International Relations

Why African Norms Matter: Subsidiarity and Agency in Peacemaking



This article explains the problem facing the UN and African regional organizations in applying the principle of subsidiarity in peacemaking. It draws on the concept of norm subsidiarity and examines African norm-setting instruments. It argues that the African Union is a subsidiary actor in the global order, making parallel but distinct norms to export globally, retain autonomy, claim primacy, and deflect implementing uncomfortable external principles. Conversely, African subregional organizations are localizing actors, willing to accept or modify global and regional rules. The significance is that existing studies assume that the AU is or should be a localizing agent, as Chapter VIII of the UN Charter anticipated. Essentially, current studies have subsumed African norms under international rules, denying the importance of African rule-making power. This study shows that African norms underpin subsidiarity and agency in peacemaking and therefore matter. This article contributes to the scholarship on African agency in international relations.

Version notes

This version refines the central argument, methodology, and contributions to knowledge.


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