The journey from global to local: norm promotion, contestation and localisation in post-war Kosovo

  • Lisa Groß


In peacebuilding, international norms travel frequently from the global sphere of international organisations to local contexts — but what happens when international norms touch the ground? This article deals with norm diffusion in post-war Kosovo from the vantage point of the local, making localisation strategies, contestation patterns and translation practices the subject of analysis. It shows that the ‘local meaning’ of norms can be ambiguous, but nevertheless supportive of the liberal norms promoted by peacebuilding and that norm diffusion is shaped by conditions that are specific to post-war societies. First, norm contestation is influenced by wartime polarisations leading to segregated discursive arenas and by conflict goals that shape local interpretations of international norms. Through strategic emphasis and selection, local agents then aim to build congruence with the conflict goal. The rejection, localisation or acceptance of international norms depends on whether the established local meaning allows congruence building with the conflict goal or not. These claims are based on an empirical analysis of local interpretations (or ‘local meaning’) of the internationally promoted norms of democracy and minority rights at the municipal level in Kosovo.


contestation international norms Kosovo localisation peacebuilding post-war reconstruction 



Special thanks go to the interviewees who participated in my research and without whom this article would not have been possible. I also wish to thank Fred Cocozzelli, Dana Landau, Anna Di Lellio, Simone Tholens and Lisbeth Zimmermann for their comments on earlier versions of this article, Sonja Grimm, Gerald Schneider and Christoph Zürcher for support in the larger research project, and to Mimoza and Ljubiša for moderating the focus groups. All mistakes, of course, remain my own responsibility.


  1. Acharya, Amitav (2004) ‘How Ideas Spread. Whose Norms Matter? Norm Localization and Institutional Change in Asian Regionalism’, International Organization 58 (2): 239–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnett, Michael and Christoph Zürcher (2008) ‘The Peacebuilder’s Contract. How External State-Building Reinforces Weak Statehood’, in Roland Paris and Timothy D. Sisk eds,, The Dilemmas of Statebuilding. Confronting the Contradictions of Postwar Peace Operations, 23–52, Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Börzel, Tanja and Thomas Risse (2012) ‘From Europeanisation to Diffusion: Introduction’, West European Politics 35 (1): 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brubaker, Rogers and David D. Laitin (1998) ‘Ethnic and Nationalist Violence’, Annual Review of Sociology 24: 423–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Call, Charles T. and Susan E. Cook (2003) ‘On Democracy and Peacebuilding. Governance After War. Rethinking Democratization and Peacebuilding’, Global Governance 9 (2): 233–46.Google Scholar
  6. Capie, David (2008) ‘Localization as Resistance. The Contested Diffusion of Small Arms Norms in Southeast Asia’, Security Dialogue 39 (6): 637–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Checkel, Jeffrey T. (1999) ‘Norms, Institutions, and National Identity in Contemporary Europe’, International Studies Quarterly 43 (1): 83–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Di Lellio, Anna and Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers (2006) ‘The Legendary Commander. The Construction of an Albanian Master-Narrative in Post-War Kosovo’, Nations and Nationalism 12 (3): 513–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Doyle, Michael W. and Nicholas Sambanis (2000) ‘International Peacebuilding. A Theoretical and Quantitative Analysis’, American Political Science Review 94 (4): 779–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. European Union Election Expert Mission (2011) Final Report, Brussels: SOFRECO Governance.Google Scholar
  11. Finnemore, Martha and Kathryn Sikkink (1998) ‘International Norm Dynamics and Political Change’, International Organization 52 (4): 887–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Franks, Jason and Oliver P. Richmond (2008) ‘Coopting Liberal Peace-Building. Untying the Gordian Knot in Kosovo’, Cooperation and Conflict 43 (1): 81–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hellmüller, Sara (2013) ‘The Power of Perceptions. Localizing International Peacebuilding Approaches’, International Peacekeeping 20 (2): 219–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hohe, Tanja (2002) ‘‘Totem Polls’. Indigenous Concepts and ‘Free and Fair’ Elections in East Timor’, International Peacekeeping 9 (3): 69–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. ICG (2009) ‘Serb Integration in Kosovo. Taking the Plunge’, Europe Report, Prishtina: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
  16. ICG (2012) ‘Setting Kosovo Free. Remaining Challenges’, Europe Report, Prishtina: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
  17. Jarstadt, Anna K. and Timothy D. Sisk, eds, (2008) From War to Democracy. Dilemmas of Peacebuilding, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kalyvas, Stathis N. (2005) ‘Warfare in Civil Wars’, in Isabelle Duyvestin and Jan Angstrom eds,, Rethinking the Nature of War, 88–108, Abingdton: Frank Cass.Google Scholar
  19. KIPRED (2011) Kosovo National Elections 2010. Overview and Trends, Prishtina: Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development.Google Scholar
  20. Kostovicova, Denisa (2000) ‘Kosovo’s Parallel Society. The Successes and Failures of Non-Violence’, in William J. Buckley, ed., Kosovo. Contending Voices on Balkan Interventions, 142–48, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  21. Krasniqi, Gëzim (2012) ‘Overlapping Jurisdictions, Disputed Territory, Unsettled State. The Perplexing Case of Citizenship in Kosovo’, Citizenship Studies 16: 353–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Liamputtong, Pranee (2011) Focus Group Methodology. Principles and Practice, London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Linz, Juan and Alfred Stepan (1996) Problems of Democratic Transitions and Consolidation. ‘Stateness’, Nationalism, and Democratization, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Mac Ginty, Roger (2008) ‘Indigenous Peace-Making Versus the Liberal Peace’, Cooperation and Conflict 43 (2): 139–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mac Ginty, Roger (2010) ‘No war, No Peace. Why So Many Peace Processes Fail to Deliver Peace’, International Politics 47 (2): 145–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mac Ginty, Roger (2011) International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance. Hybrid Forms of Peace, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Malcolm, Noel (1998) Kosovo — A Short History, Oxford: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  28. Manners, Ian (2002) ‘Normative Power Europe. A Contradiction in Terms?’ Journal of Common Market Studies 40 (2): 235–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Merkel, Wolfgang (2007) Systemtransformation. Eine Einführung in die Theorie und Empirie der Transformationsforschung, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.Google Scholar
  30. Muharremi, Robert (2010) ‘The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) from the Perspective of Kosovo Constitutional Law’, ZaöRV 70: 357–79.Google Scholar
  31. Mulaj, Kledja (2011) ‘The Problematic Legitimacy of International-led Statebuilding. Challenges of Uniting International and Local Interests in Post-Conflict Kosovo’, Contemporary Politics 17 (3): 241–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. OSCE (2009) Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Communities in Kosovo. Local Level Participation Mechanisms, Pristina: Department of Human Rights and Communities/OSCE Mission in Kosovo.Google Scholar
  33. OSCE (2012) Fair Trial Rights in Election Related Cases, Prishtina: OSCE Mission in Kosovo.Google Scholar
  34. Papadimitriou, Dimitris and Petar Petrov (2012) ‘Whose Rule, Whose Law? Contested Statehood, External Leverage and the European Union’s Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo’, Journal of Common Market Studies 50 (5): 746–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Paris, Roland (1997) ‘Peacebuilding and the Limits of Liberal Internationalism’, International Security 22 (2): 54–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Paris, Roland (2004) At War’s End. Building Peace after Civil Conflict, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ramet, Sabrina P. (2010) ‘Democratic Values and Ethnic Polarization in the Western Balkans: An Introduction’, Südosteuropa 58 (1): 2–14.Google Scholar
  38. Richmond, Oliver (2009) ‘Becoming Liberal, Unbecoming Liberalism. Liberal-Local Hybridity via the Everyday as a Response to the Paradoxes of Liberal Peacebuilding’, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 3 (3): 324–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Richmond, Oliver (2010) ‘Resistance and the Post-Liberal Peace’, Millennium — Journal of International Studies 38 (3): 665–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Richmond, Oliver (2011) ‘De-Romanticising the Local, De-mystifying the International: Hybridity in Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands’, Pacific Review 24 (1): 115–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Richmond, Oliver and Audra Mitchell (2011a) ‘Peacebuilding and Critical Forms of Agency: From Resistance to Subsistence’, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 36 (4): 326–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Richmond, Oliver P. and Audra Mitchell, eds, (2011b) Hybrid Forms of Peace. From the ‘Everyday’ to Post-Liberalism, Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  43. RoK (2008a) Law on Local Self-Government, Prishtina: Assembly of Republic of Kosovo.Google Scholar
  44. RoK (2008b) Law on the Use of Languages, Prishtina: Assembly of Republic of Kosovo.Google Scholar
  45. Roter, Petra (2001) ‘Locating the ‘Minority Problem’ in Europe. A Historical Perspective’, Journal of International Relations and Development 4 (3): 221–49.Google Scholar
  46. Schia, Niels Nagelhus and John Karlsrud (2013) ‘‘Where the Rubber Meets the Road’: Friction Sites and Local-level Peacebuilding in Haiti, Liberia and South Sudan’, International Peacekeeping 20 (2): 233–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Swedenburg, Ted (1995) Memories of Revolt. The 1936–1939 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  48. UN (1999a) Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, New York: United Nations Documents.Google Scholar
  49. UN (1999b) Resolution 1244 (1999) adopted by the Security Council at its 4011th Meeting on 10 June, New York: United Nations Documents.Google Scholar
  50. UN (2007) Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement, New York: UN Security Council.Google Scholar
  51. Wiener, Antje (2007) ‘Contested Meanings of Norms. A Research Framework’, Comparative European Politics 5: 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wiener, Antje (2009) ‘Enacting Meaning-In-Use. Qualitative Research on Norms and International Relations’, Review of International Studies 35 (1): 175–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zimmermann, Lisbeth (2013) Global Norms with a Local Face? The Interaction of Law Promotion and Norm Translation in Guatemala. Technische Universität Darmstad.Google Scholar
  54. Zürcher, Christoph (2006) ‘Is More Better? Evaluating External-Led State Building after 1989’, CDDRL Working Papers, Stanford: Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law/Stanford Institute on International Studies.Google Scholar

Cited interviews

  1. Interview 13 January, 2012, Albanian Focus Group, Municipality 2.Google Scholar
  2. Interview 16 January, 2012, Serbian Focus Group, Municipality 2.Google Scholar
  3. Interview 17 January, 2012, Serbian Focus Group, Municipality 2.Google Scholar
  4. Interview 20 January, 2012, Albanian Focus Group, Municipality 2.Google Scholar
  5. Interview 24 January, 2012, Focus Group, Municipality 2.Google Scholar
  6. Interview 24 February, 2012, Focus Group, Municipality 1.Google Scholar
  7. Interview 27 February, 2012, Focus Group, Municipality 1.Google Scholar
  8. Interview 8 May, 2012, OSCE Local Governance Section, Prishtina.Google Scholar
  9. Interview 11 May, 2012, Municipal Director, Municipality 2.Google Scholar
  10. Interview 14 May, 2012, KFOR Liaison and Monitoring Team, Municipality 2.Google Scholar
  11. Interview 26 September, 2013, UNMIK, former Legal Officer, Prishtina.Google Scholar
  12. Interview 1 October, 2012, Municipal Assembly Member, Municipality 2.Google Scholar
  13. Interview 18 October, 2012, OSCE Community Office, Prizren.Google Scholar
  14. Interview 19 October, 2012, OSCE Municipal Office, Municipality 2.Google Scholar
  15. Interview 29 October, 2012, Community Committee member, Municipality 1.Google Scholar
  16. Interview 7 November, 2012, Kosovo Police Station Commander, Municipality 1.Google Scholar
  17. Interview 8 November, 2012, Municipal Mayor, Municipality 2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Groß
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Politics and Public AdministrationUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany

Personalised recommendations