Why did ASEAN create a regional human rights body? The 2008 ASEAN Charter includes the “promotion and protection” of human rights among ASEAN’s Principles and Purposes. It also declared that ASEAN would establish a human rights body. This raises an empirical puzzle given the prevailing ASEAN norm of “non-interference in the internal affairs of one another”, which traditionally has meant that human rights records are excluded as a criterion of membership of ASEAN, and as a topic for (official) dialogue. Member states have refrained from publicly criticizing one another in regard to human rights. This article argues that regional norms are shaped by competing perceptions of legitimacy. Members’ interpretations of the legitimacy of ASEAN and its norms as perceived by those outside the region — “external regional legitimacy” — were crucial in shaping the decision to establish a regional human rights body. This article makes the case that more attention should be paid to legitimacy in the study of regional norms.


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pp. 355-380
Launched on MUSE
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