Responsibility to Protect and Theorising Normative Change in International Organisations: From Weber to the Sociology of Professions

in Global Responsibility to Protect
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How does normative change occur in international organisations (IOs)? The literature has theorised IO behaviour as being a consequence of the interest of powerful states, or has applied concepts borrowed from organisational sociology related to bureaucratic dysfunction, such as ‘dysfunctional behaviour’, ‘pathologies’, or ‘organised hypocrisy’. This article argues that using the sociology of professions can augment constructivist theorising of IO behaviour and offer a better understanding of normative change in IOs. The evolving norm of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) has a significant impact on how the UN supports and intervenes in member states, and on the core principle of sovereignty in the international system. By examining the R2P concept and process, this article shows how key donor states, think tanks, and academic institutions have, together with the UN, pushed for R2P, effectively driving normative change in the international system. Such change is seen not solely as a top–down function of state interests, but as also a bottom–up process driven by advocacy and support from key donor states, think tanks, and academic circles. Further, for grasping how norms develop, a constructivist framework influenced by the sociology of professions appears better suited than existing constructivist frameworks.

Responsibility to Protect and Theorising Normative Change in International Organisations: From Weber to the Sociology of Professions

in Global Responsibility to Protect




SG/SM/11701 15 July 2008.


A/RES/60/1 16 September 2005.


Kenneth Waltz‘Structural Realism after the Cold War’International Security 25/1: 5–41 (2000) p. 26. Kenneth Waltz Theory of International Politics 1st ed. (Boston MA: McGraw-Hill 1979); Stephen D. Krasner Power the State and Sovereignty: Essays on International Relations (London: Routledge 2009).


Robert O. KeohaneAfter Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press1984) p. 13.


Jason Beckfield‘Inequality in the World Polity: The Structure of International Organization’American Sociological Review 68/3: 401-424 (2003).


Alex BellamyResponsibility to Protect: The Global Effort to End Mass Atrocities (Cambridge: Polity2009) p. 7.


Ibid. p. 214.


Ibid. p. 216.


Ibid. p. 197.


Ibid. p. 215.


Ibid. p. 220.


 See David MaloneThe UN Security Council: from the Cold War to the 21st century (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner2004); Mats Berdal and Spyros Economides (eds.) United Nations Interventionism 1991–2004 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007); Lise Morjé Howard UN Peacekeeping in Civil Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2008).


Weinlich‘(Re)generating Peacekeeping Authority’; Torsten Benner and Philipp Rotmann, ‘Learning to Learn? UN Peacebuilding and the Challenges of Building a Learning Organization’Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 2/1 pp. 43–62 (2008).


Andrew AbbottThe System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press1988); Abbott ‘Linked Ecologies’; Fourcade ‘The Construction of a Global Profession’.


AbbottThe System of Professions p. 20. When this theory framework is applied to peacekeeping a central point is that it is the tasks of peacekeeping that define it qua profession not the educational background of the personnel as in more traditional professions like medicine or law.


AbbottThe System of Professions p. 8.


P. M. Haas‘Epistemic Communities and International-Policy Coordination – Introduction’International Organization 46/ 1 (1992).


Fourcade‘The Construction of a Global professions’ p. 168.


Abbott‘Linked Ecologies’ p. 255.


Ibid p. 3.


Francis DengSovereignty as Responsibility: Conflict Management in Africa (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution1996); Roberta Cohen and Francis Deng Masses in Flight: The Global Crisis of Internal Displacement (Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press 1998). External intervention by the UN where it took on executive tasks can however be traced back to the UN intervention during the Suez crisis in 1956 and in Congo in 1960 (ONUC). These missions included fact-finding technical support civilian administration and peacekeeping. None of these techniques or practices were included in the UN Charter and the missions thus expanded the tools available to the UN to deal with threats to international peace and stability. For more on this see Anne Orford International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011).


SG/SM/7136 20 September 1999.


Kofi Annan‘Two Concepts of Sovereignty’The Economist18 September 1999.


A/59/565 2 December 2004. For a detailed expose of the process of R2P including establishing the terms of reference for the panel selecting its members and the events leading up to the World Summit in 2005 see NUPI A Fork in the Road or a Aoundabout? A Narrative of the UN Reform Process 2003–2005 (Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) 2006); and Bellamy Responsibility to Protect.


A/59/2005 25 March 2005.


A/RES/60/1 16 September 2005.


S/RES/1706 31 August 2006: para 4. R2P has been the centre of a continued debate after the World Summit in 2005. See Alex Bellamy ‘Realizing the Responsibility to Protect’ International Studies Perspective 10/2: 111–128 (2009).


GA/63/677 12 January 2009.


GA/63/677 12 January 2009p. 22.


S/RES/1970 26 February 2011pp. 1–2 bold emphasis added.


Ibid. pp. 2–7.


OrfordInternational Authority p. 42.


Ian Johnstone‘Law-making Through the Operational Activities of International Organizations’The George Washington International Law Review 40/1 (2008).


Johnstone‘The Secretary-General as Norm Entrepreneur’ p. 134; Johnstone ‘Cooperating for Peace and Security’; Bellamy Responsibility to Protect pp. 27–28.


A/54/549 15 November 1999: para 505.


Annan‘Foreword.’: p. xii; see also Johnstone ‘The Secretary-General as Norm Entrepreneur’ p. 138; Benjamin Rivlin and Leon Gordenker The Challenging Role of the UN Secretary-General: Making ‘the most Impossible Job in the World’ Possible (Westport CT: Praeger 1993): p. 5. In an article defending the Outcome document published in the Wall Street Journal he was even clearer: ‘[W]hen I proposed an agenda for the Summit I deliberately set the bar high since in international negotiations you never get everything you ask.’ Kofi Annan ‘A Glass At Least Half Full’ 19 September 2005’. accessed 5 March 20011.


Annan‘Foreword’: p. xii. Also Kittikhoun and Weiss argue that these panels influence UN ideas and policies. See Anoulak Kittikhoun and Thomas G. Weiss, ‘The Myth of Scholarly Irrelevance for the United Nations’International Studies Review 13/ 1 (2011).


NUPIA Fork in the Road p. 65; Bellamy Responsibility to Protect.


BellamyResponsibility to Protect p. 71.


Ibid. IPIConflict Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. Task Forces on Strengthening Multilateral Security Capacity No. 7. (New York: International Peace Institute (IPI)2009).


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