Abstract: Collective instruments, such as UN peacekeeping or mediation, are a lens through which we can examine broader normative fault lines in the international order. They hold both practical and symbolic value. In the post-Cold War moment, these instruments started reflecting liberal values. They became concerned with balancing the rights of individuals and state sovereignty. These advances around “human protection” are now in question, with contestation perceived as emerging from non-Western powers. I contribute to the debates on the “pragmatic turn” within collective responses but contend that while the focus in current debates about the normative shift has become global fragmentation, the momentum for the de-prioritization of human protection within collective instruments comes from within the liberal order itself. Human protection is now a broadly shared and firmly entrenched norm, but to shield the norm from abuse, the collective international community progressively restricted any use of force to advance the norm within the instrument of UN peacekeeping. The co-optation of UN peacekeeping into counter-terrorism efforts and the introduction of stabilization mandates undermined the principled nature and moral authority of the instrument of peacekeeping itself. This, in turn, compromised the implementation of human protection. This development is now accelerated and exposed due to global fragmentation, influencing not just peacekeeping but also other adjacent activities, such as mediation.
Keywords: human protection; impartiality; liberal international order; mediation; moral authority; peacekeeping; peacemaking; UN