San Diego Law Review

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



This Article draws on the literature about norm influence to suggest an answer: adopting these measures has the potential to impact behavior in a meaningful and constructive way in the future. A norm refers to the appropriate or desired behavior within a community as to a particular issue. A new norm spreads with the help of agents, typically referred to as norm entrepreneurs, who use persuasion to convince a critical mass of actors in the international community to adopt the preferred behavior. In other words, over time, norms can become so pervasive that they change behavior.

In fact, this Article suggests that the only realistic avenue to produce change in this context is through persuasion, as opposed to force. Consider the ethical dilemma. Even if a state is comfortable enforcing its own no- concessions policies, why would it want to assume the ethical burden of forcing another state to sacrifice the lives of its citizens? States may feel similarly as regards the private sector: while they may not want the private sector to pay ransoms, punishing individuals who pay under duress for the safe return of their loved ones is not generally consistent with the criminal law: it seems ethically and morally wrong. Urging states and citizens to refuse to pay ransoms because doing so serves the greater goals of depriving terrorists of funding and the motivation for future kidnappings is a different matter. When one urges, as opposed to forces, one does not assume the ultimate decision of whether to pay or not.

The section that follows provides some background on the rise in kidnapping for ransom to finance terrorism, including a description of how the funds are used to help some groups and further their terrorist activities. The remaining sections seek to explain the puzzle identified above: why the G8 states would issue a communiqué and why the Security Council would adopt resolutions that do not create clear and binding obligations backed by enforcement measures to hold states accountable should they fail to adhere to—and make their citizens adhere to—a terrorist ransom ban.