Recent Publications


North Korea’s Participation in the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights

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Australian Journal of International Affairs 70 (2016), pp. 1-18

Keywords: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; North Korea;
Universal Periodic Review; United Nations; Human Rights Council; Commission of Inquiry; human rights peer review; Special Rapporteur

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on North Korea formally presented its report to the Human Rights Council March 17, 2014.
U.S. Mission Geneva/ Eric Bridiers Public Domain,

Abstract: North Korea’s participation in the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR)—a peer review in which states make recommendations to one another for improving human rights implementation—is a notable exception to its rejection of other human rights mechanisms. What explains North Korea’s willing participation in the UPR? This essay analyses North Korea’s participation in the first (2008–11) and second (2012–15) UPR cycles through its written submissions, responses to recommendations, and recommendations to other states. It finds that North Korea has consistently accepted weak recommendations, rejected more specific policy changes, and implemented accepted recommendations on a limited basis, allowing it to claim compliance with human rights at minimal cost. The UPR’s reliance on states’ self-reports and its inability to adjudicate competing factual claims allow North Korea to reject claims of egregious abuses, openly advocate for a radically state-centric vision of human rights, and challenge the legitimacy of human rights mechanisms like the Commission of Inquiry and Special Rapporteur while building support from other states with similar views. Notably, the Commission of Inquiry appears to have motivated North Korea to increase its cooperation with the UPR, demonstrating that the UPR complements but cannot replace other UN human rights mechanisms.

Persuading Pariahs: Myanmar’s Strategic Decision to Pursue Reform and Opening 

(with Leif-Eric Easley)

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Pacific Affairs 89:3 (2016), pp. 1-18

Keywords: Myanmar/Burma, China, ASEAN, sanctions, pariah states, authoritarian transitions, Aung San Suu Kyi


President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with President Thein Sein of Burma at the Burma Parliament Building in Rangoon, Burma, Nov. 19, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Myanmar’s liberalizing reforms since late 2010 have effectively shed the country’s decades-long “pariah state” status. This article evaluates competing
explanations for why Myanmar’s leaders made the strategic decision to pursue reform and opening. We examine whether the strategic decision was motivated by fears of sudden regime change, by socialization into the norms of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), or by the geopolitics of overreliance on China. Drawing on newly available materials and recent field interviews in Myanmar, we demonstrate how difficult it is for international actors to persuade a pariah state through sanctions or engagement, given the pariah regime’s intense focus on maintaining power. However, reliance on a more powerful neighbour can reach a point where costs to national autonomy become unacceptable, motivating reforms for the sake of economic and diplomatic diversification.

The Perils of Consensus: How ASEAN’s Meta-Regime Undermines Economic and Environmental Cooperation

(with Vinod K. Aggarwal)

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Review of International Political Economy 17:2 (2010), pp. 262-290

Keywords: ASEAN; haze; forest fires; regionalism; AFTA; noodle bowl regionalism; bilateral trade; ASEAN Economic Community; norms; non-interference

File:Peat fire in Selangor, Malaysia on 5 June 2013.JPG

Peat fire in Selangor, Malaysia on June 5, 2013. By Tan Yi Han [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Abstract: The member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been frequently criticized for adhering to a long-standing norm of strict non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs, thereby hampering collective efforts to address regional problems. This article presents an analytical model of international institutions that shows how underlying norms and principles – the meta-regime – govern the rules and procedures of specific international regimes. It then applies this model to ASEAN’s trade and anti-haze regimes, demonstrating how ASEAN’s underlying meta-regime has frustrated attempts to liberalize trade and reduce air pollution. While ASEAN’s purview has extended well beyond its original security mandate and it has developed new rules and procedures to handle the new issues, its underlying norms and principles consistently limit its ability to handle regional problems. In the conclusion, we discuss how the ASEAN states might be able to foment cooperation in these issue areas without completely abandoning its foundational norms and principles.

ASEAN Counterterrorism Cooperation Since 9/11

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Asian Survey  45:2 (2005), pp. 302-321

Abstract: This article examines ASEAN’s intramural counterterrorism cooperation from 9/11 through the Bali bombing of October 2002 and its effects on ASEAN’s cohesion and the norm of non-intervention in members’ domestic affairs. While the Bali bombing appeared to unify threat perceptions, domestic imperatives have significantly hindered substantive multilateral counterterrorism efforts.