Early View Article - Contextualizing Donors’ Interests: The United Nations’ Shaming of the United States’ Trade Partners

Contextualizing Donors’ Interests: The United Nations’ Shaming of the United States’ Trade Partners

Human rights advocates, particularly intergovernmental organizations (IGO), consider donors’ interests when conducting human rights shaming. Allies of donors receive preferential treatment from IGOs. Do IGOs automatically treat allies of donors more leniently or do they consider the donors’ interests in the specific area being reviewed? This article argues that donor interest considerations are policy-area-specific. I substantiate this argument by analysing the association between shaming and partnership with the US, using a new dataset which measures shaming under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). I use several analysis methods and data matching. The results indicate that having a trade agreement with the US is associated with receiving more criticism under the ICESCR. Rather than giving automatic preferential treatment to allies and partners of the UN’s main donor, the ICESCR committee adjusts its shaming to the US’s interest vis-à-vis its partners in the policy-areas affected by the treaty.

Policy Implications

  • The US's large contributions to the United Nations have an impact on the organisation's practices and could bias it towards the US' interest. The dominance of the US in the United Nations' funding scheme should be mitigated.
  • Although the allies of the US often receive preferential treatment in international institutions this treatment is not automatic. These allies are sometimes treated more harshly than non-allies. It is the US' interest that determines the treatment of allies, not the alliance itself. Each policy area requires specific measures to mitigate the donor-interest effect.
  • The United Nations treaty bodies are not isolated from organisational cost-benefit calculations. Like international non-governmental organisations they should be regarded as principled strategic actors rather than altruistic ones. Wider participation with other actors outside the United Nations might help mitigate the impact of organisational considerations.
  • Monitoring of countries' compliance with international instruments should take targets' alliance s and trade relations into account.
  • When state parties interact with the treaty bodies they should consider the impact of their own policies on the US' interest.
  • Policy actors who care about human rights should be cognisant of the pro-US bias in the United Nations treaty bodies and try to mitigate it by pointing out its impact on the treaty bodies' monitoring work.


Photo by Сергей Гладкий from Pexels