Rethinking the life cycles of international norms: The united nations and the global promotion of gender equality

Mona Lena Krook, Jacqui True

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

215 Scopus citations


The diffusion of international norms and their effects on policy and political behaviour are central research questions in international relations. Informed by constructivism, prevailing models are marked by a crucial tension between a static view of norm content and a dynamic picture of norm adoption and implementation. Observing that norms continue to evolve after they emerge, we argue that a discursive approach offers a more promising way forward for theorizing and analysing the life cycles of international norms. We present a view of norms as processes, calling attention to both 'internal' and 'external' sources of dynamism. We illustrate this theory by tracing and comparing the life cycles of two global equality norms: gender-balanced decision-making and gender mainstreaming. We find that these norms emerged from two distinct policy realms, and after briefly converging in the mid-1990s, have since developed largely separately from, and often in tension with, one another.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-127
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


  • discourse
  • feminism
  • gender
  • global institutions
  • norms

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