The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) both recently adopted and institutionalized the norm of people-centric governance. This is potentially transformative for both, signalling a reorientation away from their private and elite-led normative foundations. In practice, however, the norm is understood and enacted in different ways by officials at each organization and with radically different effects. In ASEAN, the norm is understood and enacted in a limited and defensive way. Its institutionalization has led only to selective engagement with civil society and has not altered established modes of regional governance. In ECOWAS, however, the norm is understood as a means to render the organization more inclusive of civil society groups and has transformed the regional project in important ways, shaping the logic and form of regional intervention and conflict prevention. To explore these experiences—convergence in adoption and institutionalization of a norm and variation in its practice and effect—we develop a practice theoretic framework and rely on 76 interviews with regional and state officials. We show that each organizational case is usefully conceptualized as a community of practice wherein external norms are understood and practiced in particular ways and with particular effect.
Source: International Law and Governance