What is the meaning of International Shame?

What is intended when the term International Shame is used in the text below?

The Mobilization of International Shame can also be thought of as a tool of international relations. This attempting to alter states actions through 'naming and shaming' at the international level.

Unfortunately, I found nothing useful on Google. Any answer is considered precious and appreciated.


1 Answer 1


It's probably not a concept with an explicit definition. Sometimes it is used in relation to international boycotts, e.g.

Moral leverage has often involved the “politics of international shame,” such as a sweatshop boycott.

But as with any rhetorical device, it's used by politicians whenever convenient, e.g.:

Salvini brands Macron ‘international shame’ after police dump migrants across border

In general, it seems to involve at least an allegation that some internationally agreed norms are being ignored/violated, so that there is (or there should be) international condemnation, which can take various forms. There's for example a journal article titled:

The Politics of Shame: The Condemnation of Country Human Rights Practices in the UNCHR

Actually, there is one article that does try to explicitly define the concept (but also notes that many others use the concept without an explicit definition):

Despite the attention that is paid to shaming and the abundant examples of practices identified as shaming, there exists little analysis of precisely what constitutes the “mobilization of shame.” Indeed, use of the term has become so prevalent that authors and advocates seem to believe that the term is axiomatic and that its definition is unnecessary. Those definitions of shame that do exist refer vaguely to a process whereby “behavior of target actors is held up to the light of international scrutiny”; or, more simply, shame is identified as the “exposure of . . . noncompliance.”

And proposes more explicitly that (in and international context):

“shaming” refers to an expression of moral criticism intended to induce a change in some state behavior without reliance on formal, legal processes. [...]

Literature on shaming primarily identifies the main users of shaming tactics—the agents of shame—as nonstate actors or institutions that have no power to make binding law or to enforce the law. These actors have few tools at their disposal; unlike states, they cannot impose sanctions, they cannot withhold foreign aid, and they cannot initiate criminal prosecutions. Because of these limits, discussions of the mobilization of shame tend to focus on the use of this tool by NGOs, civil society groups, and institutions like the U.N. Human Rights Council or the Committee Against Torture, the decisions of which have no binding authority.

Nonetheless, governments and intergovernmental organizations with lawmaking power also rely heavily on shaming to influence state behavior. For example, the U.N. Security Council has the power to issue decisions that are binding on all U.N. member states, but it often uses its resolutions instead to express condemnation of a state’s wrongdoing. Similarly, along with the many coercive tools it uses, the U.S. government relies on its annual Human Rights Reports to change state behavior by exposing violations. Although coercive means of enforcement, such as economic sanctions or prosecutions, are available to these actors, in many contexts they are difficult or costly to employ. Shaming, in contrast, requires no centralized authority, and the sanction can be effective as soon as it is carried out, with no subsequent monitoring requirements. Shaming thus provides an opportunity for influence even by actors with alternative means for seeking changes in behavior.

The article goes on to discuss that although shame is often brought up abstractly against state behavior, it is sometimes personalized against its leaders and that, conversely, leaders will sometimes personally internalize such shame and act accordingly.

The rest of your question (translation to other languages) is better suited for the language stacks.

  • Dear @Fizz, your answer is so much complete and well-shaped. I'll add the exact sentence from an article containing the mentioned phrase within an edit. I'm so sorry that I had to do it from the beginning... Also I'll use the language stacks . . .
    – elyar abad
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 15:50
  • Dear @Fizz; source added...
    – elyar abad
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 16:36

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