Global Governance Centre
07 June 2021

The Interaction of Law and Politics in Norm Implementation

At the latest Global Governance Centre's Paths Panel event, Anette Stimmer, Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow (PPRF) in Politics at the University of Oxford, analyzed the extent to which States, once they express efforts to implement norms in international law, commit to these norms across a variety of policy domains. Her paper, under the title 'The Interaction of Norm and Politics in Norm Implementation', was presented online on May 8th.

During the 1990s, a number of scholars understood compliance with international law as being almost unanimous among States. However, other schools of thought, like those focused on enforcement or effectiveness, proposed other ways to look at States’ behavior over norms. A relevant example of the difficulty to establish causality in international law might be found in the drastic fall in gas emissions in the territories of the former Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin wall, without necessarily responding to compliance with the Kyoto Protocol of other environment-related norms.

Decades later, new studies have emerged that explore the inherent complexities of States’ behavior vis-à-vis international law. The Global Governance Centre was delighted to welcome Annette Stimmer, who proposed during the event three variables to identify modern commitment to international law: the degree to which States engage in international law (engagement), how consistent their words are with their actions (consistency) and how transparent States are in their activity (transparency). Dr. Stimmer insisted on the importance to acknowledge that the fact that some States may lack consistency in their respect for some norms does not impede the existence of a sense of obligation (opinio juris).

On the basis of this point, Dr. Stimmer then explored how the three variables intersect with different States' sense of obligation towards a norm. Dr. Stimmer focused on two specific phenomena: the discourse by States about a rule of international law, and their subsequent behavior when implementing that rule. By offering and categorizing four concrete examples, she explored Russia's position in the secession of Crimea, or the United States' attitude towards female suffrage, among others.

The analysis by Dr. Stimmer was followed up by a Q&A section in which a number of scholars explored the causality of the examples provided in the study, reflected about possible implications that Dr. Stimmer's research may bear on other fields of international relations and international law, and introduced possible venues for further research going forward.

This online event was part of the research project "The Paths of International Law", funded by the European Research Council, through which the Global Governance Centre invites scholars to provide analysis on modern practices of compliance and implementation in the field of international law.