Resistance to Regional Human Rights Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific: Demythologising Regional Exceptionalism by Learning from the Americas, Europe, and Africa
HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION: TOWARDS INSTITUTION BUILDING, H. Nasu, B. Saul, eds., Routledge-Cavendish, Forthcoming
30 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2010
Date Written: October 28, 2010
Asia and the Pacific are the only regions in the world which are yet to establish cooperative regional mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights. This article briefly outlines the existing scope of human rights protections in the region. It then interrogates common explanations for the Asia-Pacific’s reluctance to institutionalise regional protection of human rights, including that the region is too diverse for uniform standards; contrarily, that ‘Asian values’ differ from western ‘international human rights standards’; that principles of sovereignty and non-intervention preclude external scrutiny; and that Asians have a cultural preference for conciliation over adjudication, ruling out quasi-judicial methods for protecting human rights. This article draws upon the experiences of establishing regional mechanisms in the Americas, Europe and Africa to demonstrate that claims about the uniqueness of the Asian experience are often exaggerated or inaccurate. Asian exceptionalism on human rights questions is often more fruitfully explained as an expression of strategic policy choices by Asian governments to avoid strengthening human rights protections, rather than by any inherent truths about the unsuitability of rights and institutions to Asian traditions, values, diversity or cultural preferences. This article draws lessons from other regions concerning the prospects for regional and institutional cooperation on human rights in the Asia-Pacific, including as regards the establishment of regional charters, commissions and courts.
Keywords: Human Rights Institutions, Regionalism, Asia-Pacific, Asian values
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation