Treatment Norms

The Rise of the BICs and North-South Relations
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About Us

The past two decades have witnessed a fundamental re-mapping of the international political system. As the economic and geopolitical clout of Brazil, India and China has grown, the movement of these states from the diplomatic periphery to the centre stage of global politics raises the question of their relationship to the developing world. Previously, a clearer economic division line between industrialised nations and the developing world allowed for multiple systems of obligation and special rights to emerge between these two blocs based on the differentiated needs of poorer countries. We examine how such modes of differentiation have evolved as Brazil, India and China have transcended their erstwhile peripheral status. 

We investigate Differential Treatment Norms (DTN) across three international regimes in multilateral politics, namely environmental co-operation, global health, and trade regulation. In all three cases, recent and future developments are heavily contingent on the status of the BICs states as proponents or adversaries of further differential treatment concessions. On the one hand, the rise of Brazil, India and China could be accompanied by greater bargaining power for developing countries as a broader, more varied group of nations, in turn resulting in the strengthening of DTN. Alternatively, the growing diversity of geopolitical actors could fray traditional negotiation coalitions and hinder co-operation on the incorporation of differential treatment in new environmental, health and/or trade legislation. 


The DTN research group - based jointly at the University of St. Gallen and the Hertie School of Governance - interrogates how power fluctuations in international politics since the millennium have influenced the shape and strength of differentiation norms on the world stage. Our multinational team is supported in this endeavour by a global network of project partners and research funding from both the Swiss National Science Foundation and the German Research Foundation.