On Why There is No International Law Against Using Very Large Rocks in Battle

Feb 15, 2011

I have a new article in the journal International Organization entitled “Vetting the Advocacy Agenda.” It tries to explain why some issues get noticed by transnational campaigners and others don’t, using weapons advocacy as a focal point of study. Key argument: it matters which organizations take up the issue; the global agenda is as much a function of structural relations within advocacy networks as of relationships between advocacy groups and states. You’ll need an institutional subscription to access the article online, or you can read the proofs version here. Abstract below.

While a number of significant campaigns since the early 1990s have resulted in bans of particular weapons, at least as many equivalent systems have gone unscrutinized and uncondemned by transnational campaigners. How can this variation be explained? Focusing on the issue area of arms control advocacy, this article argues that an important influence on the advocacy agenda within transnational networks is the decision-making process not of norm entrepreneurs nor of states but of highly connected organizations within a given network. The argument is illustrated through a comparison between existing norms against landmines and blinding laser weapons, and the absence of serious current consideration of such norms against depleted uranium and autonomous weapons. Thus, the process of organizational issue selection within nongovernmental organizations and international organizations most central to particular advocacy networks, rather than the existence of transnational networks around an issue per se, should be a closer focus of attention for scholars interested in norm creation in world politics.

I’ll have some findings on that latter written up in book form in the next year or so, Gods willing.(This of course means the larger project is still in progress, so feedback on this short early version quite welcome.)


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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.