Often, countries "condemn" actions done by other countries, but do not do anything else about it. Is there any practical implications to such condemnations?

  • If so, what are they?
  • If not, then why they bother to condemn?
  • 8
    virtue signaling. Oct 22, 2023 at 9:50
  • 3
    Show their position without taking immediate action. Oct 22, 2023 at 11:10
  • 2
    This is a very vague question and covers a lot of situations. Probably a variety of reasons, that may include politicians angling for votes or preferment, representing the interests of constituents/donors, seeking favors from other countries, publicity-seeking, not wanting to feel left out, and sincere moral outrage. (Note that condemnations are done by politicians, not countries - the US doesn't have a vote on who it will condemn.) Why do individuals post condemnations on social media?
    – Stuart F
    Oct 23, 2023 at 13:50
  • @StuartF when the president of a country issues a condemnation, I assume he/she plans it in advance and wants to achieve something by this condemnation. My question is: what exactly is achieved by this? Oct 24, 2023 at 12:06
  • @ErelSegal-Halevi The question is very vague. The answer I provided is equally vague. It is difficult to answer as the goals achieved can be quite different. The EU condemning Poland for its proposed court changes was peer pressure. China condemning the US freedom of navigation movements appears to be equal parts international narrative shaping and internal propaganda. The goals essentially vary as much as the wording of the condemnations. This makes it impossible to list the exact achievement without listing each and every condemnation.
    – David S
    Oct 25, 2023 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


virtue signaling. – Fizz

If you wanted to boil an answer to this question into two words, Fizz nailed it.

In a more expansive manner, public declarations are a highly complex social event. Depending on the context of the declaration, like a condemnation, it can have different primary purposes.

How the condemnation is worded, who the target audience is, where the comment was made from (physical location), what medium was it made on, when did the condemnation come, all influence the why it was made and what the objective is.

The two primary audiences for a public condemnation is the international community and the local constituency.

The vast majority of international issues focus on a dispute between two groups. An international condemnation essentially publicly states that you are not in favor of one of the groups or a specific action of that group. However, depending on wording, may not put you in support of the other group.

The goal of a condemnation is to distance yourself from the group/action you are condemning. Practically, this is done to prevent you from being associated with or mistaken as supportive of the group you just denounced.

It may be used to clearly choose a side, or may be used as a manner of staying neutral. Or simply to state that you don't support that action by that group, even if you support that group in general.

The achieved goal in the international aspect may be to avoid secondary sanctions, possible scrutiny, or international reputational damage. Sometimes it is used to garner favor or make a political statement, sometimes to peer pressure the group you are condemning or their associates.

The practical domestic objectives are political in nature. Depending on the context surrounding the condemnation, the achieved objectives will vary wildly.

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