Networking Responsibility: Regional Agents and Changing International Norms.

Author:Seaman, Kate

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. (14) The structural bifurcation has resulted in the state-centric system now coexisting with an increasingly decentralized multicentric system. A key component in the development of this wider system has been the growth of regional and subregional organizations. As G. John Ikenberry notes, these regional systems have "the advantage of involving fewer states and the ability to negotiate bargains that directly address problems within the region." (15) This allows the organizations to develop specialized skill sets and modes of communication that help to balance the specific competing demands within their regions. These organizations are also key actors in what Jochen Prantl and Ryoko Nakano term the "norm diffusion loop," reconstructing and deconstructing global norms to better fit with local circumstances, and actively participating to reshape these norms at the global level. (16)

The relational change has resulted in a changing compliance with authority, to a system in which an increasingly complex set of norms limits the successful exercise of authority. The importance of international norms transcends older views and understandings of international law. (17) For some, social norms represent the solution to the problems of collective action (18) since, despite the fact that they are informal rules, "individuals feel obligated to follow because of an internalised sense of duty, because of a fear of external non-legal sanctions, or both." (19) This is with the caveat that a norm can only exist "as long as the sanctions imposed on violators create an expected cost for noncompliance that exceeds the expected cost of compliance." (20) As Cass R. Sunstein argues, these social norms are enforced through social sanctions. (21) Resistance to these norms and the "moral cosmopolitanism" is then framed as illegitimate. (22)

These international norms are intended to provide a framework of standards by which state behavior will be judged. It is in the social cost of noncompliance, the risk of alienation within the international system, that the asymmetries of power within norm diffusion are exposed. Here, you can explore the "deep tension undermining the apparently clear international consensus on universalism: the reality that actual power, political and military, remains exclusively in the hands of the sovereign states." (23) This is clear in the implementation and operationalization of the Responsibility to Protect in particular, where there has been a disconnect between the increased use of the language of sovereignty as responsibility, most notably within the Security Council and its resolutions, and a distinct lack of willingness to take responsibility-based action in response to atrocities. (24)

Finally at the micro level the increasing role of individuals, and their improved analytical capabilities, have directly contributed to the structural bifurcation and the breakdown of authority relations. This increased influence and analytical capability can also be understood as a consequence of an ongoing communication technology revolution that provides easier access to information than any other point in history. (25) This new technology, and ease of communication, is contributing to a shift from an international society of states, to a world society based on relationships between individuals at the global level. (26) Individuals are now able to operate around the state rather than through it and can create new networks of connection across borders to build influence and challenge traditional sources of authority. Individuals can also build coalitions to hold states to account for their actions and to push for increased compliance with international normative frameworks. As Nicholas J. Wheeler argues, states can be viewed, not as agents, but as structures that contain and enable individuals who hold positions of responsibility within the state. Yet he also notes the responsibility and importance of those individuals acting outside of the state structure who can push for action, and hold leaders accountable. (27)

3 Defining a Concept of Responsibility

The specific contexts in which R2P can be applied have been clearly delimited by the international community of states through the UN World Summit Outcome Document (WSOD). (28) While this outlines the crimes that justify the abrogation of state sovereignty and the conditions in which international intervention becomes acceptable, there is little reference to the wider responsibilities of primary actors within the international system. Unlike the original International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) report, there is little detailed examination of the three elements of responsibility: to prevent, to react, and to rebuild. (29) Instead, the WSOD restricted the application of R2P to four situations--genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. While it can be argued that this has made the concept easier to operationalize, it has also set an extremely high threshold for action to be justifiable.

Despite the tacit approval of all Member States the content and interpretation of R2P has remained contested, although it gained further support with the reaffirmation in Security Council Resolution 1674, (30) which stated the Council's determination to protect civilians. The Secretary-General made it a focus of his office, emphasizing his desire to translate R2P from words to deeds (31) and producing a series of annual reports pushing forward the operationalization of the norm. These reports have focused on a different theme each year and have helped to develop the meaning, scope, and possible applications for the norm.

The first report issued in 2009 identified a three-pillar approach to R2P: Pillar 1, the protection responsibilities of the state; Pillar 2, the commitment of the international community to assist states in meeting...

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