Throwing Stones at Streetlights or Cuckolding Dictators? Australian Foreign Policy and Human Rights in the Developing World

The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, Forthcoming

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/110

23 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2010

See all articles by Ben Saul

Ben Saul

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: November 1, 2010

Abstract

This article charts the layered and chequered history of Australian human rights foreign policy in the developing world. It argues that Australia’s most consistent contribution has been in the area of socio-economic rights through its aid program since the 1950s, and in its support for decolonisation. During the Cold War, Australia placed a premium on civil rights, in ideological opposition to communism. After the initial activism of the Evatt era from 1945-49, and a long hiatus until 1972, renewed engagement with multilateral human rights institutions came with the Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke/Keating and Rudd governments (after some retreat under the Howard government). All Australian governments have actively participated in UN peacekeeping operations; many have pursued human rights goals through the Commonwealth; and most have pursued bilateral engagement. They have also coupled considerable human rights successes with some dramatic failures, and most have sacrificed human rights at some point for other strategic objectives, particularly in relation to powerful neighbours such as China or Indonesia. The article concludes that an active and effective human rights foreign policy is an expression of the social values which are important to Australia’s political life and collective identity, and there remains room for a small power like Australia to articulate a more effective human rights diplomacy. It also makes suggestions for enhancing the coherence and effectiveness of Australia’s human rights diplomacy.

Keywords: Australia, foreign policy, human rights, diplomacy, developing countries

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Saul, Ben, Throwing Stones at Streetlights or Cuckolding Dictators? Australian Foreign Policy and Human Rights in the Developing World (November 1, 2010). The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, Forthcoming; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/110. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1700945

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

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