How do international norms travel? :Women’s political rights in Cambodia and Timor-Leste

by Alldén, Susanne, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
How do international norms travel, via statebuilding efforts, into post-conflict settings, and how do international and national actors interact in this process? These are the main questions addressed in this thesis. The empirical focus is the spreading and rooting of the norm of women’s political rights in Cambodia and Timor-Leste, two countries in which international actors have played a significant role in statebuilding efforts. Although statebuilding has increasingly become a part of UN peacebuilding missions, we still lack a thorough understanding of how much, and in what ways, the international community can successfully promote change. This is important in view of the fact that the key to success ultimately depends on how the receiving community responds to the presence and efforts of international actors to promote new social norms. This study analyzes the interaction between international and national actors engaged in the promotion of women’s political rights as part of the effort to advance democracy. Three institutional developments are examined in detail – electoral rules and regulations, the establishment of a national gender equality/women’s machinery and the strengthening of the local government structure. The study uses a modified norm diffusion approach and makes two theoretical contributions to the literature. First, I place the norm diffusion process in a post-conflict context. Second, I add the concept of capability to function in order to conceptualize and study the internalization of the norm. The thesis is based on both an analysis of written material and semi-structured interviews. A total of 65 interviews were conducted during three research trips to each of the countries between 2007 and 2009.In general, the four empirical chapters reveal that the interaction between international and national actors has predominantly been characterized by international actors setting the agenda, with varying degrees of consultation and collaboration with national actors. While norm institutionalization has been rather high in both countries, norm inter­nalization lags behind. This is explained by discriminating ways of life and attitudes, lack of resources and time. Norm internalization is higher in Timor-Leste, in part because national actors have adapted the norm of women’s political rights to fit the local setting, but also due to their openness to international influences. The empirical study underscores that international actors can push for change and norm adherence, but their efforts are not enough. In the end, national actors have to buy into the message that international actors try to convey. The strengths and weaknesses that have been uncovered in the Cambodian and Timorese case studies presented here should be carefully considered as international actors, led by the UN, embark upon future statebuilding missions around the globe.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Umeå universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:norm diffusion; women’s political rights; post-conflict statebuilding; Cambodia; Timor-Leste; norm entrepreneurs; capability to function.; statskunskap; statskunskap


Date of Publication:01/01/2009

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