Chartering a New Direction? Burma and the Evolution of Human Rights in ASEAN
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations's (ASEAN) new charter provides for the creation of a human rights body. Given ASEAN's prior reluctance to make progress on the issue of human rights, many questions have been raised over such a body's likely power and relevance. In this article, the author examines ASEAN's "consensus" on human rights, its previous experience with regional declarations, and the events that have motivated the organization's new direction on human rights. He argues that ASEAN has succumbed to internal and external pressures in forging a new direction-through regional democratization, the growth of civil society in ASEAN countries, and the international pressure that has been placed on the organization because of Burma (Myanmar). Strong tensions that exist among the various pressures for change cannot be resolved so long as members are divided over their respect for democracy and human rights, and substantial variation in this commitment means that regional progress on human rights will continue to remain haphazard. Moreover, the region's preoccupation with maintaining state sovereignty will continue to guide the adoption of global norms, such as human rights. A human rights body created under the mandate of the charter would find its content and power grounded in and limited by the traditional ASEAN way.
Asian Affairs: An American Review
Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific