Printer Friendly

Principles from the periphery: the neglected southern sources of global norms.


In recent years, scholars of global governance have written much about the influence of global norms. It is often assumed in this literature that global norms originate in materially powerful Northern countries. The assumption is understandable. Policymakers and societal groups from dominant states often play a central role in setting agendas in global governance and in shaping global ideas and beliefs about what behavior is appropriate. Norms emerging from their domestic political settings are also often diffused to poorer and less powerful countries through various processes such as emulation and coercion.

While this assumption is widespread, it deserves to be questioned. For example, scholars such as Liliana Obregon, Louise Fawcett, and Ivan Jaksic explore Latin American contributions to debates on international law in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (1) Jorge Dominguez also highlights how the strong Latin American defense of nonintervention in the early twentieth century generated international norms such as the rejection of armed intervention to collect international public debts. (2) Others analyze how Southern anticolonial and nationalist movements in the postwar period helped to shape the evolution of international law. (3) Jennifer Clapp and Linda Swanston also demonstrate how more recent international environmental norms have been pioneered in the South and diffused from there to Northern countries. (4)

These (and other) analyses demonstrate important Southern sources of global norms. This central insight deserves greater recognition and further exploration by scholars of global governance, a task to which this special section seeks to contribute. Drawing on new historical research, the articles in the collection reveal Southern origins of norms that are central to contemporary global governance such as commitments to universal participation, international development, and international human rights. Across diverse issue areas, they highlight the need to abandon the assumption that global norms emerge only from the North and call attention to the important agency in global norm making of individuals from the South.

Martha Finnemore and Michelle Jurkovich set the stage by analyzing the role that Latin American governments played before World War I in establishing the important norm of universal participation at multilateral conferences. Building on that history, Eric Helleiner explores the neglected Southern origins of the norm that international institutions should support the economic development of poorer countries. Kathryn Sikkink examines the often overlooked contribution of Latin America to the creation of the norm of international human rights after World War II. In the final article, Amitav Acharya focuses on the role of Southern officials in the construction of the postwar security order through a study of the 1955 Bandung Conference attended by representatives from twenty-nine Asian and African countries.

Taken together, these articles reinforce the case for scholars of global governance to devote more attention to the role of Southern agency in the creation of global norms. Particularly noteworthy is the historical significance of Latin America and inter-American regional norms in pioneering global norms that are critically important today. Equally interesting is the cumulative effect of Southern agency: Latin American backing for the norm of universal participation in the late nineteenth century helped to give Southern countries a crucial seat at the table to promote international development and human rights norms in multilateral negotiations in the mid-twentieth century. More generally, these articles remind us that today's global norms are a product not just of Northern values and power, but of a wider geographical context and more complex political processes in which Southern countries have played an important constitutive role. In an era of growing Southern influence in global governance, this is a lesson of considerable political significance.


(1.) Liliana Obregon, "Between Civilisation and Barbarism: Creole Interventions in International Law," Third World Quarterly 27, no. 5 (2006): 815-832; Louise Fawcett, "Between West and Non-West: Latin American Contributions to International Thought," International History Review 34, no. 4 (2012): 679-704; Ivan Jaksic, Andres Bello: Scholarship and Nation-building in Nineteenth-century Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

(2.) Jorge Dominguez, "International Cooperation in Latin America: The Design of Regional Institutions by Slow Accretion," in Amitav Acharya and Alastair Johnston, eds., Crafting Cooperation: Regional International Institutions in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 92-93.

(3.) See, for example, Antony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

(4.) Jennifer Clapp and Linda Swanston, "Doing Away with Plastic Shopping Bags: International Patterns of Norm Emergence and Policy Implementation," Environmental Politics 18, no. 3 (2009): 315-332.

Eric Helleiner is faculty of arts chair in international political economy and professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo.
COPYRIGHT 2014 Lynne Rienner Publishers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:SPECIAL SECTION
Author:Helleiner, Eric
Publication:Global Governance
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:0LATI
Date:Jul 1, 2014
Previous Article:Civil resistance: reflections on an idea whose time has come.
Next Article:Getting a seat at the table: the origins of universal participation and modern multilateral conferences.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters