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

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/107

30 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2010

See all articles by Ben Saul

Ben Saul

The University of Sydney Law School

Jacqueline F Mowbray

University of Sydney - Faculty of Law

Irene Baghoomians

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: October 28, 2010

Abstract

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

Saul, Ben and Mowbray, Jacqueline F and Baghoomians, Irene, Resistance to Regional Human Rights Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific: Demythologising Regional Exceptionalism by Learning from the Americas, Europe, and Africa (October 28, 2010). HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION: TOWARDS INSTITUTION BUILDING, H. Nasu, B. Saul, eds., Routledge-Cavendish, Forthcoming; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/107. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1699551

Ben Saul (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://https://sydney.edu.au/law/about/people/profiles/ben.saul.php

Jacqueline F Mowbray

University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Irene Baghoomians

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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