Promoting the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was a key objective of the transnational women's movement of the 1980s and 1990s. Yet, few studies examine what factors contribute to ratification. The small body of literature on this topic comes from a world-society perspective, which suggests that CEDAW represented a global shift toward women's rights and that ratification increased as international NGOs proliferated. However, this framing fails to consider whether diffusion varies in a stratified world-system. I combine world-society and world-systems approaches, adding to the literature by examining the impact of women's and human rights transnational social movement organizations on CEDAW ratification at varied world-system positions. The findings illustrate the complex strengths and limitations of a global movement, with such organizations having a negative effect on ratification among core nations, a positive effect in the semiperiphery, and no effect among periphery nations. This suggests that the impact of mobilization was neither a universal application of global scripts nor simply representative of the broad domination of core nations, but a complex and diverse result of civil society actors embedded in a politically stratified world.

Since its adoption by the UN General Assembly in 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has made a paramount contribution to addressing women's issues in global and national contexts. The convention commits member states to taking appropriate action to ensure the advancement of women and guaranteeing women's fundamental freedoms and human rights. Today, CEDAW is the second-most widely ratified human rights treaty, after the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Evatt 2002). Although the vast majority of ratifications occurred prior to 1999 (Figure 1), as of May 2020, only six member states of the UN had not ratified the convention: Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, and the United States.1

FIGURE 1.

State parties to CEDAW, 1981–1999

FIGURE 1.

State parties to CEDAW, 1981–1999

The history of CEDAW is in many ways also the history of the UN Commission on the Status of Women's World Conferences on Women and a growing transnational women's movement (Zinsser 1990). Although work on an international document addressing women's rights in a global context began in the 1960s, it was through the forums and conferences held during the UN Decade for Women (1975 to 1985) that CEDAW would come to fruition. Delegates to the first World Conference on Women, in 1975, were committed to the creation of international public policy designed to improve women's status across the globe. One project that emerged was to promote and support work on the transformation of a 1967 declaration, the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, into a legally binding international treaty (Fraser 1995).2 Within four years of the first World Conference on Women, the UN General Assembly adopted CEDAW.3

During this same period, an international women's movement was bringing women from diverse geo-cultural backgrounds together in an effort to address women's rights. While this movement was made up of multiple actors, including individual activists, transnational social movement organizations (TSMOs), members of intergovernmental organizations, and local women's groups, transnational women's organizations played a critical role in the advancement of the movement (Ferree and Martin 1995). Beginning in the mid-1980s, and throughout the 1990s, ties to international women's organizations increased across both the developed and developing world. Within this body of global women's organizations, a subcategory of organizations, explicitly founded to promote social or political change—the TSMOs—also began to expand (Smith and Wiest 2005). As these organizations were typically more invested in advancing a women's rights agenda, they became key players in the global movement. Transnational organizations not only brought global attention to women's rights issues, they also allowed local women's groups to connect with larger women's international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and intergovernmental organizations, and participate in the broader global movement (Moghadam 2005).

Although initially referred to as the “women's convention,” CEDAW (and women's rights more broadly) would eventually become foundational to the human rights movement. Beginning in the 1980s, and strengthening in the 1990s, feminists began to apply a human rights framework to bring more visibility to gender-specific discrimination and abuse (Bunch 1990). At the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, a large number of women's groups attended the parallel NGO forum, with the intent to send the global community a strong message that “women's rights were human rights” and needed to be addressed through international policy (Boyle 1995). The women's campaign resonated with the larger human rights community, and what began as a campaign for women's issues was reframed as a human rights agenda agenda as well and taken up by broader human rights TMSOs.

Despite the large number of state parties to CEDAW and the extensive global effort to promote ratification, few empirical studies have explored why and when nations ratify the convention. The exception is the book chapter by Wotipka and Ramirez (2008), who focus on factors leading to the diffusion of CEDAW. Comparing theories of modernization and world society, they find linkages across INGOs to be significant, supporting a world-society perspective.4 They demonstrate that INGOs, women's international conferences, and a history of participation in other human rights treaties contribute to ratification, suggesting the influence of a broader transnational women's human rights movement on the process. But while the authors broadly address the impact of development (using GDP per capita), they do not address the additional complexities of development in a politically stratified world-system. In this paper, I aim to build on this component of their scholarship by combining their world-society approach with a world-system perspective to ask:

  • What effect did the transnational women's movement have on CEDAW ratification?

  • Did world-system position impact CEDAW ratification?

  • Did world-system position affect the impact of the transnational women's movement on CEDAW ratification?

  • What can we learn from these findings?

In what follows I build on the existing literature to reexamine the impact of the transnational women's human rights movement on CEDAW ratification in two primary ways. First, I draw on previous studies (Jorgenson, Dick, and Shandra 2011; Shorette 2012), highlighting the usefulness of applying both world-system and world-society approaches. Given previous studies indicating the experiences of developing nations as fundamentally different from developed countries (Matland 1998), there is good theoretical reason to expect that a combined world-society/world-systems approach will be useful in an examination of gender policy, as inequality in world society alters how nations experience global culture (Beckfield 2003). Second, I focus specifically on national ties to international social movement-oriented organizations to explore the effect of the transnational women's movement on ratification. This expands the current literature by moving beyond counts of women's INGOs. Such data include all women's organizations, including those that are complaisant with systems of gender inequality, discrimination, and patriarchy, and therefore problematic as a proxy for the transnational women's movement. A better measure to examine the women's movement is INGOs specifically created to promote social or political change. Smith and Weist (2005) refer to this subset of INGOs as transnational social movement organizations (TSMOs). Given the crossover between women's and human rights TSMOs during this period, I create an index to address the overlap between the two types of organizations. These additions will give scholars and activists a better understanding of how agents of world society operate in a highly stratified and unequal world-system and highlight some of the strengths and limitations of any global campaign in impacting international policy decisions.

Using event history analysis, I examine 95 countries divided into world-system categories (core, semiperiphery, and periphery nations) to determine how the interplay between the transnational women's movement of the 1980s and 1990s and development factors impacted CEDAW ratification without reservations permitting gender discrimination.5 Although the study is restricted to 1981 through 1999 due to data limitations, this should not weaken the argument or findings. The 1980s through the 1990s is a period that both represents the height of the transnational women's rights movement (Moghadam 2005) and captures the period when the largest percentage of nations ratified the convention (UN Women 2018). Results indicate varying effects of the movement on ratification across the world-system, with the index for cross-border women's and human rights social movement organizations having a negative effect on the likeliness of ratification in the core, a positive effect in the semiperiphery, and no effect in the periphery.

WORLD SOCIETY AND TRANSNATIONAL WOMEN'S RIGHTS

The vast majority of previous research on international nongovernmental organizing and political outcomes is rooted in world-society theory (Cole 2005; Paxton, Hughes, and Green 2006; True and Mintrom 2001; Wotipka and Ramirez 2008). This impressive body of research makes sense given the critical role of INGOs, along with intergovernmental organizations (entities created by a treaty and composed of nation-state members), in world-society theory. A world-society approach suggests that social actors such as states, corporations, and interest groups are impacted by world cultural principles and institutions rather than independent autonomous actors (Boli and Thomas 1995). World cultural principles are based on universal scripts created and modified by powerful intergovernmental organizations such as the UN or World Bank and become the foundation for policymaking and reform. The scripts are spread to an array of nation-states through nongovernmental actors such as INGOs, creating similarities in policy decisions that represent “global norms and values” despite vast differences in local contexts (Meyer et al. 1997). As an increasing percentage of the world adapts to a script, the script becomes more dominant as a cultural norm.

From a world-society perspective, there would be increased pressure to ratify CEDAW as more nations adopted the convention. In fact, research has demonstrated a direct link between diffusion and CEDAW ratification (Wotipka and Ramirez 2008). Thus, I begin by testing the reliability of these previous findings. Along these lines, I hypothesize:

H1: Nations will be more likely to ratify CEDAW as the global percentage of ratification increases.

CEDAW was formally adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, which coincided with the emergence and proliferation of women's and human rights TSMOs that were directly involved in the push for ratification.6 The relationships between these TSMOs and the UN were key mechanisms to advance women's rights in various ways, including promoting the necessity of CEDAW ratification. In what follows, I further examine how the merging of these key elements of world society was involved in promotion of CEDAW ratification, illustrating why the world-society perspective is useful for understanding the effect of the movement on ratification.

Intergovernmental Organizations—The UN World Conferences on Women

The early planners and policymakers of the UN aimed to create an institution that would not only make the world more prosperous but also advance human rights. However, prior to the 1960s, women's rights were not, broadly speaking, on the international agenda. The decision to designate 1975 the International Women's Year and 1975 to 1985 the UN Decade for Women was a critical step in addressing women's rights on a global scale (Zinsser 2002).

In 1975, the UN held the World Conference of the International Women's Year in Mexico City. This event provided a natural space for the UN to work with not only state representatives but also representatives from a diversity of INGOs at the parallel nongovernmental forum, held outside the formal UN event (Allan, Galey, and Persinger 1995; Fraser 1987). These interactions helped delegates gain a better understanding of how (and why) an international instrument to protect women from discrimination was critical. It was following the meeting in Mexico City that members of the UN Commission on the Status of Women began drafting the text of CEDAW, which would be ratified by the UN General Assembly on December 19, 1975 (Fraser 1995; West 1999).

In 1980, the mid-decade World Conference on Women was held in Copenhagen. It was fraught with politics between women from the West and women of the developing world, but by the end of the conference delegates had come to agree on one key agenda item: endorsing CEDAW (Wetzel 1996). The emerging World Programme of Action further advanced the spirit of CEDAW by highlighting key elements of the convention in terms of development incentives (Chen 1996; Zinsser 2002). Five years later, delegates met again in Nairobi to review and appraise the Decade for Women. Here, the promotion of CEDAW would be a mechanism for addressing the political divisions that emerged in Copenhagen (West 1999). Again, delegations would build on the core tenets of CEDAW in drafting the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women (Stumpf 1985).

In the early 1990s, fearing that implementation of measures to address gender inequalities had lost momentum, a decision was made to hold a fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in fall 1995 (Steans and Ahmadi 2005). As at the previous two conferences, advocates of CEDAW stressed the importance of ratification. By the close of the meeting, delegates produced the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (UN Women 1995), which highlighted a need for urgent action in 12 key areas to advance gender equality. Among these was the protection and advancement of women's and girls' human rights, including the promotion of CEDAW.

Given the deep connection between the convention and the UN Conferences on Women, it is not surprising that research has demonstrated a direct link between conference years and CEDAW ratification (Wotipka and Ramirez 2008). I continue testing the reliability of previous findings, and along these lines, I hypothesize:

H2: Nations will be more likely to ratify CEDAW in the years of the UN World Conferences on Women.

The Importance of INGOs: Women's and Human Rights TSMOs

Although INGOs cannot pass laws and often have limited economic resources, they have the power to formulate global discourse, promote issues that need to be addressed, and pressure states to take action (Boli and Thomas 1999). Women's INGOs, the subset of INGOs targeting women's issues, are a powerful force in these contexts, drawing attention to key women's campaigns and concerns (Berkovitch 1999). As part of larger advocacy networks, they can keep governments in line by putting direct pressure on governments violating women's rights and by asking intergovernmental organizations and other states to put similar pressure on offending actors (Keck and Sikkink 1998). Organizations created specifically to address social and political change have been especially drawn to this work. Thus, it is not surprising that advocates of CEDAW quickly identified the potential of working in collaboration with international movement-based women's organizations to promote ratification and bring attention to women's issues and rights (Fraser 1995).

From the onset, the transnational women's movement of the 1980s and 1990s pushed for the promotion of gender equality laws, including CEDAW, often through opportunities provided to them during the UN World Conferences on Women and parallel NGO forums (Friedman 1995). Women's organizations played a critical role in supporting CEDAW in both global and domestic contexts, as local organizations worked in collaboration with larger international organizations to put pressure on nation-states to ratify (Fraser, 1995; Meyer and Prügl 1999). In part, this was because of an understanding that the convention would give activists an array of additional tools for addressing women's issues. State parties could be reported for violating the convention, and local activists could use the convention as a means of legitimizing their local agendas.

Beginning in the 1980s, a new rhetoric for addressing transnational women's rights emerged, framing women's rights as human rights (Bunch 1990). During the UN World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993, activists petitioned to ensure that the conference addressed women's human rights comprehensively (Bunch and Frost 2000). This ultimately changed both women's rights and human rights programs, making women's rights part of a larger human rights frame and embedding more feminist agendas in human rights organizations. Human rights organizations became more invested in supporting women's issues, concerns, and policies.

Despite the strong historic relationship between women's and human rights organizing and CEDAW, quantitative scholarship has produced mixed results. Wotipka and Ramirez (2008) look specifically at the relationship between women's INGOs and ratification, and find that increases in women's INGOs have a positive effect on the likelihood of ratification. However, when they look at ratification without reservations, the results fail to reach statistical significance. The authors' findings for human rights INGOs are more consistent: increases in human rights INGOs have a positive effect on the likelihood of ratification with and without reservations. Is this because human rights organizations by design are concerned with social progress, while women's organizations can include a large pool of agendas, including those that are not invested in women's human rights scripts? Given that women's and human rights TSMOs are a more activist-oriented subset of women's and human rights INGOs, and therefore more wedded to women's rights scripts, I hypothesize:

H3: Increased ties to women's and human rights TSMOs will increase the likelihood of CEDAW ratification.

Taken together, it is expected that world-society factors will impact ratification. In fact, it has been demonstrated in previous scholarship. What is missing is the recognition that not all nations participate equally in this broader world society (Beckfield 2003). Accordingly, it is necessary to augment the theoretical framing of these analyses by examining the economic, historical, and political experiences of nations, and how these experiences might impact nations' engagement with international gender policy.

A GLOBAL POLITICAL ECONOMY: RIGHTS AND THE WORLD-SYSTEM

Previous researchers have argued that variations, disparities, and inequality exist in global civil society (Beckfield 2003; Smith and Wiest 2005). Thus, to understand the “success” of any international human rights policy it is necessary to consider the impact of national contexts, the relationships among state actors, and the role of these nations in an overarching stratified system. Specifically, scholars suggest that levels of economic development can play a critical role in how nations respond to international policy (Boockmann 2001; Wotipka and Tsutsui 2008). To address how economic divisions are tied to politics outside the realm of economics, it is useful to turn to scholarship on the global political economy.

A Stratified Three-Area System of Power

Scholars of the global political economy suggest that one of the most powerful forces shaping the interplay among and between nation-states is the formulation of global capitalism, which led to the establishment of a stratified three-area system of trade and geopolitical power (Chase-Dunn 1998; Wallerstein 1979). World-system theory, as popularized in sociology by Immanuel Wallerstein in the 1970s, suggests that powerful, wealthy, and technically advanced core nations dominate and profit from periphery nations by using these lands for the extraction of raw materials and the exploitation of cheap labor. Between the core and periphery are semiperiphery nations, which serve as a collection point for vital but undesirable tasks necessary if the world economy is to function. The semiperiphery can also deflect political tension periphery nations might direct against the core; however, given that the interests of the semiperiphery are outside the political arena of core nations, coalitions between the core and semiperiphery can be strained (Wallerstein 1979).

Economically based relations are further intertwined as politicians in developing nations are driven to open markets to foreign goods and investments, privatize state industries, and engage in trade and loans agreements that overwhelmingly benefit the core. Consequently, a nation's position in the larger world-system influences its developmental outcomes, political actions, and international policy decisions (Chirot and Hall, 1982). This relationship is not confined to economic policy, especially when economic structures infiltrate so many aspects of social life.

Some scholars have argued that economic development and women's empowerment are so closely related that institutional structures must be overhauled to promote equality and that specific measures, such as CEDAW ratification, are necessary not only because they promote equality but also because they are needed to accelerate development (Duflo 2012). If this is the case, then one would expect periphery nations to be more drawn to policy (CEDAW) that could advance development. Yet, the deep constraints of the world-system would limit the extent to which periphery nations prioritized indirect development agendas. Thus, I hypothesize:

H4: Periphery nations' position in the world-system will have a positive but minimal effect on CEDAW ratification.

Economic Development, Inequality, and Rights

The complex position of semiperiphery nations—economically and politically trapped between the core and periphery—has historically created an environment where human rights (and women's rights) campaigns have proliferated. Scholars have examined multiple possibilities for this rich history of activism (Jaquette and Wolchik 1998; Waylen 2000). Dependency theorists argue that sustained economic growth is coupled with rising social inequalities (Portes 1976).7 Within a binary context, the sustained economic growth of core, developed nations at the expense of periphery, developing nations would logically increase social inequality at a global level. However, in more economically connected semiperiphery nations, economic growth is also accompanied by a national increase in social inequality. In this context, working-class populations grow while having limited access to skilled labor positions, but see how flows of foreign capital and transnational corporations benefit a domestic elite directly tied to core nations. In other words, the position of semiperiphery nations creates both global and national inequality—which can impact women's opportunities both inside and outside the home. Women's access to productive time, education, employment, property, and participation in the community are all limited when they face inequality in a local and global context. Could this visible double dose of inequality in semiperiphery nations increase a desire for gender non-discrimination policy? Given the gendered impact of global and national inequality in the semiperiphery, one would expect:

H5: Semiperiphery nations' position in the world-system will have a positive effect on CEDAW ratification.

Research on human rights, in a broad sense, has suggested that there are variations in what rights are accepted and promoted among nations (Frezzo 2015). In rich, Western, core nations, rights discourse is often framed in terms of civil and political rights.8 Women's rights agendas in core nations followed a similar suit, with early campaigns being focused on issues such as suffrage, equality, and later reproduction (Rademacher and Fallon 2017). In contrast, middle-income nations often speak of not only political and civil rights but also social and economic rights (Antrobus 2004; Fraser 1987; Tinker and Jaquette 1987).

While core nations typically frame economic and social issues as dependent on circumstance, and therefore matters for domestic policy, developing nations are more likely to stress the need to address global social and economic issues as part of a global human rights agenda. The exemplars are the middle-income states of Eastern Europe and to a lesser extent the post-development states of Latin America (Frezzo 2015). The importance of economic and social rights as an integral part of a global women's rights campaign emerged as women from advanced developing nations stressed the need to consider the role of economic and development agendas in women's empowerment (Antrobus 2004; Tinker and Jaquette 1987). Development and economic agendas were also stressed by women of the poorest nations of the world; however, these women emphasized the immediate need for broader programs that addressed basic human needs and survival (Charles 1995; Mikell 1997; Nussbaum 1996).

As a human rights treaty, CEDAW combines the civil, political, economic, and social rights of women. Accepting the incorporation of economic and social rights has been more challenging for core nations than for developing nations. However, core nations' position also gives them the autonomy to separate from a global agenda, especially if a nation's economic interest or the interests of the international capitalist class is in conflict with that agenda (Boswell and Chase-Dunn 2000). In this regard, hesitancy among core nations to promote economic and social rights is logical. Economic and social rights, including those related to education, employment, health, and economic and social benefits outlined in Part 3 of CEDAW, are frequently embedded in welfare programs. Although the welfare state does not reflect any structural change to capitalist society, some fear that welfare programs represent an inching toward a more socialist society (Offe 1972). Given the emphasis on economic and social rights in Part 3 of the convention, I add the following hypothesis:

H6: Core nations' position in the world-system will have a negative effect on CEDAW ratification.

INTEGRATING THE WORLD-SOCIETY AND WORLD-SYSTEM PERSPECTIVES: VARIATION IN THE POWER OF TRANSNATIONAL SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

Beckfield (2003) argues that a conflict model of world society that conceptualizes world culture scripts as both products of and mechanisms for economic and symbolic struggles among nations in a hierarchical network of nation-states better represents the reality of global relationships. This approach integrates a world-society perspective with world-systems theory in recognizing the strengths and limitations of global culture as well as those agents that participate in its diffusion, ultimately providing a useful frame for examining the role of the transnational women's movement in CEDAW ratification in the 1980s and 1990s.

Although international social movements and international social movement organizations can be powerful forces in the political arena, the power of cross-border mobilization is often juxtaposed with the domestic limitations of a particular nation. Thus, scholars have suggested that any international movement is not only difficult to construct but also a challenge to maintain (Tarrow 2001). In other words, local conditions affect the power dynamics in women's and human rights TSMOs, but could also impact the power of those organizations in pushing for social change. Merging world-society and world-systems perspectives requires one to consider how the structure of an economic world order impacts the power of social movement actors in a given context. Thus, by integrating world-society and world-system perspectives, the following hypotheses emerge:

H7: Increases in ties to women's and human rights organizations will have no effect on CEDAW ratification in core nations.

H8: Increases in ties to women's and human rights organizations will have a positive effect on CEDAW ratification in semiperiphery nations.

H9: Increases in ties to women's and human rights organizations will have a positive but minimal effect on CEDAW ratification in periphery nations.

DATA AND METHOD

In what follows, I analyze the relationship between political, social, and economic factors and the ratification of CEDAW from 1981 through 1999. There are 95 nations in the analysis following list-wise deletion of missing data. This sample includes 32 core nations, 17 semiperiphery nations, and 46 periphery nations. (See Table A1, in the  Appendix, for a list of all nations, year of CEDAW ratification, and world-system position.)

Because I examine factors that impact the likelihood that a nation will ratify a convention in a given year, I use event history analysis. Event history analysis explains a qualitative change that occurs in the dealings of an actor (individual, organization, political body, nation-state) at a particular point in time (Allison 1984). Researchers have argued that the hazard rates associated with the actions of nation-states are not a function of time but a function of the effects of independent variables (Frank, Hironaka, and Schofer 2000; Schofer 2003). I therefore need a model that assumes that the occurrence of an event is a function of covariates rather than historical time. The most appropriate event history analysis model for this study is a parametric regression model for survival data known as the exponential transition rate model.9 A general definition of the model would be written as:

 
h(t)=exp(β0+βkXi)

that is, h, the hazard function at some time t, is equal to the exponentiated constant term, β0, plus βkXi, which represents a matrix of coefficients for the k covariates.

Dependent Variable

I create a dichotomous variable for CEDAW ratification. For each country year, I code nations that ratified CEDAW as 1 and nations that did not ratify as 0; once a country ratifies the convention, I remove it from the risk-set.10 To address nations that adopt CEDAW with “reservations” that essentially nullify its core objectives, I apply the coding method of Fallon, Swiss, and Viterna (2012), where 1 = nations that ratified CEDAW with no reservations (or reservations that do not limit the overarching objectives of the convention); and 0 = nations that ratify with reservations that permit gender discrimination.11 Data on the ratification of CEDAW are from UN Women (2018).

Key Independent Variables

World society: organizations, institutional platforms, and diffusion

To measure a nation's involvement in the transnational women's rights movement, I turn to counts of domestic ties to women's and human rights TSMOs. Given the overlapping agendas of women's and human rights organizations during this period, I form a Women's Human Rights Organization Index (WHROI) to avoid issues of multicollinearity and reduce the number of variables in the data set. This index is created using factor analysis to combine counts of the number of women's and human rights TSMOs that report members in a given country.12 The index provides a better measure of participation in the broader transnational women's human rights movement as it excludes organizations that would not challenge gender inequality, discrimination, or patriarchy. All data for the WHROI are from Smith and Wiest (2005), and were collected from the annual census of international organizations listed in the Yearbook of International Organizations.13

I include a dummy variable to mark the years of the UN Conferences on Women. Between 1981 and 1999, such conferences took place in 1985 and 1995. I code the years 1985 and 1995 as 1, and all other years as 0.

I account for the influence of global diffusion, or the process of nations' mimicry of a newly established global norm. This is captured using a measure of world density: the total number of ratifications among nations in the previous year divided by the total number of nations and multiplied by 100.

World-system position

I classify each nation into one of three world-system positions: core, semiperiphery, or periphery. World-system position is determined using Clark and Beckfield's (2005) classification based on international trade networks. This measure addresses the limitations in terms of age, informal construction, and incorporation of inappropriate networks in the more orthodox measure created by Snyder and Kick (1979).

Interaction effects

To test the impact of the transnational women's human rights movement in the confines of a globally stratified world-system, I interact the WHROI with each of the positions in the world-system. The interaction terms use the data above for the WHROI and world-system position. Each interaction term will indicate the effect of the index for that specific world-system position. Interactions are split into different models to show robustness for the controls and independent variables as well as clarity on the interaction interpretations. These interactions will illustrate whether the effects of the index are constant or vary by world-system position.

Control Variables

Control variables measure the influence of domestic factors on the likelihood of CEDAW ratification. Wotipka and Ramirez (2008) find that a nation's propensity to ratify human rights treaties other than CEDAW positively influences ratification of the convention. Thus, I use a control variable to capture linkages to other international human rights treaties. I use states' ratification of six other multilateral human rights treaties adopted by the UN: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966); the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984); the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989); and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990). I code the variable from 0 to 6, with 0 indicating that in a year a nation had not ratified any of these treaties, and 6 indicating that all of the treaties had been ratified by that year.

Scholars have suggested that Islamic nations have been less accepting of women's political rights and participation, and have correspondingly less government programs and agencies for advancing women's issues (Joseph 1996). Here, I include a dichotomous control variable where I code nations with Islam as the dominant religion as 1 and all other nations as 0. The data were coded by Kenworthy and Malami (1999), and come from the Central Intelligence Agency.

To address the possibility that external resource flows influence ratification, I include a measure of aid per capita. Historically, world-system theorists have examined foreign aid as a mechanism for controlling semiperiphery and periphery nations (Wood 1986). Swiss (2016) suggests that countries with greater connections to world society can benefit by increasing the number of aid relationships. Thus, foreign aid can play a critical role in nations' policy decisions from both world-system and world-society perspectives. The measure of foreign aid comes from Swiss and Fallon (2017) and was logged to account for skewness after adding a constant to address nations receiving no foreign aid in a given year. Foreign aid is reported in constant 2005 U.S. dollars.

In addition to world-system position, level of economic development (as represented by GDP per capita) can impact nations' policy decisions in the international arena. Wotipka and Ramirez (2008) find that least developed nations are consistently less likely to ratify CEDAW. Thus, I create a dummy variable where low-income and heavily indebted nations are coded 1 and all others as 0. The data are from the World Bank (2017).14

Education and political participation are recognized as key variables in women's access to full participation in society. Kabeer (2005) argues that women with higher education are more likely to advocate gender equality. Thus, I include a measure of girls' gross secondary education enrollment. This measure is a ratio of total enrollment, regardless of age. The data on secondary education are from the World Bank (2017). Scholars of gender and politics suggest that women have policy preferences that differ from men's—and are more in line with women's rights and concerns—in nations of the developed and developing world (Paxton and Hughes 2017; Taylor-Robinson and Health 2003). Therefore, I add a measure of women's political participation, which comes from Sundström et al. (2015) as part of the Varieties of Democracy project. This index is created by taking the average of a measure of lower-chamber female legislators and a measure of power distributed by gender. Descriptive statistics for all variables can be found in Table 1.

TABLE 1.

Descriptive statistics of all variables

ConceptIndicatorMeanS.D.Min.Max.
World Society 
Women's Transnational Social Movement Index (WTSMI)a Index representing combined influence transnational world women's and human rights social movement organizations 0.0242 .964 −1.191 4.114 
Conference Years Dummy variable for years of the UN conferences on women in Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995) 0.105 0.307 
World Density Percentage of nations that ratified CEDAW with no reservations in a given year 52.591 19.818 5.426 75.194 
World-Systems Position 
Core Nationsb Nations occupying core positions 0.331 0.471 
Semiperiphery Nationsb Nations occupying semiperipheral positions 0.161 0.368 
Periphery Nationsb Nations occupying peripheral positions 0.508 0.500 
Interactions 
Index × Core Interaction between WTSMI and Core Nations 0.279 0.717 −0.981 4.114 
Index × Semiperiphery Interaction between WTSMI and Semiperiphery Nations 0.004 0.294 −1.123 2.160 
Index × Periphery Interaction between WTSMI and Periphery Nations −0.259 0.428 −1.191 1.710 
Control Variables 
Islamc Dummy variable for nations where Islam is the dominant religion 0.298 0.458 
Aid Per Capitad Total foreign aid per capita in constant 2005 U.S dollars (plus constant) 32.989 50.176 −23.740 562.250 
Human Rights Treaties Count of the ratification of six core international human rights treaties in a nation during a given year 2.865 1.675 
Women's Political Participatione Index of women's descriptive representation in the legislature and an equal share in the overall distribution of power 0.641 0.258 0.063 
Girls' Secondary Educationf Converted ratio of girls' total secondary school enrollment to the population 57.221 37.124 1.787 175.221 
Least Developedf Dummy variable for nations with GDP per capita below USD 1,000 0.388 0.487 
ConceptIndicatorMeanS.D.Min.Max.
World Society 
Women's Transnational Social Movement Index (WTSMI)a Index representing combined influence transnational world women's and human rights social movement organizations 0.0242 .964 −1.191 4.114 
Conference Years Dummy variable for years of the UN conferences on women in Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995) 0.105 0.307 
World Density Percentage of nations that ratified CEDAW with no reservations in a given year 52.591 19.818 5.426 75.194 
World-Systems Position 
Core Nationsb Nations occupying core positions 0.331 0.471 
Semiperiphery Nationsb Nations occupying semiperipheral positions 0.161 0.368 
Periphery Nationsb Nations occupying peripheral positions 0.508 0.500 
Interactions 
Index × Core Interaction between WTSMI and Core Nations 0.279 0.717 −0.981 4.114 
Index × Semiperiphery Interaction between WTSMI and Semiperiphery Nations 0.004 0.294 −1.123 2.160 
Index × Periphery Interaction between WTSMI and Periphery Nations −0.259 0.428 −1.191 1.710 
Control Variables 
Islamc Dummy variable for nations where Islam is the dominant religion 0.298 0.458 
Aid Per Capitad Total foreign aid per capita in constant 2005 U.S dollars (plus constant) 32.989 50.176 −23.740 562.250 
Human Rights Treaties Count of the ratification of six core international human rights treaties in a nation during a given year 2.865 1.675 
Women's Political Participatione Index of women's descriptive representation in the legislature and an equal share in the overall distribution of power 0.641 0.258 0.063 
Girls' Secondary Educationf Converted ratio of girls' total secondary school enrollment to the population 57.221 37.124 1.787 175.221 
Least Developedf Dummy variable for nations with GDP per capita below USD 1,000 0.388 0.487 

RESULTS

Table 2 illustrates the findings of the exponential model of the factors affecting the risk of CEDAW ratification in seven separate models. Event history analysis predicts hazard ratios; however, to clarify interpretation, I transform the reported hazard ratios to coefficient estimates.15 Model 2.1 is a baseline model, including all control variables. Model 2.2 adds the world-society variables. Models 2.3 and 2.4 combine the previous model with world-system position variables. Models 2.5, 2.6, and 2.7 include the interaction terms.

TABLE 2.

Factors influencing the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women with no reservations, 1981–1999

Model 2.1Model 2.2Model 2.3Model 2.4Model 2.5Model 2.6Model 2.7
World society variables 
Women's Human Rights Organizations Index  −0.123 −0.273 −0.273 0.554 −0.508 −0.317 
  (0.234) (0.300) (0.300) (0.508) (0.332) (0.313) 
Conference Years  0.855** 0.850** 0.850*** 0.878** 0.877** 0.852** 
  (0.313) (0.314) (0.314) (0.313) (0.314) (0.313) 
World Diffusion  −0.004 −0.001 −0.001 −0.001 −0.001 −0.001 
  (0.007) (0.007) (0.007) (0.007) (0.007) (0.007) 
World system variables 
Core Nations   0.468 −0.261 0.047 0.616 −0.210 
   (0.536) (0.464) (0.539) (0.531) (0.470) 
Semiperiphery Nations   0.729†  0.451 1.226**  
   (0.412)  (0.436) (0.469)  
Periphery Nations    −0.729†   −0.490 
    (0.412)   (0.599) 
Interaction terms 
Index × Core     −1.137*   
     (0.564)   
Index × Semiperiphery      1.590*  
      (0.790)  
Index × Periphery       0.396 
       (0.740) 
Control variables 
Islam −1.164*** −1.153*** −1.326*** −1.326*** −1.258** −1.211** −1.330*** 
 (0.338) (0.355) (0.389) (0.389) (0.402) (0.397) (0.392) 
Aid Per Capita −0.003 −0.002 −0.003 −0.003 −0.004 −0.005 −0.002 
 (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) 
Human Rights Treaties 0.343*** 0.370*** 0.361*** 0.361*** 0.325*** 0.330** 0.354*** 
 (0.101) (0.108) (0.109) (0.109) (0.108) (0.109) (0.109) 
Women's Political Participation 0.447 0.467 0.792 0.792 1.045 1.194* 0.783 
 (0.622) (0.644) (0.681) (0.681) (0.677) (0.689) (0.682) 
Girls' Secondary School Education −0.007 −0.005 −0.008 −0.008 −0.008 −0.009 −0.008 
 (0.007) (0.007) (0.008) (0.008) (0.008) (0.008) (0.008) 
Least Developed Nations −0.426 −0.331 −0.347 −0.347 −0.286 −0.422 −0.310 
 (0.431) (0.444) (0.455) (0.455) (0.466) (0.462) (0.462) 
Constant −2.164*** −2.391*** −2.793*** −2.064** −2.305** −2.998*** −2.070** 
 (0.537) (0.639) (0.710) (0.688) (0.732) (0.706) (0.693) 
n 95 95 95 95 95 95 95 
Observations 546 526 526 526 526 526 526 
Model 2.1Model 2.2Model 2.3Model 2.4Model 2.5Model 2.6Model 2.7
World society variables 
Women's Human Rights Organizations Index  −0.123 −0.273 −0.273 0.554 −0.508 −0.317 
  (0.234) (0.300) (0.300) (0.508) (0.332) (0.313) 
Conference Years  0.855** 0.850** 0.850*** 0.878** 0.877** 0.852** 
  (0.313) (0.314) (0.314) (0.313) (0.314) (0.313) 
World Diffusion  −0.004 −0.001 −0.001 −0.001 −0.001 −0.001 
  (0.007) (0.007) (0.007) (0.007) (0.007) (0.007) 
World system variables 
Core Nations   0.468 −0.261 0.047 0.616 −0.210 
   (0.536) (0.464) (0.539) (0.531) (0.470) 
Semiperiphery Nations   0.729†  0.451 1.226**  
   (0.412)  (0.436) (0.469)  
Periphery Nations    −0.729†   −0.490 
    (0.412)   (0.599) 
Interaction terms 
Index × Core     −1.137*   
     (0.564)   
Index × Semiperiphery      1.590*  
      (0.790)  
Index × Periphery       0.396 
       (0.740) 
Control variables 
Islam −1.164*** −1.153*** −1.326*** −1.326*** −1.258** −1.211** −1.330*** 
 (0.338) (0.355) (0.389) (0.389) (0.402) (0.397) (0.392) 
Aid Per Capita −0.003 −0.002 −0.003 −0.003 −0.004 −0.005 −0.002 
 (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) (0.003) 
Human Rights Treaties 0.343*** 0.370*** 0.361*** 0.361*** 0.325*** 0.330** 0.354*** 
 (0.101) (0.108) (0.109) (0.109) (0.108) (0.109) (0.109) 
Women's Political Participation 0.447 0.467 0.792 0.792 1.045 1.194* 0.783 
 (0.622) (0.644) (0.681) (0.681) (0.677) (0.689) (0.682) 
Girls' Secondary School Education −0.007 −0.005 −0.008 −0.008 −0.008 −0.009 −0.008 
 (0.007) (0.007) (0.008) (0.008) (0.008) (0.008) (0.008) 
Least Developed Nations −0.426 −0.331 −0.347 −0.347 −0.286 −0.422 −0.310 
 (0.431) (0.444) (0.455) (0.455) (0.466) (0.462) (0.462) 
Constant −2.164*** −2.391*** −2.793*** −2.064** −2.305** −2.998*** −2.070** 
 (0.537) (0.639) (0.710) (0.688) (0.732) (0.706) (0.693) 
n 95 95 95 95 95 95 95 
Observations 546 526 526 526 526 526 526 

Standard errors in parentheses.

***p < 0.001, **p < 0.01, *p < 0.05, †p < .10 for a two-tailed test.

Overall, the results of model 2.1 are as expected. The variable for the ratification of human rights treaties has a positive and statistically significant effect on the likelihood of CEDAW ratification. The variable indicating Islam as the dominant religion is negative and statistically significant, suggesting that nations where Islam in the dominant religion are less likely to ratify the convention. Consistent with the finding of Wotipka and Ramirez (2008), aid per capita fails to reach statistical significance in the baseline model. In contrast to their findings, the measure for least developed nations also fails to reach statistical significance. However, this is not surprising given the limitations of GDP-based variables in cross-national analysis.16 Women's political participation also fails to reach statistical significance, which again is consistent with the findings of Wotipka and Ramirez. One surprising result is the failure of girls' secondary education to reach statistical significance in the baseline model.

In model 2.2, the variable marking the years of the UN World Conferences on Women (1985 and 1995) is positive and statistically significant (Hypothesis 2). However, the WHROI (Hypothesis 3) and measure of world diffusion (Hypothesis 1) fail to reach statistical significance. The findings for the ratification of other human rights treaties, Islam, aid per capita, least developed nations, women's political participation, and girls' secondary education are consistent with the previous model.

When incorporating world-system position variables in models 2.3 and 2.4, all previous variables are consistent. While all the variables of world-system position fail to reach statistical significance at a 95% confidence level (Hypotheses 4–6), the measure of semiperiphery nations is positive and significant at 90% confidence, and the measure for periphery nations is negative and significant at 90% confidence.

Although the WHROI does not have a direct effect on CEDAW ratification in previous models, noteworthy differences emerge when looking at the effect of the index at various world-system positions. When examining the interactions between the index and world-system positions (Hypotheses 7–9), calculations with the index serving as the focal point reveal that the movement can have an impact on ratification dependent on world-system position. In core nations (model 2.5), the index has a negative and statistically significant effect on CEDAW ratification. Among semiperiphery nations (model 2.6), the effect is positive and statistically significant. Finally, in periphery nations (model 2.7), the interaction variable fails to reach statistical significance.

DISCUSSION

Exploring what forces influence the ratification of CEDAW is important not only in understanding the strengths and limitations of the global women's movement of the 1980s and 1990s, but also in illustrating how this movement functioned across various political-economic categories. The statistical findings presented here indicate that women's and human rights TSMOs (as a critical segment of the movement) did impact CEDAW ratification, but the effect varied by world-system position. In this section I discuss the finding in relation to previous world-society research and the implications of world-system position, followed by a reflection on what these results mean for gender movements today.

World Society: Building on the Findings of Wotipka and Ramirez

Consistent with the findings of Wotipka and Ramirez, these analyses suggest that some world-society actors played an important role in the ratification of CEDAW. The years of the UN women's conferences are a key predictor of CEDAW ratification across the globe. In 1985 and 1995, the risk of ratification increases. This is consistent with previous scholarship and suggests that the work of conference organizers, delegates, and activists attending the conferences and parallel NGO forums was successful not only in promoting the convention through special sessions and events but also in energizing and motivating delegates and attendees, who took the message of the convention back to their governmental institutions (Fraser 1995).

Domestic factors also impacted the ratification of the convention. In these analyses, the variable for Islam as the dominant religion is in alignment with Wotipka and Ramirez's finding that Muslim nations were less likely than non-Muslim nations to ratify the convention. This is not surprising, given that Islamic nations tended to ratify CEDAW later than other nations and were more likely to include reservations. In all the models, the ratification of other human rights treaties also increases the risk of CEDAW ratification in the global sample, supporting the findings of Wotipka and Ramirez. Again, this is as expected, given that previous research suggests that in some cases nations with a visible commitment to human rights practices are more likely to adopt additional human rights measures (Cole 2005; Wotipka and Tsutsui 2008).

This study differs from the work of Wotipka and Ramirez (2008) by focusing on transnational women's and human rights organizations explicitly founded to promote political or social change. That the index fails to directly impact ratification in a global context does not entail that the transnational women's movement did not influence decisions to ratify the convention, as the UN World Conferences on Women held in 1985 and 1995 were also embedded in this movement and had a powerful effect on ratification. Bivariate models suggest that the variable for conference years may simply be masking the impact of the index. And the interactions between the index and world-system positions suggest that these organizations did influence ratification decisions, albeit in contrary ways.

The Transnational Women's Movement and the World-System

The analyses presented here illustrate the need to consider the structure of the global political economy in which various world-society actors operate. These findings suggest that world-system position did (indirectly) impact nations' policy decisions as well as the role of the global women's movement in shaping those decisions in diverse ways. In the interactions between the index and world-system position one can see the importance of considering how development and economic ties interplay with global culture.

Core nations

It might seem surprising that the index has a negative and statistically significant effect on ratification in the core given the large number of transnational organizations and networks working toward women's human rights that emerge in the core. An understanding of the history of the broader women's international movement might clarify this finding. The early “international feminist movement,” which emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, was dominated by bourgeois Euro-American agendas. However, by the 1980s and 1990s, women of color and women from the developing world were becoming strong leaders and educators in the global movement—ultimately changing the shape and scope of key issues and debates (Rademacher and Fallon 2017). Thus, while transnational organizations were frequently headquartered in core nations, the driving force of agendas often came from women in the developing world.

A second issue is the relationship between nations' positions on rights and international treaties. Core, Western nations are more likely to support policies based on civil and political rights, while addressing economic and social issues domestically. For example, in the United States, opponents of CEDAW frequently cite national policy on sex and gender discrimination as justification for not ratifying the convention (Baldez 2014). While the United States, one of only six nations to date that has not ratified the convention, is known as an outlier in both a global and peer-nation context, other core nations, including the Netherlands and Switzerland, did not ratify CEDAW until the 1990s.17 It is possible that in nations where national approaches to economic and social issues are preferable to international agreements, the efforts of the broader transnational women's human rights movement were focused less on CEDAW ratification and more on other issues related to women's equality and empowerment. Future research could further disaggregate the specific nations in the core that have historically taken this position.

Finally, given the power of core nations in shaping world culture norms, core nations are rarely in the position of needing to adopt international conventions to gain legitimacy in the larger world society. For example, while many advocates of CEDAW have argued that ratification by the United States would send a strong message across the globe regarding where the United States stands on women's human rights, failure to ratify the convention has little impact on the United States' position in the larger global structure (Baldez 2014; Koh 2002). Thus, the index's negative and statistically significant effect on ratification in the core illustrates the challenge of global civil society actors in powerful core nations.

Semiperiphery nations

In direct contrast to core nations, the WHROI has a positive and statistically significant effect in the semiperiphery. This could support the theories of dual inequality that emerged from dependency theorists and some world-system scholars. The unique impact of the index in the semiperiphery may also have a link to the growing power of women from developing nations in the global women's human rights movement. While their voices were frequently minimized in early transnational dialogue, beginning in the 1980s and 1990s female leaders, often from semiperiphery nations, gained positions of power and influence in the larger global movement. Thus, the incorporation of more leaders from the semiperiphery in the broader global movement not only illustrated to feminists in the West the limitations of applying traditional Western organizing strategies without attending to historic and cultural dynamics, but also increased the impact of previously disconnected global campaigns in nations of the semiperiphery (Noonan 1995; Viterna and Fallon 2008).

Finally, scholars suggest that there is variation in how much autonomy nations have in a world society. States and civil society actors in more privileged positions have some power to set agendas, outline debates, and push for policies that benefit them, regardless of the relationship between their agendas and global culture. For semiperiphery nations, aligning with the scripts of global culture could be a critical development strategy even when those same scripts are disregarded by core nations; therefore, the global women's human rights movement would be most effective among nations of the semiperiphery, where states aim to move up to a more privileged position, but do not have the political-economic power to disregard the cultural scripts of global society.

Periphery nations

In the periphery, the WHROI had no impact on CEDAW ratification. However, we know that women from periphery nations also found a voice in the broader global women's human rights movement of the 1980s and 1990s. What accounts for the positive influence of the women's human rights movement among only semiperiphery nations? The integrated world-systems/world-polity frame can provide a deeper understanding of the complicated web of world culture in a stratified world economy. Previous research on social movements in the world-system suggests that nations that industrialize later are far less active in transnational social movements and international nongovernmental sectors (Smith and Wiest 2005). Scholars also argue that the need for cheap labor and raw materials from periphery nations led to political exclusion and repression, which makes access to the resources and skills necessary for successful global activism difficult (Bob 2001; Smith and Wiest 2005). Finally, it is also worth considering that in periphery nations—where there are often struggles with immediate issues such as authoritarian regimes, civil war, widespread poverty, and food security—activists and global civil society actors might find it more important to direct their energies and funds toward these issues of survival.

These findings should not be read to mean that the global women's human rights movement does not have a presence in the periphery, or that global civil society actors do not organize within periphery nations to end gender discrimination at the global level. Alternatively, these findings suggest that the strength of women's organizing in the periphery might be in a national/regional context or that the framing of women's issues in periphery nations is different than in the convention, which is more representative of the issues faced by women in more developed nations.

CONCLUSION

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is one of the most important pillars of the contemporary global women's human rights movement. In this investigation, I supplement the existing body of literature by demonstrating the diversity of influence of this movement in contributing to the ratification of the convention in the 1980s and 1990s. These findings further demonstrate that the influence of the movement varied dramatically between core, semiperiphery, and periphery nations. The strength of women's human rights organizations in semiperiphery nations—in contrast to the limitations in core and periphery nations—suggests a need for a more heterogeneous transnational approach to women's networking, organizing, and activism when pushing for a global women's rights agenda. The results presented here provide a foundation for considering the strengths and limitations of a movement crossing national boundaries, illustrating the variation among nations in a stratified world-system. Future research focused more specifically on the effectiveness of the movement in terms of resources and political opportunities will provide further insights and taken together lead to a blueprint of success for future transnational women's rights campaigns.

Women and girls across the globe continue to fight for advancement, protection, and empowerment. Martha Nussbaum (2016) argued that CEDAW is an effect rather than a cause of women's activism, and thus just one step in a larger worldwide women's movement. Exploring the factors that increase the likelihood of ratification, and how these factors vary among the nations of the world, is therefore an important step in evaluating the progress of the contemporary global women's movement and instrumental in providing insight for future organizational and policy efforts.

APPENDIX

TABLE A1.

Sample of nations

CountryRatification yearWorld-system positionCountryRatification yearWorld-system positionCountryRatification yearWorld-system positionCountryRatification yearWorld-system position
Afghanistan 2003 Periphery Ecuador 1981 Periphery Korea, South 1984* Core Senegal 1985 Periphery 
Albania 1994 Periphery Egypt 1981* Core Laos 1981 Periphery Sierra Leone 1988 Periphery 
Algeria 1996 Semiperiphery Fiji 1995* Periphery Libya 1989* Semiperiphery Somalia  Periphery 
Angola 1986 Periphery Finland 1986 Core Madagascar 1989 Periphery Spain 1984 Core 
Argentina 1985 Core France 1983 Core Malawi 1987 Periphery Sri Lanka 1981 Semiperiphery 
Bahrain 2002 Periphery Gabon 1983 Periphery Malaysia 1995* Core South Africa 1995 Periphery 
Bangladesh 1984 Semiperiphery Gambia 1993 Periphery Mali 1985 Periphery Sweden 1980 Core 
Belgium 1985 Core Ghana 1986 Periphery Mauritania 2001 Periphery Switzerland 1997 Core 
Benin 1992 Periphery Greece 1983 Core Mauritius 1984 Periphery Syria 2003* Periphery 
Bulgaria 1982 Core Guatemala 1982 Periphery Mexico 1981 Core Tanzania 1985 Periphery 
Burkina Faso 1987 Periphery Guinea 1982 Periphery Morocco 1993* Core Togo 1983 Periphery 
Burundi 1992 Periphery Guinea-Bissau 1985 Periphery Mozambique 1997 Periphery Trinidad 1990 Periphery 
Cameroon 1994 Periphery Honduras 1983 Periphery Nepal 1991 Core Tunisia 1985* Semiperiphery 
Canada 1981 Core Hungary 1980 Core Netherlands 1991 Core Turkey 1985* Core 
Central African Republic 1991 Periphery India 1993 Core New Zealand 1985 Periphery UAE 2004* Semiperiphery 
Chad 1995 Periphery Indonesia 1984 Core Niger 1999 Core Uganda 1985 Periphery 
Chile 1989 Semiperiphery Iran  Core Norway 1981 Periphery UK 1986 Core 
China 1980 Core Iraq 1986 Semiperiphery Oman* 2006 Core USA  Core 
Columbia 1982 Semiperiphery Ireland 1985 Core Pakistan 1996* Semiperiphery Zambia 1985 Periphery 
Congo, BR 1982 Periphery Israel 1991* Semiperiphery Panama 1981 Periphery Zimbabwe 1991 Semiperiphery 
Congo, DR 1982 Periphery Italy 1985 Core Papua New Guinea 1995 Periphery    
Costa Rica 1986 Periphery Cote d'Ivoire 1995 Semiperiphery Paraguay 1987 Semiperiphery    
Cyprus 1985* Semiperiphery Jamaica 1984 Periphery Peru 1982 Semiperiphery    
Denmark 1983 Core Japan 1985 Core Philippines 1981 Core    
Djibouti 1998 Periphery Kenya 1984 Semiperiphery Rwanda 1981 Periphery    
CountryRatification yearWorld-system positionCountryRatification yearWorld-system positionCountryRatification yearWorld-system positionCountryRatification yearWorld-system position
Afghanistan 2003 Periphery Ecuador 1981 Periphery Korea, South 1984* Core Senegal 1985 Periphery 
Albania 1994 Periphery Egypt 1981* Core Laos 1981 Periphery Sierra Leone 1988 Periphery 
Algeria 1996 Semiperiphery Fiji 1995* Periphery Libya 1989* Semiperiphery Somalia  Periphery 
Angola 1986 Periphery Finland 1986 Core Madagascar 1989 Periphery Spain 1984 Core 
Argentina 1985 Core France 1983 Core Malawi 1987 Periphery Sri Lanka 1981 Semiperiphery 
Bahrain 2002 Periphery Gabon 1983 Periphery Malaysia 1995* Core South Africa 1995 Periphery 
Bangladesh 1984 Semiperiphery Gambia 1993 Periphery Mali 1985 Periphery Sweden 1980 Core 
Belgium 1985 Core Ghana 1986 Periphery Mauritania 2001 Periphery Switzerland 1997 Core 
Benin 1992 Periphery Greece 1983 Core Mauritius 1984 Periphery Syria 2003* Periphery 
Bulgaria 1982 Core Guatemala 1982 Periphery Mexico 1981 Core Tanzania 1985 Periphery 
Burkina Faso 1987 Periphery Guinea 1982 Periphery Morocco 1993* Core Togo 1983 Periphery 
Burundi 1992 Periphery Guinea-Bissau 1985 Periphery Mozambique 1997 Periphery Trinidad 1990 Periphery 
Cameroon 1994 Periphery Honduras 1983 Periphery Nepal 1991 Core Tunisia 1985* Semiperiphery 
Canada 1981 Core Hungary 1980 Core Netherlands 1991 Core Turkey 1985* Core 
Central African Republic 1991 Periphery India 1993 Core New Zealand 1985 Periphery UAE 2004* Semiperiphery 
Chad 1995 Periphery Indonesia 1984 Core Niger 1999 Core Uganda 1985 Periphery 
Chile 1989 Semiperiphery Iran  Core Norway 1981 Periphery UK 1986 Core 
China 1980 Core Iraq 1986 Semiperiphery Oman* 2006 Core USA  Core 
Columbia 1982 Semiperiphery Ireland 1985 Core Pakistan 1996* Semiperiphery Zambia 1985 Periphery 
Congo, BR 1982 Periphery Israel 1991* Semiperiphery Panama 1981 Periphery Zimbabwe 1991 Semiperiphery 
Congo, DR 1982 Periphery Italy 1985 Core Papua New Guinea 1995 Periphery    
Costa Rica 1986 Periphery Cote d'Ivoire 1995 Semiperiphery Paraguay 1987 Semiperiphery    
Cyprus 1985* Semiperiphery Jamaica 1984 Periphery Peru 1982 Semiperiphery    
Denmark 1983 Core Japan 1985 Core Philippines 1981 Core    
Djibouti 1998 Periphery Kenya 1984 Semiperiphery Rwanda 1981 Periphery    

n = 95

Sources: United Nations (2017); Clark and Beckfield (2009).

*

= Nations with reservations that permit gender discrimination.

= Reservations withdrawn after 1999.

TABLE A2.

Correlation matrix of independent variables

 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) 
(1) Women's Human Rights Organizations Index 1.000            
(2) Conference Years −0.005 1.000           
(3) World Diffusion 0.320 0.0155 1.000          
(4) Core Nations 0.593 0.000 0.000 1.000         
(5) Semiperiphery Nations 0.000 0.000 0.000 −0.308 1.000        
(6) Periphery Nations −0.563 0.000 0.000 −0.714 −0.446 1.000       
(7) Islam −0.346 0.000 0.000 −0.159 0.097 0.078 1.000      
(8) Aid Per Capita −0.290 −0.020 0.023 −0.396 0.002 0.371 0.104 1.000     
(9) Human Rights Treaties 0.446 −0.003 0.495 0.100 0.126 −0.186 −0.195 −0.116 1.000    
(10) Women's Political Participation 0.502 0.000 0.187 0.395 −0.160 −0.253 −0.528 −0.139 0.317 1.000   
(11) Girls' Secondary Education 0.669  0.022 0.191 0.595 0.021 −0.607 −0.351 −0.237 0.322 0.483 1.000  
(12) Least Developed  −0.400 0.000 0.000 −0.463 −0.130 0.531 0.158 0.221 −0.162 −0.137 −0.705 1.000 
 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) 
(1) Women's Human Rights Organizations Index 1.000            
(2) Conference Years −0.005 1.000           
(3) World Diffusion 0.320 0.0155 1.000          
(4) Core Nations 0.593 0.000 0.000 1.000         
(5) Semiperiphery Nations 0.000 0.000 0.000 −0.308 1.000        
(6) Periphery Nations −0.563 0.000 0.000 −0.714 −0.446 1.000       
(7) Islam −0.346 0.000 0.000 −0.159 0.097 0.078 1.000      
(8) Aid Per Capita −0.290 −0.020 0.023 −0.396 0.002 0.371 0.104 1.000     
(9) Human Rights Treaties 0.446 −0.003 0.495 0.100 0.126 −0.186 −0.195 −0.116 1.000    
(10) Women's Political Participation 0.502 0.000 0.187 0.395 −0.160 −0.253 −0.528 −0.139 0.317 1.000   
(11) Girls' Secondary Education 0.669  0.022 0.191 0.595 0.021 −0.607 −0.351 −0.237 0.322 0.483 1.000  
(12) Least Developed  −0.400 0.000 0.000 −0.463 −0.130 0.531 0.158 0.221 −0.162 −0.137 −0.705 1.000 

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NOTES

1.

Given the role of the United States in drafting CEDAW, there is a solid body of research addressing why the most powerful actor in the international system has yet to ratify the convention. Researchers have addressed the institutional barriers to ratification in the United States, the partisan nature of the convention in U.S. politics, the internal debate in the United States related to all international human rights treaties, and the fear that treaty provisions could supersede U.S. law (Baldez 2014; Koh 2002).

2.

Within a year of the General Assembly's adoption of the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, members of the Commission on the Status of Women were proposing that the declaration be converted into a convention. By 1974, the UN Economic and Social Council appointed members of a working group to draft a single convention, which was further supported following the first UN Conference on Women in 1975 (Fraser 1995).

3.

Given the complexities of monitoring and enforcement, there are questions about whether CEDAW ratification is necessarily a good measure of women's empowerment, and therefore, whether ratification should be deemed a success for the transnational women's movement. However, scholars suggest that state parties have seen increases in women's political rights, education parity, government support for family planning, and women's public-sector employment (Baldez 2014; Simmons 2009). While this is an important debate that should be addressed, it falls beyond the scope of this paper. Here, I frame ratification as a mechanism for advancing the movement, since ratification was one of the principal concerns of activists in the movement (Fraser 1995).

4.

World-society theory is also referred to as world polity, global neo-institutionalism, and the Stanford School of global analysis. While these labels are used interchangeably in the literature, for the sake of clarity I will use “world society” throughout this paper.

5.

As CEDAW was designed to end discrimination against women and promote women's rights, nations that ratified the convention with reservations permitting gender discrimination were not upholding the spirit of the convention or the movement. Therefore, in this project nations that ratified with such reservations were coded as “not ratified.”

6.

Many TSMOs, including Human Rights Watch, Equality Now, and the International Women's Rights Action Watch, have made public statements supporting ratification.

7.

Chirot and Hall (1982) argue that world-system theory is in many ways an American adaptation of dependency theory.

8.

While world-system position is more complex that categories based on GDP per capita or OECD membership, there are clearly overlaps between “core,” Western, and “rich” nations; “semiperiphery” and “middle-income” nations, and “low-income” and “periphery nations.” For example, with the exception of Chile and Israel, all OECD nations included in Clark and Beckfield's (2009) measure of world-system position are coded as “core nations.” And all of Clark and Beckfield's “semiperiphery nations” have an average real GDP per capita below US$ 10,000, with the exception of Cyprus, Israel, and Kuwait.

9.

The AIC test produced similar results with exponential, Weibull, and Gompertz models. While the AIC score for the Weibull model was slightly lower, an exponential model is a better fit for this analysis given the relationship between hazard rates associated with nation-states and time.

10.

Event history analysis can be used to examine events that occur once or multiple times. In this case, the event (ratification) can only occur once, thus, once a nation has ratified the convention it is no longer “at risk” of the event occurring and removed from the set of all nations at risk of the event.

11.

While most reservations are not counter to the objectives of CEDAW, some attempt to limit the substantive articles of the convention, ultimately nullifying it. Therefore, it is necessary to separate reservations that do and do not permit gender discrimination.

12.

The overlap between women's and human rights TSMOs during this period requires examining whether the two variables measure conceptually similar undertakings. A bivariate correlation matrix results in a strong correlation of 0.9107, suggesting that multicollinearity could be an issue in a single model. Therefore, I use factor analysis, which models the observed variables as linear functions of the unobserved common factor, while reducing the dimension of the data to create the WHROI. To address the fact that factor models are not unique, I rotate the models to yield the most easily interpretable factors.

13.

Smith and Wiest's (2005) data set only includes data for odd-numbered years and has no data for 1989. I imputed values for the missing years. I found no substantive differences between models run with imputed data and preliminary models that included only odd-numbered years.

14.

To ensure that the measures of periphery nations and least developed nations were not highly correlated, I ran a correlation matrix of all independent variables (Table A2, in the  Appendix). The results indicate that multicollinearity is not affecting the model based on a cap of |0.8|, suggested by Paul Allison (1999).

15.

Tables reporting hazard ratios are available on request.

16.

See Goodliffe and Hawkins (2006) and Hathaway (2007) for a further exploration of the problematic nature of GDP-based variables in cross-national analysis. This finding also illustrates the strength of considering a more complex measure of economic development, such as world-system position.

17.

Since the United States is considered an outlier in the ratification of CEDAW, I remove the country in supplementary analyses, which produces no substantial change in the findings.