France and the Responsibility to Protect: A Tale of Two Norms

International Relations

Author/s (editor/s):

Eglantine Staunton

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:

Eglantine Staunton, ‘France and the Responsibility to Protect: A Tale of Two Norms’, International Relations, 32(3) 2018: 366-387.

Although France has been a key actor of human protection since the 1980s, the existing literature often adopts an Anglo-Saxon focus or concentrates on states which have been reluctant to see international norms of human protection develop. As a consequence, it overlooks France’s central role in the development of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which can be seen as the leading norm of human protection today. In turn, the growing influence R2P has had on France’s conception and practice of human protection – and on its foreign policy more generally – remains unexplored. This article is the first of its kind to correct these oversights by examining France’s relationship to R2P from its emergence till date. It argues that to do so, we need to analyse the evolving relationship of two interconnected – yet distinct – norms: France’s domestic norm of human protection on the one hand, and the international norm of R2P on the other. It builds on the constructivist literature to offer a theoretical framework that allows the study of this tale of two norms and draws upon elite interviews of key actors such as Gareth Evans and Bernard Kouchner to provide a unique understanding of France’s relationship to R2P. Through this tale of two norms, the article reshapes our understanding of both R2P and France’s past and current foreign policy. In addition, it contributes to the literature on norm diffusion, in particular by deepening our understanding of how domestic and international norms interplay.

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