Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Enforcement is a fundamental challenge for international law. Sanctions are costly to impose, difficult to coordinate, and often ineffective in accomplishing their goals. Rewards are likewise costly and domestically unpopular. Thus, efforts to address pressing international problems – such as reversing climate change and coordinating monetary policy – often fall short. This article offers a novel approach to international enforcement and demonstrates how it would apply to those challenging problems. It develops a mechanism of Reversible Rewards, which combine sticks and carrots in a unique, previously unexplored, way. Reversible Rewards require a precommitted fund aimed to reward the target state for its compliance. Alternatively, the same reward can be used to pay for sanctions in case of target’s non-compliance. Reversible Rewards solve two (related) problems that undermine existing efforts to enforce international law: high costs and low credibility. The article demonstrates that, relative to sanctions or rewards used alone, Reversible Rewards double the incentives for compliance that any given enforcement fund can generated.


European Law | International Law | Law


European Legal Studies Center


Center on Global Governance