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Bijleveld, Jeroen 1997 Dilemmas of Human Rights in Foreign Policy: Dutch and Australian Policies on Self-determination for West New Guinea and East Timor, PhD Dissertation, Department of Government and Public Administration, University of Sydney.

    © Jeroen Bijleveld, 1997. Use of any part of this thesis for any purpose must be acknowledged.


This thesis explores the conditions which contribute to or impede pursuit of self-determination and human rights in foreign policy. The thesis investigates the conceptual development of self-determination from principle to right, and establishes the official criteria accepted by the United Nations for granting a claim. After the Second World War the international community pre-eminently applied self-determination to colonial situations. Since the concept was not fully established, even a claim by a colonial people could still result in a lot of controversy.

In order to understand why a particular state supported a claim to self-determination and pursued other human rights the thesis argues that one should investigate the interplay between international systemic conditions and characteristics of a state’s foreign policy making. This question could best be answered through use of a comparative research. The choice fell on the Netherlands and Australia, two states closely involved in disputes with Indonesia over application of self-determination in two colonial territories: West New Guinea and East Timor. Those two cases were selected because the time span separating them allows for an investigation into the implications of the further development of the concept of self-determination. Also they made an interesting comparison because important changes in inter-state relations occurred in the period separating the two cases.

The basic theoretical assumptions and hypotheses on which the comparative model of the thesis is built, were found to be correct. International conditions ultimately decided the leeway for Australia and the Netherlands to pursue self-determination, but domestic institutions, procedures, and political alliances were also important factors in determining the emphasis put on self-determination. In the East Timor case international conditions remained as unfavourable for Australia and the Netherlands to pursue self-determination as in the West New Guinea case, even though application of self-determination in this case was not controversial. Human rights had assumed more importance in the foreign policy of both states, but a specific link between self-determination and human rights was not established.

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