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Antonio Arcudi

In recent norm research, the question of the relationship between norm contestation and norm dynamics has been the subject of substantial debate. However, until now too little attention has been paid to the question of how and when contestation intensifies. Based on the differentiation between applicatory and validity contestation, this article proposes a specific mechanism for intensifying contestation—understood as an increase in the contestation itself as well as an extension to its validity level—by treating norm modification as an intervening variable. The main argument is that norm modification may be necessary to reconcile different interpretations of norms. Consequently, if norm modification does not occur, norm contestation may intensify. This article elaborates this mechanism by examining the controversies involving the International Criminal Court (icc). It shows that contestation began at a low and applicatory level but intensified after several attempts at norm modification had failed.


Norm Contestation and its Effects: Challenges to the Responsibility to Protect and the Responsibility to Prosecute

Gregor P. Hofmann and Lisbeth Zimmermann

Contestation is currently one major field of research on international norms: does contestation strengthen or weaken a norm? What role does international law play in this regard? How do norm proponents and norm challengers change their strategies in norm contestation processes? Drawing on constructivist perspectives as well as on international law, the articles in this Special Issue explore the effects of norm contestation and its dynamics by analysing the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the responsibility to prosecute from different theoretical perspectives.

Nicole Deitelhoff

Recurring contestation of the application of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in conflict situations has given rise to assessments that portray R2P as not a norm at all, but rather a norm-to-be or one in decay. This article aims to show that norms do not lose their validity because they are contested. All norms rely on applicatory discourses to establish their appropriateness for given situations. Contestation regarding their application can even strengthen norms when it provokes learning processes. Norm validity is at risk if contestation radicalises, that is, turns into norm justification. As yet there are only few signs of radicalisation of the contestation of R2P.

Gregor P. Hofmann and Kavitha Suthanthiraraj

This article seeks to shed light on the question of how ‘meanings’ of an international norm adapt to norm contestation and asks whether and how R2P is being adapted to contestation. We contend that the reframing of an existing international norm by norm proponents in order to adapt it to dynamics of norm contestation have not been discussed adequately in the literature to date. Constructivist research on norm contestation could benefit from taking into account concepts in the new institutionalist literature. By combining the institutionalist concepts of ‘borrowing’ and ‘sharing’ with the literature on norm entrepreneurs and their framing-attempts in norm diffusion processes, we conjecture that an expansion in contestation increases the likeliness of the adaptation of the norm in question along the line of the contested issues. We aim to trace this adaptation by analysing the dynamics of R2P’s change in meaning and focus in its process of implementation.

Shirley V. Scott and Roberta C. Andrade

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P), touted in 2009 as ‘the most dramatic normative development of our time’, is highly contentious, having generated a scholarly literature far greater than its real-world impact would seem to warrant. This may well be because of its potential to challenge and displace core existing norms, the most widely cited of which is sovereignty. This paper draws on the theory of Cognitive Structures of Cooperation (csc Theory) to identify the relationship of R2P to existing normative structures, including the Charter of the United Nations, with a view to assessing the depth of the challenge posed and the potential consequences if the emergent norm were to be fully embraced. The analysis concludes that, rather than representing the object and potential victim of the R2P assault, sovereignty is better understood as having represented a decoy in this process of normative contestation.