selection and endogeneity of treaties themselves and an enduring state-centric focus, despite the fact that researchers recognize that nonstate and substate actors influence treaty behavior. Nonetheless, the quality and quantity of new work demonstrates that international law has regained an important place in the study of international politics.
Beth A. Simmons & Allison Marston Danner, Credible Commitments and the International Criminal Court, 64 Int'l Org. 225 (2010).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Laws of Armed Conflict
,
Foreign Relations
,
Human Rights Law
,
International Law
Type: Article
Abstract
The creation of an International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute war crimes poses a real puzzle. Why was it created, and more importantly, why do states agree to join this institution? The ICC represents a serious intrusion into a traditional arena of state sovereignty: the right to administer justice to one's one nationals. Yet more than one hundred states have joined. Social scientists are hardly of one mind about this institution, arguing that it is (alternately) dangerous or irrelevant to achieving its main purposes: justice, peace, and stability. By contrast, we theorize that the ICC is a mechanism to assist states in self-binding, and draw on credible commitments theory to understand who commits to the ICC, and the early consequences of such commitments. This approach explains a counterintuitive finding: the states that are both the least and the most vulnerable to the possibility of an ICC case affecting their citizens have committed most readily to the ICC, while potentially vulnerable states with credible alternative means to hold leaders accountable do not. Similarly, ratification of the ICC is associated with tentative steps toward violence reduction and peace in those countries precisely least likely to be able to commit credibly to foreswear atrocities. These findings support the potential usefulness of the ICC as a mechanism for some governments to commit to ratchet down violence and get on the road to peaceful negotiations.
Beth A. Simmons, Mobilizing for Human Rights International Law in Domestic Politics (Cambridge Univ. Press 2009).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
International Law
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Abstract
This volume argues that international human rights law has made a positive contribution to the realization of human rights in much of the world. Although governments sometimes ratify human rights treaties, gambling that they will experience little pressure to comply with them, this is not typically the case. Focusing on rights stakeholders rather than the United Nations or state pressure, Beth Simmons demonstrates through a combination of statistical analyses and case studies that the ratification of treaties leads to better rights practices on average. Simmons argues that international human rights law should get more practical and rhetorical support from the international community as a supplement to broader efforts to address conflict, development, and democratization.
The Global Diffusion of Markets and Democracy (Beth A. Simmons, Frank Dobbin & Geoffrey Garrett eds., Cambridge Univ. Press 2008).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Banking & Finance
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Financial Markets & Institutions
,
Law & Economics
,
Empirical Legal Studies
,
Politics & Political Theory
,
International Trade
Type: Book
Abstract
The diffusion of markets and democracy around the world was a defining feature of the late twentieth century. Many social scientists view this economic and political liberalization as the product of independent choices by national governments. This book argues that policy and political changes were influenced heavily by prior actions of external actors: not just other governments, but international organizations and communities of experts. Drawing together insights from economics, sociology, political science and international relations, the contributors focus on four mechanisms by which markets and democracy have diffused through interdependent decision-making: coercion and the impact of powerful countries and international actors; economic competition for markets and investment; learning from experiences of other countries; and emulation among countries. These mechanisms are tested empirically using sophisticated quantitative techniques in areas as diverse as capital account and investment policy, human rights and democratization, and government downsizing, privatization and taxation.
Beth A. Simmons, International Law and State Behavior: Commitment and Compliance in International Monetary Affairs, 94 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 819 (2000).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
International Monetary Systems
,
International Law
Type: Article
Abstract
Why do sovereign governments make international legal commitments, and what effect does international law have on state behavior? Very little empirical research tries to answer these questions in a systematic way. This article examines patterns of commitment to and compliance with international monetary law. I consider the signal governments try to send by committing themselves through international legal commitments, and I argue that reputational concerns explain patterns of compliance. One of the most important findings is that governments commit to and comply with legal obligations if other countries in their region do so. Competitive market forces, rather than overt policy pressure from the International Monetary Fund, are the most likely “enforcement” mechanism. Legal commitment has an extremely positive effect on governments that have recently removed restrictive policies, which indicates a desire to reestablish a reputation for compliance.

Education History