Olympics Series Week 4: Incorporating Emerging Norms in a Multipolar World

The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are only eighteen days away and the famous logo featuring five interlocking rings is appearing daily on television.  Throughout the past several weeks we profiled stories of courage, cooperation, and athleticism at the Olympics.  The Games are a forum for dialogue and understanding and this week we want to highlight a few emerging trends and institutions that are helping to facilitate effective and inclusive international policy. There are the well-known institutions such as the United Nations, NATO, and Arab League that represent the world's most powerful countries, but several forums and ideas are originating, primarily in the Global South, that promote more participation for burgeoning world economies.  

Responsibility while Protecting (RwP)

The Responsibility to Protect is now a relatively well-known civilian protection doctrine that received increased attention during the Arab Spring revolutions.  The basic premise is that the international community has an obligation to prevent and respond to conflicts that pose a major risk to civilian populations.  President Obama used the doctrine to justify NATO operations in Libya after former leader Moammar Gaddafi said he was going to kill Libyans "like rats." However, numerous countries wanted to ensure that any military interventions that fell under the confines of the doctrine were conducted smartly.   Responsibility while Protecting, most prominently proposed by Brazil, aims to insert the voices of prominent emerging powers into the intervention debate.  

BRICS (IBSA)

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa all have expanding economies and are becoming more influential in geopolitical maneuverings.  China is often considered separately because of its exceptional growth in the past twenty years.  However, its investment in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa make it comparable in development terms. The BRICS countries are unique because they dramatically affect regional economies and politics.  Moreover, these countries are starting to become aid donors instead of aid recipients which reflects a shift in global capital to a select group of countries in the Global South.  

Civil Society Organizations

While not a monolithic group, civil society organizations in conflict and post-conflict societies are gaining increased exposure due to rapid information sharing.  The Arab Spring revolutions are an example of coordinated people power used to non-violently reform unresponsive governments.  Several youth, religious, and women's organizations came together after decades of high unemployment rates, inflation, and unrepresentative leadership.  Moreover, non-violent protests in Sudan, dubbed #SudanRevolts, have shaken Omar al-Bashir's grip on power in recent weeks.  An organization called Girifna, a youth organization started in 2009, is now a voice of authority outside Sudan about the struggle to reform the government in Khartoum and bring about peace and economic stability.  

There are many other forums and segments of the human rights movement that are working toward a more progressive world order.  Working as a unified global community rather than a West and The Rest mentality will be crucial to incorporating emerging norms and institutions into existing policy frameworks.  

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