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Constructing human rights: language in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

Villanueva, Kevin Henry Reyes (2014) Constructing human rights: language in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

[img] Text (PhD Thesis)
FINAL THESIS Constructing Human Rights by KHRV.pdf - Final eThesis - complete (pdf)
Restricted until 1 December 2020.


Why did ASEAN agree a to a human rights regime? The 10 member countries launched the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights in October 2009, a little less than a year after the ASEAN Charter was ratified, bestowing the organisation legal personality. Article 14 of the Charter provided for the establishment of a “human rights body”. These events transpired just over a decade after the Asian Values Debate reached its apogee in the mid 1990s, and over four decades after the founding of the organisation in 1967. The existing literature points to the plurality of actors in the regional campaign for human rights and power of norms on domestic change. This study looks deeply into the validity of the following hypothesis: ASEAN agreed to an international human rights regime because rights discourse was able to accommodate contradictory notions of human rights and the different social and political orders of the organisation, its member states, elite groups and civil society. The use of text and discourse gave rise to the admissibility of what would otherwise have been, or constantly branded as, a “Western liberal project”. My argument goes against the common observation that rhetoric can become a substitute for real change: one cannot say what one cannot do, one cannot write that which (almost always) one cannot commit to do. Social and political change does not happen without the representational and constitutional power of language. For this I draw up what I call the “language pendulum”. It is a model that explains the power of language and discourse in international politics. I use as a my case study the drafting process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (a “bill of rights”) to illustrate how human rights norms are socialised in a variety of transactions through the use of discursive strategies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: international politics, international relations, ASEAN, human rights, language, diplomatic negotiations, regional integration, regionalism, discourse analysis
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Languages Cultures and Societies (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Politics & International Studies (POLIS) (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mr. Kevin Henry R. Villanueva
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2015 09:54
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2019 12:15
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7235

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