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Norm Evolution a Matter of Conformity and Contestedness: South Africa and the Responsibility to Protect

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Research on international norms has been thriving for decades, most prominently exploring processes of norm creation and compliance. Yet the mainstream literature has paid scant attention to the issue of continuous norm evolution beyond a norm’s emergence. In this article we aim at framing the wider context in which norm evolution is taking place. We identify two antipodes: conformity and contestedness between which norms continue to evolve. We will exemplify this by analysing the norm of the responsibility to protect (R2P) through general usage and South Africa’s response. The article finds that norm evolution is mostly influenced by conformity with some measure of contestedness as a motor for change.

Affiliations: 1: University of the Witwatersrand,; 2: University of the Witwatersrand,


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