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Norm development without the great powers : assessing the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Bower, Adam Stephen


Can international treaties generate broadly influential norms when the legal agreements themselves are rejected by the most powerful states in the international system? Despite valuable scholarship focusing on their initial creation of “non-great power” treaties, few studies have sought to systematically examine the subsequent impact of these initiatives. The present dissertation addresses this gap through a detailed assessment of two archetypal cases, the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. To do so, I develop a theory of treaty influence that emphasizes the role of legal instruments in generating international norms, and an associated methodology to identify these social effects. I argue that treaty members may build a community of obligation without the direct support of powerful states, and that these efforts may come to implicate even those states that resist the binding commitments of the legal agreement. The Mine Ban Treaty and Rome Statute have thus powerfully shaped the way in which states across the international system conceive of appropriate conduct with respect to the use of certain weapons and the punishment of grave international crimes. The extensive changes in state practice and discourse are particularly notable since both treaties seek to overturn a prior international consensus that permitted vastly different behaviour. This dissertation has important implications for both international relations theory and practice. Most generally, I demonstrate that influential international laws and norms need not depend on great power leadership, and may derive from a broader array of actors including middle powers and non-governmental coalitions. Ultimately, I argue that the strategic calculation adopted by treaty proponents—that global norms can be more effectively promoted via rigorous treaties with incomplete membership, rather than by weaker agreements initially endorsed by great powers—presents a viable pathway to generating widely respected international norms. In this sense, the focus of the present research is applicable to a wide array of current and prospective regulatory efforts in fields such as global finance and trade, security, human rights and the environment.

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