Explaining the Vientiane Action Programme: ASEAN and the Instituionalisation of Human Rights

Pacific Review

Author/s (editor/s):

Mathew Davies

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

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Taylor & Francis

Mathew Davies, ‘Explaining the Vientiane Action Programme: ASEAN and the Instituionalisation of Human Rights’, Pacific Review, 26(4) 2013: 385-406.

Existing explanations for the emergence of human rights on the political agenda in ASEAN focus either on the role of external pressure on ASEAN member states to ‘do something’, or on the way those states copied the form, but not the function, of other regional organisations such as the EU. Both approaches tacitly acknowledge that given the strong preference for intergovernmental governance displayed by ASEAN, regardless of interpretations, that it was states that drove the institutionalisation of rights forwards. Through examining in detail the causes and consequences of the Vientiane Action Programme this article disagrees with that assertion. At crucial moments before and after 2004 it was the Working Group for the Establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, a track III actor, which both inserted human rights into ASEAN discussions and forged the link between protecting those rights and the continuing success of ASEAN’s security goals. Through understanding the role of the Working Group as a norm entrepreneur, assisting in the localisation of human rights standards, this article suggests that existing explanations of ASEAN institutionalisation need to be revised to include a wider range of political dynamics than previously were acknowledged.

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