• climate change;
  • effectiveness;
  • global governance;
  • international law;
  • international norms;
  • legitimacy


The international norms that are developed as tools of global governance can be placed on a continuum from traditional “hard law” treaties to the vaguest and voluntary “soft law.” In this article we develop an analytical framework for comparing norms on different positions along the continuum, thus for comparing international hard and soft law. We root the framework in both the rationalist and the constructivist paradigms of international relations by focusing on two overarching evaluative criteria: effectiveness and legitimacy. These broad concepts are divided into smaller building blocks encompassing mechanisms through which norms can exert influence; for example, by changing material incentives, identities, and building capacity, and by contributing to building source-based, procedural, and substantive legitimacy. We illustrate the applicability of the framework with three norm processes of varying degrees of “softness” in global climate governance.