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Session Overview
4-RT074: Can Global Norms of Gender Equality Create Social Justice?
Tuesday, 06/July/2021:
3:30pm - 4:45pm

Session Chair: Dr. Lars Engberg-Pedersen, Danish Institute for International Studies, Denmark
Session Chair: Adam Fejerskov, Danish Institute for International Studies, Denmark, Denmark

Session Abstract

One of the most profound and omnipresent inequalities relate to gender. The struggle for gender equality has a long history, and significant efforts to establish globally accepted norms on gender equality seek to pressure states to address marginalisation and create social justice. But how do global norms emerge, which actors are influential, what broader contexts frame the norms, and how do global and local processes of norm engagement interact. The roundtable explores these questions on the basis of Rethinking gender equality in global governance: The delusion of norm diffusion, Palgrave, 2020.

The role of global norms has been approached in different ways. Some have argued that once adopted and supported by a significant number of countries, they tend to diffuse to all corners of the world. Others state that global norms are constantly being reinterpreted and translated given the particular context in which actors address them, and yet others suggest that identity politics is so important in most countries that global norms are only addressed if they support existing identity narratives. Given the strong international focus on establishing global norms, e.g. through the Sustainable Development Goals, it is central to explore how and to what extent they may establish solidarity, peace and social justice.

Between 1975 and 1995 several significant UN world conferences addressed gender equality and how to achieve it. Its normative contents changed significantly during those twenty years and have continued to change subsequently. Accordingly, it is difficult to identify a clear set of global norms on gender equality which may have to do with the many different actors involved and the changing contexts of international negotiations. Given the extensive gender inequalities existing all over the world, one may also wonder whether global norms on gender equality are unimportant or even counterproductive and seen as imperialistic outside intervention.

The roundtable addresses the following questions:

  • How can current global norms on gender equality be described and to what extent does the SDG5 do a fair job of summarizing them?
  • How should the process of norm development be analysed and which actors are central in that process?
  • Which factors influence norm engagement in specific organizational and social contexts?
  • To what extent do global norms on gender equality strengthen local initiatives to combat gender-based inequalities and create social justice?


After a short introduction by the convenor (5 minutes), each question is discussed for 20 minutes based on a short presentation by one of the speakers.

Confirmed speakers

Susanne Zwingel - Florida International University 

Anna van der Vleuten - Radboud University 

Jutta Joachim - Radboud University 

Lata Narayanaswamy - Leeds University 

Sabine Lang - University of Washington 

Ben Jones - University of East Anglia 

No contributions were assigned to this session.

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