Human rights and participatory politics in Southeast Asia

Catherine Renshaw in conversation with Alex Oliver
Join us for the launch of Associate Professor Catherine Renshaw’s latest book.

When: Friday 17 May 2019

In Human Rights and Participatory Politics in Southeast Asia, Catherine Renshaw recounts an extraordinary period of human rights institution-building in Southeast Asia. She begins her account in 2007, when the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed the ASEAN charter, committing members for the first time to principles of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

In 2009, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights was established with a mandate to uphold internationally recognized human rights standards. In 2013, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration was adopted as a framework for human rights cooperation in the region and a mechanism for ASEAN community building. Renshaw explains why these developments emerged when they did and assesses the impact of these institutions in the first decade of their existence.

In her examination of ASEAN, Renshaw asks how human rights can be implemented in and between states that are politically diverse-Vietnam and Laos are Communist; Brunei Darussalam is an Islamic sultanate; Myanmar is in transition from a military dictatorship; the Philippines and Indonesia are established multiparty democracies; while the remaining members are less easily defined. Renshaw cautions that ASEAN is limited in its ability to shape the practices of its members because it lacks a preponderance of democratic states. However, she concludes that, in the absence of a global legalized human rights order, the most significant practical advancements in the promotion of human rights have emerged from regional institutions such as the ASEAN.

About the speakers

Catherine Renshaw is Deputy Head of the Thomas More Law School, based at the Australian Catholic University. Her research focuses on human rights and democracy in Southeast Asia and she has recently carried out fieldwork in Myanmar and Thailand. She is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters and a founding member of the Australia Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Project. She is an Honorary Fellow in the Law School at the University of New South Wales.

Alex Oliver is the Director of Research at the Lowy Institute. Until 2018, she directed the Lowy Institute's program on diplomacy and public opinion, including the annual Lowy Institute Poll. Alex's research interests include Australia's diplomacy and diplomatic infrastructure, consular affairs, and public diplomacy. As well as six annual Lowy Institute Polls, Alex has authored or co-authored several major studies for the Lowy Institute on Australia’s diplomacy.