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

in Global Responsibility to Protect
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


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.

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

in Global Responsibility to Protect




Amitav Acharya‘How Ideas Spread: Whose Norms Matter? Norm Localization and Institutional Change in Asian Regionalism’International Organization58/2: 239-275 (2004); Amitav Acharya Whose Ideas Matter: Agency and Power in Asian regionalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2009); Amitav Acharya ‘Norm Subsidiarity and Regional Orders: Sovereignty Regionalism and Rule Making in the Third World’ International Studies Quarterly 55/1: 95-123 (2011).


Thakur and Weiss‘R2P: From Idea to Norm—and Action?’ pp. 22-53; Weiss ‘The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and Modern Diplomacy’ pp. 763-78; Alex J. Bellamy Responsibility to Protect: The Global Effort to End Mass Atrocities (Cambridge: Polity Press 2009). The ICISS’ initiator Canadian External Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and the co-chair Gareth Evans have also acknowledged the role of Deng and the Brookings project but perhaps to a degree that one might deem as insufficient. Lloyd Axworthy Navigating a New World: Canada’s Global Future (Toronto: Alfred A.Knopf 2003) p. 414. Gareth Evans has made clear this historical link in The Responsibility to Protect: Halting Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All (Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution 2008).


Amitai Etzioni‘Sovereignty as Responsibility’Orbis50/1: 71-85 (2006).


 Ibid. See also Amitav Acharya‘Redefining the Dilemmas of Humanitarian Intervention’Australian Journal of International Affairs56/3: 373-82 (2002).


Mohamed Sahnoun‘Africa: Uphold Continent’s Contribution to Human Rights, Urges Top Diplomat’allAfrica.com21 July 2009 available at;1 accessed 16 July 2013.


AcharyaWhose Ideas Matter pp.126-28.


Acharya‘Norm Subsidiarity and Regional Orders’ pp. 97 and 101.


  • View in gallery

    Norm Internalization: Moral Cosmopolitanism

  • View in gallery

    Norm Circulation

    * refers to norms with a global or universal scope.

    ** refers to norms created by local actors, especially those marginalized in global norm-making, to promote local causes with transnational relevance or to defend the fundamental principles of international society, such as sovereignty, equality and justice from violation or abuse by more powerful central actors. Acharya, ‘Norm Subsidiarity and Regional Orders’.

    *** Repatriation occurs when a localized version of the global norm is fed back into the global level; Universalization refers to the global diffusion of a purely locally-constructed norm.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 111 111 48
Full Text Views 140 140 85
PDF Downloads 24 24 9
EPUB Downloads 1 1 0