The concept of “norm setting” is completely new and foreign to me—and completely fascinating. The influence that INGO’s can have on entire cultures is staggering and perfectly represented by this concept. Of course, especially in the field of human rights, norm setting has the right and noble ideals in mind. As Neera Chandhoke illustrates in her article “How Global Is Global Civil Society?,” Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other INGO’s have clearly illustrated the expected standards for
human rights “and that these definitions are both definitive and authoritative is indisputable.” I do not mean to question the sincerity or right-mindedness of this type of norm setting. But I do feel that the issue is not one in which we can always have full faith, as problems could easily arise.
Is norm setting not censorship in some form of the word? Though globalization has increased similarity amongst the peoples of the world, one cannot easily claim that we have a global, standard, unified “culture.” And while human rights seem easy to all agree on, are there not other important, beneficial qualities that some countries share but others do not? Yes, it is amazing that Amnesty International has been able to set the norms to which we hold countries accountable for human rights. But could an especially influential and egregious INGO wipe out an entire segment of a culture simply by encouraging a new norm to be set? While I am not familiar with past examples of this occurring, I am certain that it is a possibility for the future. The good things that norm setting has accomplished have been wonderful. Yet we must be careful that we do not let any norm setting get out of hand, lest we hurt our own global society with our own created tool of “norm setting.”