Ben Saul awarded Inaugural Peter Lyon Memorial Prize
2 May 2012
Professor Ben Saul has been awarded the inaugural Peter Lyon Memorial Prizefor the best annual policy-oriented article published in The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs. Ben's article examined the history of Australian human rights diplomacy and foreign policy in the developing world over the past century. An abstract of the article is below.
The Round Tablewas founded in 1910 and is Britain's oldest international affairs journal, with a special focus on the Commonwealth. The Peter Lyon Prize was instituted in memory of Peter Lyon (1934-2010), who was Reader in International Relations at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, and Editor ofThe Round Tablefrom 1983 to 2004. Widely acknowledged as one of the leading experts on the Commonwealth, he was keen to bridge the divide between academia and policy-making, and over the period of his editorship he wrote almost 100 editorials and other articles for the journal, commenting on more or less every issue of relevance to the contemporary Commonwealth.
The history of Australian human rights policy in the developing world is chequered. Australia's most consistent contribution has been in socio-economic rights through its aid programme, and in its support for decolonisation. During the Cold War, a premium was placed on civil rights, in ideological opposition to communism. After the activism of the Evatt era from 1945 to 1949, and a hiatus until 1972, renewed engagement with multilateral institutions, in part as a way of influencing human rights in developing countries, came with the Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke/Keating and Rudd governments, while there was some retreat under the Howard government. All governments since the early 1970s have had considerable human rights successes (including through bilateral diplomacy) and some often dramatic failures; most have sacrificed human rights at some point for other strategic objectives. Governments have also struggled with their choice of means in confronting violations. There remains room for Australia to articulate a more effective human rights diplomacy.