Indigenous rights in international politics: The case of "overcompliant" liberal states

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An overcompliant state is one that paradoxically takes actions that recognize specific rights or a category of rights that go beyond or even against that state's international human rights treaty obligations or its normative international commitments. Since there is no existing IR literature that would explain why a state might paradoxically comply or "overcomply" with its stated commitments, there is also no theory to explain what would propel a state to "overcomply" with an emergent norm. Securing indigenous rights means that several critical changes in the international discourse must occur, including an alteration of the liberal international Westphalian system of state sovereignty toward a postliberal, plurinational sovereignty system that includes a separate nation-to-nation and consent-based shared sovereignty arrangement between states and indigenous peoples. "Overcompliance" in indigenous rights occurs under a particular set of conditions: (1) when there is a strong presence of the international indigenous-rights movement within the state; (2) when the state places high value on its reputation as a "good global citizen"; and (3) when change occurs in the state's domestic discourse as it seeks to locate its own postcolonial identity in a globalized world. By examining state "overcompliance," the author seeks to expose the limits of the current international discourse and the potential to push that discourse further to better accommodate the full spectrum of indigenous rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-104
Number of pages22
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


  • Globalization
  • Indigenous rights
  • International politics
  • Overcompliance
  • Sovereignty


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