ASEAN and Human Rights Norms: Constructivism, Rational Choice, and the Action-Identity Gap

International Relations of the Asia-Pacific

Author/s (editor/s):

Mathew Davies

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Oxford Journals

Published in International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, 13(2) 2013: 207-31.

ASEAN’s engagement with human rights is characterized by an action-identity gap; member states have created impressive regional commitments while continually violating rights domestically. This gap suggests that member states of ASEAN have used rights for political ends, the enhancement of ASEAN’s legitimacy in the eyes of critics, not because they are understood as morally correct. The strategic use of norms indicates that existing recourse to constructivist accounts of norms in ASEAN, currently the dominant explanatory framework, is incorrect. This article argues that an alternative, rational choice, framework for appraising norms within ASEAN offers greater explanatory insight into how and why human rights emerged into ASEAN after 1997. This argument suggests a revised approach to understanding norm violation within ASEAN and through that a more accurate appraisal of the nature of contemporary ASEAN.

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