Date of this Version



James McGann


asean, human rights, southeast asia, international relations, political science, intergovernmental organizations


The ASEAN human rights system consists of a network of formal institutions such as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission Human Rights, documents such as the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, and efforts to interact with regional civil society organizations. This system, which emerged in 2009, has come under intense scrutiny because the region’s human rights record has worsened since its inception. This paper examines the complex network of institutions, documents, and interactions between ASEAN member states and civil society organizations to determine the overall effectiveness of the organization’s efforts to safeguard human rights throughout the region. The paper begins with an overview of the role that regional intergovernmental organizations play in protecting human rights before examining the shortcomings of ASEAN’s human rights architecture. In particular, this examination will focus on the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, and ASEAN’s interactions with human rights-focused civil society organizations. Next, the paper evaluates the regional human rights systems in Europe, the Americas, and Africa in order to determine whether the shortcomings of ASEAN’s human rights system can be observed in other regional human rights systems. This comparison finds that ASEAN’s human rights system is uniquely weak in comparison with its counterparts in other regions. Finally, this paper concludes by providing policy recommendations for strengthening ASEAN’s human rights system before subsequently explaining difficulties associated with passing potential reforms.



Date Posted: 05 May 2019


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