Drawing on a notable example of a non-Western normative initiative, Brazil’s ‘Responsibility while Protecting’ (RwP), this article contributes to broadening the scope of the norm dynamics literature beyond its common Western-centric focus. Post-2011 Libya intervention, Brazil proposed RwP to clarify what ‘using force’ means under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) banner, but then withdrew from visible norm sponsorship, only to return to this as part of a collective exercise to institutionalise R2P at the United Nations. First, the article highlights the significant role of non-Western agents whose contributions usually go overlooked, yet carry the highest potential to address the legitimacy deficit of norms like R2P. Second, the article proposes adding a new conceptual tool when investigating the role of agency in norm dynamics, one that incorporates a wider range of norm ‘shaping’ processes and highlights enabling, contingent circumstances. The latter, is argued, best captures the anomalies in contemporary norm contestation. This is illustrated through an empirical analysis of the conditions under which Brazil was able to advance RwP, despite the subsequent emergence of unfavourable circumstances. This article emphasises how significant an alignment of enabling circumstances is to non-Western agents in terms of shaping norm contestation and normative exercise completion.