[Between Principle & Practice: Human Rights in North-South Relations]

Article excerpt

In this fine book, David Gillies addresses the balance of principle and practice in the linkage of development aid and human rights in foreign policy. The 'principle v. practice' genre is festooned with diatribes and thinly veiled political critiques, for when does practice ever measure up to principle? One of the most striking features of Gillies's analysis is the blend of nuance, sobriety, and conviction he manages to bring to a hotly contested subject. For example, the book is solidly grounded in empirical research on the human rights diplomacy of three countries (Canada, the Netherlands, and Norway) in five case studies (China, Sri Lanka, Surinam, the Philippines, and Indonesia). Gillies carefully calibrates these case studies, so that 'each Western state confronts at least one case in which economic, political, or strategic interests are high and one case in which they are minimal' (p 15). He actually supports the realist hypothesis that governments are unlikely to defend human rights abroad if it conflicts with economic or geopolitical interests, but maintains that there are still instances where governments will be drawn to an agenda to promote human rights. The discussion of political conditionality -- which Gillies defines as 'legitimate intervention by aid donors in the domestic affairs of borrowing countries in order to alter the political environment in ways that will sustain human as well as economic development' (p 22) -- is a minor tour de force in laying out what is possible, what is workable, and under what circumstances. Chapter 2 on a framework for human rights analysis is a model for the careful construction of categories and their application in testing hypotheses -- it should be required for any Ph.D student contemplating research that will require making judgments on the direction of qualitative indicators. Gillies offers clear indexes of human rights abuses, as well as what should count for more or less assertive reactions and interventions by donor countries. His key hypothesis is that, if human rights matters at all in diplomacy, then we should see instances of states pulling 'more assertive levers,' even at a cost to other national interests. …

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