Introduction: Over roughly the last fifteen years, an emerging literature has used empirical approaches to better understand the purpose, design, and impact of international human rights treaties. Political scientists and legal scholars have considered, for instance, why states ratify treaties, the factors that predict institutional features, and whether and how treaties impact human rights performance. Despite this large body of literature, the questions of what actors, influences, and motivations shape treaty provisions—and the implications for international relations theory generally—has gone largely unexplored. That is, multilateral treaty-making has often been treated as a “black box,” with little attention to the often political origins of treaty provisions.
This study will attempt to partially open that black box by examining and quantifying the travaux preporatoires of many of the nine core UN human rights conventions. Specifically, we hope to develop a theory state preferences and examine how they predict ratification and other official behavior, to determine what factors predict how states directly influence the substantive provisions of treaties, to explain the motivations for this influence, and to show why some types of states and organizations are more influential than others.