Academic journal article Global Governance

Networking Responsibility: Regional Agents and Changing International Norms

Academic journal article Global Governance

Networking Responsibility: Regional Agents and Changing International Norms

Article excerpt

1 Networking Responsibility: Regional Agents and Changing International Norms

The speed at which the concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has entered the global lexicon is nothing short of astounding, particularly when examined against other international norm development cycles. The fundamental aim of R2P was to resolve the conflict between human rights and state sovereignty: to increase the influence of the individual where traditionally "individual human beings are... represented and protected by their sovereign state and do not 'count' in the international system directly." (1) The primary implication of the concept is an inherent flexibility in the concept of sovereignty; (2) the argument being that state sovereignty can be overridden and in some cases suspended should circumstances demand. (3)

The development, contestation, and implementation of R2P has brought into question the foundations of the current international system, and the normative framework on which it was based. R2P foregrounds the individual in a system where the emphasis previously had been on the protection of state sovereignty, and the predominance of nonintervention. In this article, I examine how these normative developments have been adopted, and adapted by different actors within the system. Utilizing network analysis, I examine the extent to which different actors within the system comply with international normative frameworks, and also the asymmetry of power in the diffusion of these frameworks. This approach enables structures to be related to outcomes, and allows an examination of how material and social relationships create structures among actors through dynamic processes. (4) Network analysis also encourages an approach outside of the traditional framework of nation-states, and allows emphasis to be placed on the increasing importance of organisms between states and a world community. (5) This allows an analysis of the developing multicentric system governed by complex norms in which emphasis is increasingly placed on the importance of the individual. (6)

To further narrow the scope of the project, in this article I focus on what I term the growing networks of responsibility within the international system. By investigating the diffusion of the R2P norm within the multicentric system, I highlight the primary role of regional and subregional organizations as "gatekeepers" for normative development. (7) I also explore the role of these organizations as "linchpins" (8) in the wider networks, and the ways in which this role could be utilized to improve the diffusion, socialization, and operation of norms such as R2P.

2 Challenging the International Order

The manifest changes within the international system, including the development and implementation of new international norms such as R2P have raised questions as to the logic of state rule over society and national sovereignty, (9) and to the central logic of the system of sovereign states. As Martin L. Cook argues, "The rights of private persons can be recognized in international society, as in the U.N. Charter of Human Rights, but they cannot be enforced without calling into question the dominant values of that society: the survival and independence of the separate political communities." (10) The increasing focus on the rights of individuals is what Douglas Brommesson and Henrik Friberg Fernros term "radical individualization," where individuals are replacing states as rights holders with the potential to destabilize the international system. (11) This potential destabilization could lead to the creation of a new world society whereby individuals are liberated from traditional collective relationships, and are reembedded or reintegrated into new forms of social commitment, (12) resulting in a society where primacy can no longer be attributed to the state as either agency or object. (13)

As James N. Rosenau outlines, the changes within the international system have occurred across three key parameters: the structural, relational, and micro level. …

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