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Project: The Continent of International Law (COIL)

The Continent of International Law (COIL)

The Continent of International Law (COIL) research program lies at the intersection of international relations and international law. Principal Investigator Koremenos argues that the design provisions of international law matter, and, when chosen correctly, help states confront harsh international political realities and thereby increase the incidence and robustness of international cooperation. Because the set of cooperation problems states are attempting to solve with their international agreements vary in interesting and important ways and because the characteristics of the states solving these problems also vary greatly, the design of international law is characterized by tremendous and meaningful variation. In her book, The Continent of International Law (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press), Koremenos presents a theory of international law design, explaining differences across multiple dimensions including rules governing duration, monitoring, punishments, disputes, and even withdrawal in terms of a set of logically-derived and empirically-testable hypotheses. The COIL dataset, featuring a random sample of agreements across the issue areas of economics, environment, human rights, and security, allows her to test her hypotheses. She finds that, while international law indeed exists under anarchy, states design this body of law rationally — in ways that make sense if they are seeking to solve their joint problems and to stabilize these solutions. They do not neglect the details as they would if law did not matter in their calculus. Nor do the simply follow a uniform normative template because it is the “correct” way to make law. They meticulously tailor the law to their cooperation problems.

Project Website

The Continent of International Law


Barbara Koremenos. Center for Political Studies (PI)


American National Science Foundation (NSF); University of California-Los Angeles; University of Michigan

Project Period

2001 – current