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Advocacy Coalition Constellations and Norm
Collisions: Insights from International Drug
Control, Human Trafficking, and Child Labour
Anna Holzscheiter, Sassan Gholiagha & Andrea Liese
To cite this article: Anna Holzscheiter, Sassan Gholiagha & Andrea Liese (2021): Advocacy
Coalition Constellations and Norm Collisions: Insights from International Drug Control, Human
Trafficking, and Child Labour, Global Society, DOI: 10.1080/13600826.2021.1885352
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13600826.2021.1885352
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
Published online: 04 Mar 2021.
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Advocacy Coalition Constellations and Norm Collisions:
Insights from International Drug Control, Human Traﬃcking,
and Child Labour
, Sassan Gholiagha
and Andrea Liese
Technical University Dresden, Dresden, Germany;
WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Berlin, Germany;
University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
To date, there has been little research on how advocacy coalitions
inﬂuence the dynamic relationships between norms. Addressing
norm collisions as a particular type of norm dynamics, we ask if
and how advocacy coalitions and the constellations between
them bring such norm collisions to the fore. Norm collisions
surface in situations in which actors claim that two or more
norms are incompatible with each other, promoting diﬀerent,
even opposing, behavioural choices. We examine the eﬀect of
advocacy coalition constellations (ACC) on the activation and
varying evolution of norm collisions in three issue areas:
international drug control, human traﬃcking, and child labour.
These areas have a legally codiﬁed prohibitive regime in
common. At the same time, they diﬀer with regard to the speciﬁc
ACC present. Exploiting this variation, we generate insights into
how power asymmetries and other characteristics of ACC aﬀect
norm collisions across our three issue areas.
Norm collisions; advocacy
coalitions; drug control;
human traﬃcking; child
Decades of IR research on transnational civil society actors have conﬁrmed that in many
cases these actors –and particularly the networks and coalitions they form –play a deci-
sive role “in teaching governments what is appropriate to pursue in politics”(Price 1998,
639). But what if there are competing coalitions with diverging views on what is
Looking at norm collisions in three international issue areas (international drug
control, human traﬃcking, child labour), we identify a research puzzle that merits com-
parative research: why, despite shared characteristics of the three issue areas, do we see
diﬀerences in how norms are brought into collision? In our article, we aim to provide
explanations for this puzzle by looking at constellations of advocacy coalitions and the
ways in which these constellations aﬀect conﬂictual relationships between international
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/
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CONTACT Anna Holzscheiter email@example.com Technical University Dresden, Bergstrasse 53,
01069 Dresden, Germany; WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Reichpietschufer 50, 10785 Berlin, Germany
norms. We understand norm collisions as the perceived incompatibility between two or
more norms. Our overall theoretical starting point is the assumption that norms do not
collide by themselves but always require agents that articulate norm collisions in inter-
Our concept of norm collisions speaks to but diﬀers from related concepts such as
norm contestation (Wiener 2018; Deitelhoﬀand Zimmermann 2020), norm sabotage
(Schneiker 2021), or norm disappearance (Panke and Petersohn 2012). We share the
agency-orientation of the literature on norms as well as its emphasis on studying the
development of norms as a dynamic process. Yet we depart from this literature’s focus
on contestation, sabotage, or “death”of a particular international norm. Most impor-
tantly, our approach to norm collisions is decidedly distinct from the widely used
notion of norm contestation. Norm collisions presuppose that the validity of two or
more colliding norms in a given situation is not contested; otherwise, norms and their
behavioural prescriptions could not be identiﬁed as being in conﬂict with each other.
Instead, we propose to examine how actors relate various norms to one another in a
given situation and focus on perceived incompatibilities between at least two norms
that actors articulate.
While we have assessed a variety of scope conditions and their explanatory potential
for the emergence and dynamic of norm collisions elsewhere (Gholiagha, Holzscheiter,
and Liese 2020), in this article we focus on constellations of advocacy coalitions as a
potentially powerful explanatory factor for both the emergence and the dynamics of
norm collisions. Our focus on constellations rests on the core observation that particu-
larly since 1990 there has been an unprecedented increase not only in non-state actors
but also in larger transnational networks and coalitions surrounding international
institutions (Keck and Sikkink 1998; Scholte 2004). It is thus plausible to assume that
policy-ﬁelds that can be described as “regime complexes”(Alter and Meunier 2009)
with intersecting rule-systems are also characterised by multiple advocacy coalitions.
Following established theories on transnational advocacy and norm dynamics
(Wiener 2018; Sandholtz 2008; Panke and Petersohn 2012; Winston 2018; Lantis and
Wunderlich 2018; Fehl 2018; Hahn and Holzscheiter 2013; Keck and Sikkink 1998)we
deﬁne transnational advocacy coalitions as connected groups of actors, both state and
non-state, on the international level who work together towards a shared goal informed
by common values and beliefs.
Moving beyond studying single advocacy coalitions, thus, we are interested in advo-
cacy coalition constellations (ACC), which we deﬁne as relations among advocacy
coalitions within a speciﬁc issue-area. These constellations vary in terms of the number
of advocacy coalitions as well as their underlying values, their position towards the domi-
nant discourse in a given issue area, and their relative power.
Our principal argument is that ACC are decisive for norm collisions to come to the
fore. The constellation we ﬁnd in a speciﬁc issue area inﬂuences whether, how, and
when norms come into collision in international fora. Our argument is based on, but
seeks to extend, the major scholarly contributions to the advocacy coalition literature
referred to above. By linking this literature to the contemporary study of how diﬀerent
norms relate to each other, we claim, it is possible to harness the explanatory potential
of coalitions of state and non-state actors not only with regard to the emergence,
diﬀusion, consolidation, and contestation of norms but also with regard to how these
2A. HOLZSCHEITER ET AL.
coalitions may bring about conﬂicts between norms, leading to norm contestation and
transformation. We thus assume, in the ﬁrst place, that ACC inﬂuence when and how
norm collisions come to the fore in international debates –using the term “activation”
for this process. Secondly, we contend that variation in advocacy coalition constellations
may explain the diﬀerence in how such norm collisions evolve in otherwise similar cases.
In our empirical analysis, we look at three issue areas –drug control, human traﬃck-
ing, and child labour. All of them share a number of important characteristics: a prohi-
bitive regime at their core, the existence of norm collisions, and the existence of advocacy
coalitions. At the same time, they vary in regard to the speciﬁc constellation of advocacy
coalitions. Choosing this case selection strategy, we exploit this variation in order to
understand how these constellations matter for the activation of norm collisions.
The remainder of our paper is structured as follows: Section 2provides a literature
review. Section 3develops the framework we use to theorise and analyse ACC and
their eﬀect on norm collisions. Section 4presents the research design we employ for
our within-case and across-case comparative study, provides an overview of the three
issue areas, and contains the substantive analysis of the eﬀect of ACC on norm collisions
in each issue area. Finally, Section 5oﬀers a brief conclusion, discusses our results, and
provides an outlook on future research.
2. Advocacy coalitions and normative change in IR scholarship
Scholars of International Relations (IR) have studied both advocacy and norms in global
politics for at least 20 years. Keck and Sikkink’s seminal work on transnational advocacy
networks (1998) has been taken up in several scholarly works (Bloodgood and Clough
2016;Carpenter2007;Cogburn2017; Farquharson 2003; Rodrigues 2011). Over time, con-
structivist IR scholars have developed a number of models and concepts to analyse how
transnational advocacy coalitions inﬂuence the emergence, diﬀusion, implementation,
localisation, and contestation of norms (Acharya 2004; Risse, Ropp, and Sikkink 2013;
Wiener 2018; Zimmermann 2017;Berger2017; Deitelhoﬀand Zimmermann 2020;
Homburger 2019; Finnemore and Sikkink 1998).
Based on the seminal literature that bridges work on advocacy coalitions and norms,
we assume that advocacy coalition constellations aﬀect whether norm collisions are
debated in forums such as international organisations. Several authors have studied
the intertwinement and relationship between norm change and advocacy coalitions
(Carpenter 2007; Hahn and Holzscheiter 2013; Epstein 2008; Almagro 2018; Belloni
2014; Carpenter 2014; Ciplet 2019). A shared insight from these studies is that transna-
tional advocacy coalitions matter for and strongly aﬀect global politics and international
law. Cases such as the landmine ban or the prohibition of whaling have been prominently
used and analysed in order to demonstrate and explain success cases of transnational
advocacy coalitions (Epstein 2008; Anderson 2000; Price 1998). By contrast, examples
such as the small arms movement (Bob 2010; Brem and Rutherford 2001) or global
climate politics (Hadden 2015) have been used in order to expose competition
between advocacy coalitions and the way it obstructs normative consensus and the
swift adoption of new international legislation. Overall, there is by now ample evidence
for variation in the impact that advocacy coalitions have on the emergence and legalisa-
tion of international norms.
GLOBAL SOCIETY 3
A shared feature of the studies referred to above is their analytical focus on the process
of negotiating international norms. They suggest that independently of their outcome
and long-term success, the actions of advocacy coalitions across a vast number of
issue areas have resulted in normative tensions, opened up new discursive spaces, or
created at least the possibility of reconsidering moral values and appropriate behaviour.
In our view, however, greater attention needs to be paid to the very moments of open
conﬂict, not only between certain state and non-state actors, but also among diﬀerent
advocacy coalitions. Building on the insight that advocacy coalitions matter when it
comes to normative change, we assume that situations in which norms are perceived
to be incompatible will most likely involve more than one advocacy coalition. Hence,
we contend that it is the constellation of advocacy coalitions in a speciﬁc issue area
that matters for the emergence and dynamic of such collisions.
As we have demonstrated elsewhere, other scope conditions such as the legalisation of
the norms involved or power-shifts in the international realm also aﬀect whether and
how norm collisions come to the fore (Gholiagha, Holzscheiter, and Liese 2020).
However, in the cases we examine in this article, these alternative scope conditions
can hardly explain the observed outcome. We observe great variation in the constella-
tions of advocacy coalitions but relative stability concerning alternative scope conditions.
Hence, we focus our analysis on these constellations. We develop this argument against
the backdrop that ACC change over time and that advocacy coalitions in 2019 are mark-
edly diﬀerent from those that inspired the ﬁrst wave of theorising on advocacy and norm
emergence in IR in the 1990s (Zajak 2017 provides a recent analysis of current structures
of transnational activism). Hence, a closer look at the relationship between these
coalitions, their constellations, and dynamic norm relations is necessary. Noteworthy
developments, such as the opening up of international organisations (Tallberg et al.
2013) and the growth and diversiﬁcation of global civil society (Scholte 2004) suggest
that advocacy coalitions have not only become an omnipresent feature of international
politics but also continue to contribute to the transformation, democratisation, and poli-
ticisation of international politics. At the same time, seminal contributions on the
dynamics of power and competition among civil society actors and advocacy coalitions
in international politics have shown that, in many cases, advocacy organisations and
coalitions compete for visibility, inﬂuence, and resources in densely populated
issue areas of global governance (Stroup and Wong 2017; Cooley and Ron 2002;
3. Norm collisions and advocacy coalitions –extending the debate
Constructivist norms research has always been marked by a strong interest in advocacy
coalitions, non-state actors, and so-called “norm entrepreneurs”(Finnemore and Sikkink
1998, 893). It regards them as decisive for the creation, diﬀusion, and contestation of
international norms (Keck and Sikkink 1998; Risse, Ropp, and Sikkink 2013; Wiener
2018). Our paper thus relates to this traditional interest in the role of advocacy and
norm entrepreneurship. However, it extends this popular ﬁeld of inquiry to situations
in which diﬀerent norms are applicable but potentially conﬂicting with each other. As
we argue below, situations of norm collisions are related to more complex constellations
of advocacy coalitions.
4A. HOLZSCHEITER ET AL.
3.1. Key concepts: norm collisions and advocacy coalitions
For some time, constructivist norm researchers have focused on norm contestation
(Wiener 2008; Liese 2009), norm disappearance (Panke and Petersohn 2012), and
norm change (Sandholtz and Stiles 2009)–often focusing on single norms. Most
recent constructivist work, however, has started to dissect the dynamic relationship
between norms (Lantis and Wunderlich 2018; Winston 2018; Müller and Wunderlich
2013; Fehl 2018; Sandholtz and Stiles 2009; Fehl and Rosert 2020). It is this latter
strand of work that our article contributes to, taking an interest in situations in which
actors perceive two (or more) norms as incompatible with each other: a phenomenon
we have conceptualised as norm collisions (Gholiagha, Holzscheiter, and Liese 2020).
Norm collisions are instances in which actors perceive the behavioural prescriptions of
two or more norms as incompatible although these norms can equally be applied to
the situation the actors are in. Assuming that norms do not collide by themselves but
that collisions occur when actors articulate their concerns with incompatible behavioural
expectations, we argue that norm collisions need to be activated. Activation goes beyond
subjective perceptions of norm incompatibility –it requires intersubjective exchange on
this incompatibility in order to be socially consequential. We do not deny that actors may
articulate such normative incompatibility for a variety of reasons, including instrumen-
tal, self-interested, or normative, altruistic intentions. As our article is interested in the
eﬀects of ACC on the emergence and development of norm collisions, though, actors’
motives are irrelevant. It is the act of articulating incompatibility between two or more
norms that constitutes the starting point for our analysis.
Following Winston’s conceptualisation (Winston 2018), we deﬁne norms as value-
based collective expectations for the appropriate behaviour of governments and other
actors in the transnational realm. As a consequence, not only norms but also values
must be seen as points of reference that bind actors together within a speciﬁc advocacy
coalition. Importantly, values are part of the complex structure of norms, but values and
norms are not identical, as only norms include a formulation of what the appropriate
behaviour for an actor is. For the purpose of this article and its focus on norm collisions,
we zoom in on collisions between diﬀerent standards of appropriateness that actors
express in communicative interaction. These are open to various norm types (Wiener
2014) and may apply to social and legal norms equally (Finnemore 2000). Our perspec-
tive on norm collisions is actor-centred, which implies that we identify a norm collision
when actors perceive two or more norms to be incompatible and articulate this percep-
tion in international forums. We thus endorse an “internalist”perspective on norm col-
lisions, as opposed to externalist perspectives in which norm collisions are identiﬁed by
scholars or legal experts (Kreuder-Sonnen and Zürn 2020; Gholiagha, Holzscheiter, and
Our strategy for identifying a norm collision rests on articulations that relate to mul-
tiple norms and the (contested) hierarchies between them (Lantis and Wunderlich 2018;
Fehl 2018). Colliding norms can thus reﬂect discrepancies between values or shared
values but diﬀering hierarchies between norms. We may ﬁnd that diﬀerent advocacy
coalitions are united by a consensus on certain core values and related norms –i.e.
the necessity to preserve whale stocks, or to protect children from exploitation and
societies from harmful drug use –but may still argue over the appropriate behavioural
GLOBAL SOCIETY 5
expectations to realise these values. Coalitions may also concur on the fact that multiple
international norms are relevant to the same situation, but they may hold opposing views
on which norms should enjoy priority. Situations in which actors perceive multiple
norms as relevant but diﬀer regarding their prioritisation can be observed for example
in debates on human traﬃcking, where we ﬁnd diverging views on regulating or abolish-
ing sex work/prostitution (Doezema 2005), or in debates about public health protection
and individual liberty rights in the treatment of drug users (Wolfe and Saucier 2010).
Shared social expectations and beliefs matter greatly for the very deﬁnition of what
constitutes an advocacy coalition (Jenkins-Smith and Sabatier 1993). In the policy-
oriented literature on such coalitions, the analysis of competing coalitions has been a
focal point in understanding policy change (Blomquist and Schlager 1996, 6). We
propose to extend these assumptions by focusing more strongly on values as constitutive
characteristics of advocacy coalitions. While the IR literature has used diﬀerent concepts
–most notably “advocacy coalition”(Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993) and “transna-
tional advocacy networks”(Keck and Sikkink 1998)–we contend that all deﬁnitions
rely on the “centrality of principled ideas or values”(Keck and Sikkink 1998, 1) to ident-
ify such actors (Díez García 2017, 62). Drawing from these conceptualizations of norm
advocates in national and international politics, and on our own work (Hahn and
Holzscheiter 2013, 497), we deﬁne transnational advocacy coalitions as connected
groups of actors, both state and non-state, who promote shared norms and norm hier-
archies and work together towards a shared goal informed by common values and beliefs.
3.2. Advocacy coalitions and their constellations
In order to assess the eﬀect of ACC on norm collisions, we make use of the insights pro-
vided by the advocacy literature on the conditions that determine success and failure of
advocacy coalitions and networks. In doing so, we transfer these insights and assump-
tions from intra- to inter-coalition dynamics, assuming that they enhance our under-
standing of how ACC aﬀect norm collisions. Keck and Sikkink (1998,25–29) provide
a general discussion of these conditions. Advocacy scholars have argued that a constella-
tion of competing advocacy coalitions may lead to failure in policy change, with small
arms norms being a case in point (Grillot 2011, 531). Grillot (2011) and Clarke (2008)
compare the International Campaign to Ban Landmines with the small arms movement
to identify respective strengths and weaknesses. They identiﬁed both structural (leader-
ship, level of organisation) and issue-related (clear causal claim, direct responsibility)
factors. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has often been portrayed as a
successful model of civil society inﬂuence and engagement in global politics, and a blue-
print for other campaigns (Price 1998; Clarke 2008). In contrast, the small arms move-
ment has been used to demonstrate the negative eﬀect of weak leadership and structure
on advocacy work (Clarke 2008, 7).
An essential factor for the functioning of advocacy coalitions is the relationship
between local actors and globally operating (often “western”based and originated)
NGOs. As Hertel (2006a, 265) demonstrates: “local activists and their international sup-
porters do not always agree on the nature of human rights at stake”. If local and global
actors disagree, local actors can either block a global campaign to change the normative
frame of the campaign or use back-door strategies to add diﬀerent norms to the existing
6A. HOLZSCHEITER ET AL.
framing of the campaign, as was the case in anti-child labour advocacy in Bangladesh for
example (Hertel 2006a, 267–268).
While these insights refer to all constellations equally, they may be diﬀerentiated from
each other on the basis of a number of important characteristics. From our perspective,
variations in ACC can be inferred by looking at the number of coalitions involved, their
underlying values, their relative power, and their position towards the dominant dis-
course in a given issue area. We identify these characteristics on the basis of secondary
literature and our own analysis of the respective issue area. The number of coalitions
is determined by counting those groups that promote speciﬁc norms and work together
towards a shared goal informed by common values. Relative power in our understanding
refers to the greater or lesser capacity of advocacy coalitions to inﬂuence both agendas
and frames in international debates vis-à-vis other coalitions and vis-à-vis state actors.
Underlying values and a coalition’s position towards the dominant discourse can be
inferred from references to norms and positions articulated during international nego-
tiations. We now turn to the question of how these coalitions and their constellations
aﬀect norms and norm collisions.
3.2. How do advocacy coalitions and their constellations matter for norm
Some of the literature on advocacy coalitions is cognisant of the relation between
diﬀerent advocacy coalitions but focuses mostly on the policy issue at hand, such as
health rights (McDougall 2016), tobacco control (Farquharson 2003), or small arms
control (Grillot 2011). However, overall the relation between diﬀerent coalitions is a
topic which is discussed more in passing. That is, scholars often mention relations
between coalitions and study the eﬀect on questions of norm development or legalisation
(Bob 2010; Hertel 2006b), but they do not engage in a substantive discussion on how
these relations between coalitions matter for understanding dynamic norm relations,
such as collisions.
What we can take from this literature is detailed knowledge and conceptual oﬀers with
regard to the strategies actors use in their advocacy work. As our approach is decidedly
internalist –identifying relevant norm collisions through the ways in which state and
non-state actors articulate them –two key strategies by state and non-state actors
appear noteworthy: framing (Keck and Sikkink 1998, 17; Locher 2007, 67; Joachim
2003, 250) and agenda-setting (Carpenter 2007;2014, 662; Price 1998; Joachim 2003,
268; Ciplet 2019; Luxon and Wong 2017). Both of these strategies or “tactics”have
been identiﬁed as vital in garnering attention, highlighting new issues and shifting
problem deﬁnitions and the meaning of norms. Even though the advocacy coalition lit-
erature and the transnational advocacy network literature point to the importance of
norms, they have, so far, not focussed on dynamic relationships between norms, includ-
ing norm collisions. We expect advocacy coalitions’tactics and strategies, though, to be
equally relevant for the study of norm collisions.
The core claim of our article is that the analysis of ACC is a promising route in
explaining why norm collisions become a matter of international debate. While there
are additional scope conditions which may facilitate the activation of norm collisions
(see section 2), in the cases we study, these scope conditions remain relatively stable.
GLOBAL SOCIETY 7
We do ﬁnd variation with regards to ACC and therefore contend that this variation may
explain our research puzzle, i.e. why norm collisions play out very diﬀerently in otherwise
very similar issue areas.
The policy-oriented advocacy coalition literature assumes that cooperation between
diﬀerent coalitions, brokered by other actors, leads to policy change (Sabatier and
Jenkins-Smith 1993). More recent work on advocacy coalitions points out that both
policy core beliefs, which refer to a single policy ﬁeld and deep core beliefs, which are
valid across various policy ﬁelds of advocacy coalition members matter for advocacy
coalitions (Matti and Sandström 2013, 248). It is, however, the policy core beliefs that
“constitute the deﬁning element of coalitions”(Matti and Sandström 2013, 253). Building
on this insight, we assume that when the core and policy beliefs amongst advocacy
coalitions vary, norm collisions are more likely.
Grillot oﬀers another interesting insight into competing advocacy coalitions. She
the primary explanation for weak small arms norms is a competitive normative environ-
ment that is facilitated and perpetuated by: (1) competing coalitions that promote opposing
norms and ideas and (2) a great-power consensus that works against stronger arms control
norms (Grillot 2011, 531, our emphasis).
For Grillot, opposing coalitions promoting either free trade norms or the right to live in a
secure and safe environment thus explain weak (i.e. not legalised) and non-existent small
arms norms (Grillot 2011, 540). We assume that another eﬀect of competing coalitions is
that they facilitate norm collisions by promoting opposing norms. At the same time, it
seems plausible to expect that competing coalitions lead to a protracted debate on
such norm collisions and obstruct norm change or the resolution of such conﬂicts.
Thus, competing coalitions provide actors with the possibility to activate norm collisions.
Another potential source of norm collisions is constituted in tensions between human
rights and development NGOs claiming to represent a certain group and representatives
of that group (Hudson 2001), something we ﬁnd for example in debates about human
traﬃcking and child labour (Hahn and Holzscheiter 2013, 502).
Inspired by this literature, we trace the framing and agenda-setting activities of advo-
cacy coalitions. We take these activities to expose the values promoted by coalitions and
their position towards the dominant discourse. This allows us to examine the speciﬁc
ACC in each case, enabling us to study its eﬀects on whether and how norm collisions
come to the fore. Concerning framing, diﬀerent actors may frame an issue with reference
to norms they deem compatible with each other or with reference to norms actors per-
ceive to be in collision with each other. Concerning agenda-setting, we assume that when
diﬀerent advocacy coalitions exist, they may pursue the same issue but for diﬀerent nor-
mative reasons or pursue diﬀerent issues for the same normative reasons. In both cases,
the normative reasons and more importantly the norms the actors invoke in their argu-
ments may be perceived as either compatible with each other or in collision with each
Building on these arguments and assumptions, we go on to empirically assess cases in
the aforementioned issue areas. While we both observe norm collisions and identify
advocacy coalitions, the cases vary in terms of the advocacy coalition constellations
that have been present in an issue area over time. We thus go beyond the dominant
8A. HOLZSCHEITER ET AL.
focus of the advocacy literature which mostly deals with the emergence of advocacy
actors (Keck and Sikkink 1998), their internal structure and organisation (L. Jordan
and van Tuijl 2000), their legitimacy (Hudson 2001; Hahn and Holzscheiter 2013), or
the conditions under which they fail or succeed (Keck and Sikkink 1998; Farquharson
2003). Instead, we assume that these constellations are a plausible explanatory factor
for the dynamics and trajectories of norm collisions.
4. Comparing the eﬀects of ACC on norm collisions in international drug
control, human traﬃcking, and child labour
In order to analyse the relationship between advocacy coalition constellations and norm
collisions, we study three issue areas: international drug control, human traﬃcking, and
child labour. All three of our issue areas had a prohibitive regime (Nadelmann 1990)at
their centre prior to the activation of norm collisions, build on codiﬁed international law
in the form of treaties and conventions, and have advocacy coalitions working within
them. However, they diﬀer with regard to ACC. This design allows us to examine the
eﬀect of diﬀerent constellations.
In the ﬁrst part of our analysis, we map the three issue areas in terms of prohibitive
norms, advocacy coalitions, and norm collisions (4.1–4.3). In the second part (4.4–
4.6), we look at the eﬀects of advocacy coalition constellations on the norm collisions
identiﬁed. We do so by analysing meeting records and statements of advocacy coalitions.
We also look at debates within international fora by studying oﬃcial records, govern-
ment statements, and more informal records such as NGO reports. In addition, we
draw on secondary literature. In the third part of the analysis (4.7), we compare our
ﬁndings: we examine the number of coalitions, their relative power, their values, and
their position towards the dominant discourse in a given issue area. The primary and sec-
ondary sources that our analysis is based upon allow us to draw conclusions on the type
of constellations between advocacy coalitions; in particular, the relative power of some
coalitions vis-à-vis others concerning their access to those international forums in
which relevant norms are (re-)negotiated and their opportunities for active participation
in those debates and negotiations.
The issue areas we explore share three important characteristics in terms of the type of
regime, the presence of advocacy coalitions, and the existence of norm collisions. In each
issue area and the speciﬁc norm collision, the respective constellation of advocacy
coalitions diﬀers. In the area of international drug control, advocacy coalitions have chal-
lenged dominant norms of criminalisation and prohibition by bringing in human rights
norms such as the right to health and indigenous rights. In the area of human traﬃcking,
we ﬁnd two equally powerful advocacy coalitions with contradictory positions concern-
ing the relationship between prostitution and human traﬃcking. In the area of child
labour, an inﬂuential advocacy coalition supports the dominant view of the prohibition
of child labour while a vocal, but still inferior, coalition of grassroots organisations
attempts to shift the debate from abolitionism to regulation and respect for economic
We assume that diﬀerent constellations of advocacy coalitions aﬀect norm collisions.
To probe this assumption, we provide an analysis of norm collisions, and the role
GLOBAL SOCIETY 9
advocacy coalitions and their respective constellations have played in activating those
norm collisions for each issue area.
4.1. Prohibitive norms as a common denominator of drug control, traﬃcking
and child labour
All three issue areas can be characterised as being heavily inﬂuenced by prohibitive
norms which, for a long time, constituted the uncontested normative core of each
regime. The international drug control regime aims to prevent all non-scientiﬁc and
non-medical use of substances classiﬁed as drugs (Article 4(c) of the Single Convention
on Narcotic Drugs (1961)). It obliges States Parties to criminalise any form of production,
possession, and trade of any drugs outside of medical and scientiﬁc use (Article 36 of the
Single Convention). The human traﬃcking regime with its core treaty, the 2000 Protocol
to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Traﬃcking in Persons Especially Women and Children as
part of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, aims to prevent and
combat human traﬃcking (Article 2). In the issue area of child labour, the International
Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 138 (1973) obliges States Parties to prohibit child
labour and light work under a certain age and to determine such a minimum age (Article
2). In addition, ILO Convention 182 (1999) prohibits the worst forms of child labour,
including slavery, prostitution, and illicit and harmful activities (Article 3). States
Parties are obligated to eliminate those forms of child labour for all persons under the
age of 18.
4.2. Variation of ACC in our three prohibitive international regimes
In the following, we describe the advocacy constellations in each issue area and apply the
conceptual framework developed above. In the issue area of international drug control,
we ﬁnd one advocacy coalition that is formed by a number of mainly European countries,
Australia, Canada, and several NGOs and non-state alliances, inter alia the International
Harm Reduction Association, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the International Harm
Reduction Development Program (2004, 383). The coalition came together “under the
harm reduction banner”(Jelsma 2003, 184). This advocacy coalition opposes the domi-
nant discourse in international drug control, i.e. a prohibitionist and criminalising
approach. Instead, it supports harm reduction, which it derives from human rights
such as the right to health. Harm reduction became an issue during the HIV/AIDS
crisis in the 1980s, and the idea was further pushed during a 1993 General Assembly
meeting. Advocates and scholars argue that drug users’fundamental rights such as the
right to health should be protected and that the dominant drug criminalisation norm
has led to a violation of this right (Burke-Shyne et al. 2017).
In the issue area of human traﬃcking, we ﬁnd two advocacy coalitions. They formed
during the negotiations of the aforementioned protocol on human traﬃcking. The
Human Rights Caucus, with the Global Alliance Against Traﬃcking In Women as one
of its key members, holds “that legalizing prostitution would help reduce traﬃcking”
(Andreas and Nadelmann 2006, 36), while The International Human Rights Network,
with the US-based Coalition Against Traﬃcking in Women at its centre, has taken “a
more prohibitive approach”(Andreas and Nadelmann 2006, 36). The coalitions saw
10 A. HOLZSCHEITER ET AL.
each other at least as competitors, even perhaps as opponents. While both shared the goal
of stopping human traﬃcking (and thus shared the dominant position in the discourse),
they had strongly diverging views on what human traﬃcking entailed. More speciﬁcally,
the diﬀerences lay in the question of whether human traﬃcking applies to all forms of
prostitution or whether one should distinguish between voluntary and forced prostitu-
tion (Jakobi 2013, 165). These diverging views led to ﬁerce battles on the deﬁnition of
human traﬃcking, which, as a compromise, leaves it up to states whether to regulate
or prohibit prostitution (A. D. Jordan 2002, 32).
A side eﬀect of the conﬂict between the coalitions was that issues where they could
have lobbied together, such as human rights protection for traﬃcking victims, received
much less attention (Ditmore 2012, 112). In terms of values, both coalitions identiﬁed
themselves as defenders of human rights of traﬃcking victims and believed that
human traﬃcking needed to be prevented. Their strongest diﬀerence lay, as mentioned
already, in the question of whether one could distinguish voluntary forms of prostitution
from forced ones. Underlying these core beliefs were diﬀerent value-sets pertaining to
questions of self-determination and consent (Siller 2017, 423; Abramson 2003, 480;
In the issue area of child labour, we also ﬁnd two advocacy coalitions. Yet their
power varies considerably. They enjoy diﬀerent opportunities for access and partici-
pation in international debates. Discussions on child labour in the context of the
ILO were to a large extent shaped by a long-standing and powerful advocacy coalition
of state and non-state actors, including ILO member states, the International Labour
Oﬃce, and organisations from the Global SouthassociatedwiththeGlobalMarch
against Child Labour. These endorsed an abolitionist agenda and were hence in line
with the dominant position in the discourse. The opening of the ILO Child Labour
Conferences to representatives of transnational and regional networks of working chil-
dren and former child workers enabled more contentious debates on child labour
policy, albeit to a lesser degree and for a shorter period. The ﬁrst and longest-standing
coalition advocated for strict minimum wages and abolitionist policies –which was
justiﬁed, for example, by the argument that such labour prevented children from
attending school (IPEC, n.d.). The child worker coalition instead advocated for an
improvement of working conditions (health & safety, wages, working hours) and for
a perspective on child work that would see it not as obstructing education and school-
ing but as vocational training and the acquisition of work and life skills. Hence, they
held a position that was not in line with the dominant position in the discourse. In
terms of underlying values, the abolitionist coalition based their position on such
values as the protection of children from harm and exploitation and the fulﬁlment of
the right to education. The child worker coalition based its position on values such
as self-determination and the importance of good working conditions. Rather than
seeing work and education as mutually exclusive, it understands work as a means of
gaining necessary knowledge and skills.
4.3. Dynamics of norm collisions in drug control, traﬃcking and child labour
In the issue area of international drug control, we focus on a norm collision between pro-
hibitive and criminalising norms on the one hand and the right to health on the other
GLOBAL SOCIETY 11
hand (Burke-Shyne et al. 2017). The right to health ﬁrst appeared in debates about the
right to health for drug users. More speciﬁcally, the rise of HIV/AIDS and attempts to
ensure fewer infections gave rise to this debate (Levine 2003, 148). In the issue area of
human traﬃcking, we have studied a norm collision between an absolute ban of prosti-
tution on the one hand and regulated prostitution on the other hand, with both sides in
the conﬂict referring to various human rights norms (Doezema 2005; Lobasz 2019). More
speciﬁcally, those arguing for an absolute ban refer to the prohibition of sexual exploita-
tion in the Palermo Protocol, arguing that any form of prostitution equates to sexual
exploitation. Those arguing for regulating prostitution hold that there should be a dis-
tinction between forced and voluntary prostitution. They acknowledge that despite struc-
tural factors that “may lead to women’s involvement in sex work, including poverty,
gender inequality and global restrictions on migration for work”, women can decide
to engage in sex work (Wylie 2016, 56). In the issue area of child labour, we look at a
norm collision between the prohibition of child labour and the right to work. The
working children advocacy coalition furthermore claims violations of procedural
rights –the right to participation and “to be heard”–as laid down in Article 12 of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Before providing a detailed analysis of
the ACC and their eﬀect on norm collisions, the following table (Table 1) provides a
summary of the issue areas and their characteristics.
4.4. International drug control: one coalition, successful advocacy for harm
The drug control issue area has seen advocates of harm reduction come together in an
advocacy coalition to promote respective measures such as needle exchange programmes
or substitution therapy. While this has been of limited success so far –their view has not
informed outcome documents of international meetings –harm reduction has at least
Table 1. Overview of issue areas and their characteristics.
Prohibitive Norms Advocacy Coalition Norm CollisionIssue Area
Drug Control Prohibition and
criminalisation of drugs
except for medical and
One advocacy coalition,
challenging the dominant
position of criminalisation and
Drug criminalisation and prohibition
vs harm reduction and the right to
Prohibition of human
Two coalitions with opposing
views on prostitution.
Banning all forms of prostitution vs
regulating voluntary prostitution
(prohibition of sexual exploitation
vs acknowledgement of the
independent decisions by women
to engage in sex work).
Child Labour Prohibition of (the worst
forms of) child labour.
Prohibition of child
labour under the age of
15 (14 in some cases).
Two coalitions, one supporting
the dominant ILO position and
one challenging the
prohibition with reference to
right to work and participatory
Right to work vs prohibition of child
12 A. HOLZSCHEITER ET AL.
been put on the agenda. The following paragraphs show how the debate on harm
reduction developed within the relevant IOs in the ﬁeld.
In a joint report from 1998, the Joint United Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
and the World Health Organization (WHO) supported harm reduction measures to
make the use of injection drugs safer (UNAIDS and World Health Organization 1998,
36–39). The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)
had always been critical
of respective measures, such as needle exchange programmes or safe injection rooms,
and criticised such measures for violating the drug prohibition norm (Bewley-Taylor
2004, 485). In addition, actors such as the WHO have pointed out that the drug prohibi-
tion regime has led to limited access to relevant medicines for HIV/AIDS patients, thus
violating the right to access adequate medicines and the right to health (World Health
In 2009, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution focussing on harm reduction
and HIV/AIDS. The Council noted that there was a need to ensure access to relevant
medical services for drug users (Human Rights Council 2010,55–56). Yet, the term
harm reduction was not included in the ﬁnal version of the Commission on Narcotic
Drugs (CND) 2009 Political Declaration (Rushton 2018, 272–273).
Moreover, in the
same year, during a CND Session, a group of states made an “interpretative statement”
(CND 2009, 119): “The statement interprets the term ‘related support services’used in
the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action as ‘harm reduction measures’”
(Jelsma 2017, 16 at footnote 50). This interpretation was immediately opposed by del-
egates in the assembly hall. As scholars have noted, “[w]hile some met this [statement
with applause], others rose to declare that they could not agree with this statement”
(Bewley-Taylor 2009, 9; Horwood 2009, 12).
The issue of harm reduction also resurfaced during the UN General Assembly Special
Session on Drug Control in 2016 (Rushton 2018, 267). In both forums, the CND session
and the UNGA Special Session, transnational advocacy coalitions were able to put a per-
ceived norm collision, in this case between prohibitive measures of drug control and the
right to health, on the agenda. In addition, the case provides evidence of the transnational
advocacy coalitions’attempt to frame drug prohibition policies as violating drug users’
fundamental human rights such as the right to access healthcare and the related practice
to be provided with safe injection facilities. Establishing harm reduction as a policy
grounded in human rights norms thus led to the activation of a norm collision in the
international drug control regime that had hitherto been marked by prohibition of
drug use and criminalisation of drug users.
4.5. Human traﬃcking: opposing coalitions, unresolved norm collisions
The human traﬃcking issue area is characterised by two strong opposing advocacy
coalitions with clearly diverging if not opposing policy beliefs regarding the question
of how to understand and conceptualise human traﬃcking. Human traﬃcking as an
issue dates back to the early twentieth century, where a number of conventions against
traﬃcking signed by European states addressed the issue of human traﬃcking of
The INCB is tasked with ensuring the implementation of the international drug control regime.
The CND is the main governing body of the international drug control regime.
GLOBAL SOCIETY 13
European women for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Apparently, these conventions
and the subsequent practice were more concerned with ﬁghting prostitution than human
traﬃcking (McClean 2007, 15; Shin 2018,17–18). In 1949 the UN General Assembly
passed a Convention against Human Traﬃcking, which expanded the issue for the ﬁrst
time to all genders and all forms of human traﬃcking. In the 1970s, global movements
for women rights put the issue of human traﬃcking on the international agenda again
(Bruch 2004, 11). The topic was further discussed during various international conferences
in the 1980s and 1990s, where it was often framed as a social issue related to discrimination.
In 1994, a World Ministerial Conference on Organized Transnational Crime mandated a
group of experts to put forward an instrument against traﬃcking (Charnysh, Lloyd, and
Simmons 2015, 326–327). Many saw the 1988 Drug Traﬃcking Convention as a useful
model (McClean 2007, 11; Jakobi 2013, 99).
The negotiations of what later would become the Palermo Protocol took place within
an Ad-Hoc Committee between 1998 and 2000. While there was a consensus that human
traﬃcking had to be tackled as an issue of international crime and that an international
instrument was necessary, the issue of prostitution became the subject of “heated
debates”(Chuang 2006, 438). During the negotiations of the Palermo Protocol as the
most recent and central international treaty to address traﬃcking in human beings,
two opposing advocacy coalitions put the question of how to deal with sex work/prosti-
tution in the context of human traﬃcking on the international agenda. Due to diﬀerent
normative positions on whether human traﬃcking applies to all forms of sex work/pros-
titution, they ﬁercely debated with each other and focused their advocacy on the
deﬁnition of human traﬃcking and, relatedly, the question of how to address prostitu-
tion. In this debate, the norm collision between prohibiting any kind of sex work/pros-
titution as human traﬃcking on the one hand, and diﬀerentiating between voluntary
prostitution (sex work) and forced prostitution on the other, came to the fore. More
speciﬁcally, this was about the question of whether all forms of sex work/prostitution
constitute sexual exploitation (which was to be prohibited) or whether women can
choose to engage in sex work/prostitution (Wylie 2016, 44, 56).
This example underscores our assumption that diﬀerences in core and policy beliefs
facilitate norm collisions. Scholars, as well as practitioners, argue that human rights
were left out of the debate on human traﬃcking because the two advocacy coalitions
diverged on the issue of sex work/prostitution (Ditmore 2012, 112; Locher 2007;Bruck-
müller and Schuhmann 2012, 114). This was especially the case when it came to victim
protection, which was only discussed late in the negotiations (Shin 2018, 20) and ulti-
mately appears in the protocol only in weak and non-binding terminology. From this
observation, we can draw the tentative conclusion that the presence of two competing
advocacy coalitions with opposing views on one issue, may also lead to a situation
where other potential norm collisions, here between the prosecution of human traﬃcking
vs victim protection, do not come to the fore. Even though both of these groups perceived
the lack of victim protection as problematic, a lack of joint agenda-setting prevented open
discussion. Yet, both coalitions framed the issue of sex work/prostitution and human
traﬃcking in terms of human rights, “[…] either with a focus on the protection of
bodily integrity of vulnerable persons or by referring to socio-economic rights”(Hahn
and Holzscheiter 2013, 504).
14 A. HOLZSCHEITER ET AL.
4.6. Child labour: power asymmetries between abolitionist and pro-work
coalition, a short-lived norm collision
The ﬁeld of cooperation against child labour was, from the onset, shaped by a strong and
rather uniﬁed advocacy coalition. Some of the oldest transnational civil society organis-
ations such as the Anti-Slavery Society founded in 1839 (today Anti-Slavery Inter-
national) and also workers’associations like the “International Trade Secretariats”
have been traditional partners or members of the ILO (Myrstad 1999). Their abolitionist
position on child labour was supported by states, trade unions, women’s organisations,
and charities. Thus, from the very beginning of international cooperation on labour stan-
dards, a number of non-state actors contributed to international law-making to regulate
economic exploitation and activities of children with child labour prohibition being
described as the “easiest question to agree upon”(Dahlén 2007, 112). When the ﬁrst
ILO convention on a minimum age in certain sectors –adopted in 1919 –no longer cor-
responded to the economic and social conditions in many countries, the ILO adopted a
General Convention on minimum age for entry into employment (No. 138) in 1973.
Aiming at “achieving the total abolition of child labour”it demands a gradual rise of
the minimum age for employment to a level guaranteeing the full physical and intellec-
tual development of young people (Dirks, Liese, and Senghaas-Knobloch 2002). Until the
end of the 1980s, advocates promoted a modern notion of childhood as a protected,
happy, sorrow- and responsibility-free phase of life. This notion turned into a largely
undisputed value in international law with the adoption of the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child in 1989 (Boyden and Levison 2000).
Over time, however, actors became increasingly polarised. An anti-abolitionist
coalition emerged, which held alternative interpretations of global childhood and sur-
rounding values (Holzscheiter 2016,2018). It challenged the line of division between
harmless “child work”and harmful “child labour”. Prohibitionist norms were seen as
incompatible with progressive understandings of children’s rights as well the cultures,
traditions, and “realities”of developing states and indigenous communities (Myers
2001; Smolin 1999; White 1994). The increasing transnationalisation of new and
highly visible non-state actors such as child worker associations, indigenous peoples’rep-
resentations and, in general, voices from the Global South, led to a diversiﬁcation of non-
state actors in the child labour regime. Eventually, the International Labour Oﬃce started
to admit that child work contributes to the development of qualiﬁcations and skills
(International Labour Oﬃce 1996).
It was in the context of the setting of new standards on child labour in the late 1990s
that norm collisions in this area of international cooperation came to the fore. Conﬂicts
between the pro-abolitionist and the anti-abolitionist advocacy coalition arose, particu-
larly during the discussions preceding the unanimous adoption of ILO Convention 182
on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. The International Labour Oﬃce, ILO Member
States, and what may be called the ﬁrst truly global network of CSOs advocating for
an end to child labour –the Global March against Child Labour –supported the new
The new instrument was strongly opposed by several trade unions who feared that it
would undermine a strict prohibition of child labour (Fyfe 2007, 26, fn 55). At the same
time, it triggered criticism by child worker associations who claimed their right to be
GLOBAL SOCIETY 15
heard. During the 1997 Child Labour Conference in Oslo, they demanded a right to
decent, regulated work instead of outright condemnation of child work. Their position
–e.g. that vocational training during working hours was often more useful than edu-
cation in poorly run schools –sat uncomfortably with the beliefs and norms endorsed
by many Northern delegations and provoked strong and hostile reactions by some
state delegations who claimed that it was unacceptable to defend the idea that children
should have a right to work (Miljeteig 2000,18–19).
A strong power asymmetry prevails between the traditional, prohibitionist advocacy
coalition on the one hand and the coalition of child workers and Southern NGOs on
the other. While many members of the pro-prohibitionist coalition enjoyed privileged
access to high-level intergovernmental conferences, the advocacy coalition for a right
to work had only restricted access. In fact, at the ILO Conference in Den Haag in
2010, a pro-abolitionist Global March spokesperson was the only CSO speaker on the
conference’s high-level panel discussions.
And during the Child Labour Conference
in Brasilia in 2013 child participation was relegated to young people’s media reporting
on the conference and an exclusive web space for “youth”called Child Labour Dialogues.
During this conference, some participants explicitly criticised the fact that working chil-
dren were not meaningfully included in the international debate on child labour.
recently, the ongoing denial of access to high-level meetings of ILO Member States
resulted in a complaint of child worker associations in front of the Committee on the
Rights of the Child (MOLACNATS 2017).
Despite its less privileged access and limited possibility for articulation, the pro-work
advocacy coalition was most successful in agenda-setting by triggering an international
debate on children’s economic, social, and political agency coupled with a renewed atten-
tion to international norms on child participation and self-determination. The pro-work
advocacy coalition, therefore, extended the international debate during the 1990s on how
to diﬀerentiate between harmful child labour and acceptable child work –which also
involved a debate on the role of education and schooling in deﬁning “harmful”work
(i.e. as all forms of work obstructing school education). The ACC in the case of child
labour also shows that child workers were successful in challenging the privileged
status of long-standing ILO partner organisations (such as the International Trade
Union Confederation or Anti-Slavery International) by claiming voice and agency.
The transformative eﬀects of the norm collision articulated by the pro-work coalition
are evidenced by ensuing changes in the policies of child protection NGOs working
on child labour, which increasingly embraced the idea of working children as competent
What is most interesting in the child labour case is that both advocacy coalitions
framed child labour in human rights terms and heavily drew on the same set of
norms, i.e. the general rights of the child as laid down in the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child. However, while the prohibitionist advocacy coalition was capitalising
mainly on rights to protection (from work, exploitation), the pro-work AC privileged the
See ILO/Dutch Ministry of Social Aﬀairs and Employment, The Hague Global Child Labour Conference 2010, The Hague
Conference Report, p. 7 (The Hague, 2010), available at: http://www.ilo.org/ipecinfo/product/viewProduct.do?
productId=14575, accessed 15 July 2020.
See speech by Antje Weber, VENRO, during the Brasilia Conference, http://blog.kindernothilfe.org/de/archives/3368,
accessed 15 July 2020.
16 A. HOLZSCHEITER ET AL.
political rights to self-determination in the UN CRC. We therefore conclude that the
ACC exhibits normative inconsistencies and tensions already inherent in international
law on children’s rights (Holzscheiter 2018).
4.7. Discussion of results
The previous section provided an analysis of transnational advocacy coalition constella-
tions and their eﬀect on norm collisions in three diﬀerent issue areas. We now return to
our assumptions on the relationship between ACC and norm collisions. As is evident
from our three cases, the mere existence of one or more advocacy coalitions in an
issue area is not suﬃcient for a norm collision to come to the fore. Rather, our approach
suggests –following well-established insights on the importance of both framing and
agenda-setting in advocacy work –that both of these activities matter in explaining
how and when ACC aﬀect the activation of norm collisions. Examining framing activi-
ties, we were able to observe that it mattered whether a coalition supported or
opposed the prevailing discourse. The case of harm reduction vs criminalisation in the
context of drug control provides an excellent example of a coalition opposing a hitherto
uncontested prohibitive and criminalising approach. By framing drug control as an area
that needed to be more responsive to human rights norms –and speciﬁcally the rights of
drug users –the advocacy coalition was successful in problematising a norm collision and
provoking a contentious debate on the appropriateness of conservative drug policies. In
the issue area of child labour, we ﬁnd that despite the existence of two advocacy coalitions
with opposing positions, the more powerful coalition supported the predominant prohi-
bitive discourse on child labour.
Examining agenda-setting,weﬁnd the relative power of the coalition and the relation-
ship between multiple coalitions to be relevant. Our empirical analysis of ACC in child
labour exempliﬁes the relevance of power asymmetries between multiple coalitions, with
the more powerful coalition dominating the negotiations over a new ILO Convention on
the “worst forms of child labour”. By contrast, in the issue area of human traﬃcking, we
ﬁnd two equally powerful coalitions. They put the norm collision between regulating sex
work/prostitution and abolishing all forms of sex work/prostitution on the agenda by
framing the question of how to deal with sex work/prostitution as a question of self-
determination and women’s rights. It seems plausible to conclude that their opposing
views on the matter coupled with the power balance between the two coalitions explains
the fact that their respective goals were not included in the Palermo Protocol. Rather, a
technical compromise was found, leaving the question to be decided by States Parties. At
the same time, the conﬂictual relationship between both coalitions had the unintended
consequence that questions of human rights and victim protection remained margina-
lised during negotiations and in the actual protocol.
This article has put forward the proposition that advocacy coalition constellations matter
in explaining the emergence and unravelling of norm collisions in international politics.
We thus extend research on the interplay between advocacy and international norms by
GLOBAL SOCIETY 17
looking at the fundamental role that constellations of advocacy coalitions play not only in
processes of norm emergence or norm diﬀusion but also with regard to dynamic and
often contentious relations between diﬀerent norms. By activating norm collisions,
ACC not only contribute to new norms, but they also destabilise a previous consensus
or reinforce positions that had previously been silenced. Our argument speaks to an
increasing literature that emphasises the centrality of actors and agency in norm
dynamics, especially with a view to the role of transnational advocacy coalitions
(Baumgarten and Amelung 2017). Our research results are also compatible with the
view that “the multi-layered nature of the existing governance architecture also provides
opportunities for transnational mobilisation”(Zajak 2017, 125–126). Finally, we also
build on and expand the literature on norm development, norm contestation, and
norm dynamics by providing a detailed analysis of how ACC aﬀect norm collisions.
The core argument of this article is that the number of advocacy coalitions, their rela-
tive power, their underlying values, and their stance towards existing international rules
and policies –in short, the speciﬁc constellation of advocacy coalitions –inﬂuences
whether a norm collision comes to the fore. We ﬁnd that advocacy coalitions contribute
to the activation of norm collisions in at least two ways: advocacy coalitions bring in new
norms that have not been applied to a particular issue before, or they emphasise norms
that have increased in strength to overthrow a former consensus. Our comparative
empirical analysis also evidenced that the existence of several advocacy coalitions is
not a suﬃcient condition for the activation of norm collisions, as advocacy coalitions
can hold similar positions and share core values regarding a prohibitive regime and its
underlying norms. Rather, our analysis has demonstrated that it is the speciﬁc
constellation of coalitions that matters for explaining how and when norm collisions
come to the fore.
Building on these insights, there are several promising avenues for future research:
studying power asymmetries between coalitions in a more systematic fashion (Blomquist
and Schlager 1996, 7), investigating whether advocacy coalitions remain normatively
consistent across forums and venues (Keck and Sikkink 1998, 18), or assessing
whether our argument also holds in a most diﬀerent systems design, for example
when comparing prohibitive and permissive international regimes or regimes with low
and high involvement of civil society organisations. Linking our arguments with the bur-
geoning literature on regime complexity or governance complexes, we would also suggest
extending research towards the study of ACC as a result of complex institutional land-
scapes in which some actors may wield considerable power not even in multiple advocacy
coalitions but also, potentially, across diﬀerent issue areas (Alter and Meunier 2009).
Several studies on the power of philanthropies have shown that there are powerful
private actors that are equipped with considerable material (money, staﬀ) and immaterial
(networks, knowledge, data) resources and thus ﬁnd themselves in a privileged position
to navigate complex landscapes (Rushton and Williams 2011; Youde 2013; Seitz and
Martens 2017). A closer analysis of the types of non-state actors involved in advocacy
coalitions and the inﬂuence of private funding institutions and business actors in
forging coalitions seems to be appropriate in light of the contentious politics surrounding
the term “non-state actors”, in academia as well as within the conﬁnes of international
18 A. HOLZSCHEITER ET AL.
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 13th Pan European Conference in International
Relations at Soﬁa (11–14 September 2019), at the Workshop “Norms and Other Norms. Exploring
Norm Relation and Norm Interaction in a Complex Global Order”(7–8 November 2019) at the
Frankfurt Peace Research Institute (PRIF), and at the Workshop “Multiple Legalities: Conﬂict
and Entanglement in the Global Legal Order”(13–15 January 2021) organised by the Graduate
Institute in Geneva and the Humboldt-Universität Berlin. We thank the participants at these
events, and especially Jeﬀrey L. Dunoﬀ, Maren Hoﬁus, Stephanie Hofmann, and Carl Vikberg
for helpful comments. We also would like to thank the two anonymous Reviewers and the
Editors for their helpful comments. We acknowledge the research assistance from Nikolai Bosko-
vic, Philipp Günther, and Markus Specht. Martha van Bakel proof-read the article. All remaining
errors are our responsibility.
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the author(s).
This work was supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [grant numbers HO 3915/4-1 and
Notes on contributors
Anna Holzscheiter is Professor of International Politics at TU Dresden and Head of the Research
Group Governance for Global Health at the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB). She has
published widely on global health governance, non-state actors in international politics, inter-
national human rights (particularly those of children and young persons), discourse analytical
methods, and the turbulent biographies of norms in international relations. Her articles have
appeared inter alia in Review of International Studies, Millennium,Global Governance, Inter-
national Studies Perspectives, Cambridge Review of International Aﬀairs, Global Constitutionalism
and Global Society.
Sassan Gholiagha is a postdoctoral researcher at the WZB Berlin in the research project “Respond-
ing to Norm Collisions: Procedural Norms and Interface Management in Fragmented Areas of
Transnational Politics”, funded by the German Research Council. A book based on his PhD (Uni-
versity of Hamburg, 2016) will be published with Cambridge University Press in late 2021. His
research interests are norms research, the humanisation of global politics, and interpretivist meth-
odology. His work has been published inter alia in in Global Constitutionalism and the Inter-
national Journal of Human Rights.
Andrea Liese isProfessor of International Relations at the University of Potsdam. Together with Anna
Holzscheiter, she is principal investigator of the research project “Responding to Norm Collisions:
Procedural Norms and Interface Management in Fragmented Areas of Transnational Politics”,
funded by the German Research Council. Her research focuses on international organisations, the
authority of experts, international norms, and the policy ﬁelds of development and human rights.
Her articles have appeared inter alia in Global Constitutionalism and Review of International Studies.
Anna Holzscheiter http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1412-4082
Sassan Gholiagha http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6464-7557
Andrea Liese http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6640-7354
GLOBAL SOCIETY 19
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