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The R2P and Norm Diffusion: Towards A Framework of Norm Circulation

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The case of R2P calls for greater attention to agency and feedback in norm dynamics. New international norms are more likely to spread if the responsibility for their creation and diffusion is seen to have been more broadly shared than being credited to any particular group. Many new norms have multiple sources and contexts, yet there is a tendency to credit them to their final point of articulation. Moreover, once created, norms do not remain uncontested and static. The application of new norms in different locations and contexts can lead to their subsequent modifications, which in turn can reshape its initial features and support mechanisms. This feedback constitutes a form of agency, which might broaden the legitimacy and appeal of the norm and the possibility of its greater diffusion. The case of R2P shows that although it is generally attributed to the work of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, the norm had multiple prior sources, including the idea of ‘responsible sovereignty’. Furthermore, its development has had a strong African context. Lastly, subsequent controversies over the norm’s application, especially in Libya, attests to the possibility of critical feedback, such as calls for stricter enforcement of the norm’s criteria of last resort and proportionality, and greater accountability in operations conducted in defence of the norm.

Affiliations: 1: American University,


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