What is an International Norm? How is it Created and Why Does it Matter?

By | May 16, 2019

International debates often center around the concept of “international norms.” The liberal global order is sometimes described as being based on “rules” and “norms.” But what exactly is meant by these terms is not always obvious. They are used in reference to both binding obligations enshrined in international treaties and commitments adopted through non-binding political agreements. Sometimes they are even applied to the opinions of international committees and experts who only have an advisory role.

How is each of these types of norms formed? What is its legal or political weight? And why do they matter in practice? These are the questions this Definition seeks to answer.