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date: 19 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores contested terrain in the no-man's land between international law and politics – the work of ‘norms’ in social, including legal, change. International environmental law has served as the crucible for much of the theoretical debate, and a central focus of this debate has been on the effectiveness of various types of formal norms and informal norms. The common core of the concept of ‘norm’ is that the desideratum contained in the norm is intended to influence human behaviour. Since norms operate in many different ways, they relate to the concepts of formality and informality differentially as well. Norms can be formal rules of law, but they can also be informal social guides to proper conduct. More surprisingly, they can be informal and precise as well as informal and vague; formal and precise as well as formal and vague. This article concludes by tying together the theoretical insights traced out earlier in the light of ‘soft law’ discourse in international environmental law.

Keywords: international law, politics, informal norms, formal norms, formality, informality, human behaviour, soft law, international environmental law

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