This article examines how powerful liberal states localise human rights-based norms. Taking a critical constructivist perspective, it does this through an empirical case study of how the UK understood its Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Syrians during the period 2014–2016. The research has two findings. First, R2P had little impact on the UK’s responses to Syria. Second, the reason why is how R2P has been localised in the UK as regime change and political transition. This is due to contestation over some aspects, which have been modified to fit the local domestic context. The findings allow for two conclusions that have theoretical and practical significance. First, at the broad level, liberal democracies do not have a monopoly on norm compliance as their practice and understanding of some norms and the need to modify and fit them into the local context are just as complex as those in the post-colonial context. Second, the research is the first to empirically answer why R2P does not drive the UK’s responses to cases of mass atrocities despite its ongoing public endorsement of the norm, which brings greater understanding to the norm’s implementation problems.
University of Lincoln, College of Science
Chloe Gilgan, University of Lincoln, Lincoln Law School