"The Compelling Dialogue of Freedom": Human Rights at the

Bandung Conference
Burke, Roland.

Human Rights Quarterly, Volume 28, Number 4, November 2006, pp.
947-965 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
DOI: 10.1353/hrq.2006.0041

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“The Compelling Dialogue of Freedom”:
Human Rights at the Bandung
Roland Burke*
This article explores the place of human rights at the 1955 Asian-African
Conference in Bandung, a meeting that founded the Third World as a political entity. Contrary to most existing accounts of the conference, which
emphasize the anti-colonialism and latent anti-Westernism of the participants, it will argue that there was a significant positive engagement with
human rights by a range of newly decolonized states. When recognition of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was challenged by Communist
China, that document found enthusiastic champions at the conference, including Charles Malik, one of the major figures involved in its creation.
At Bandung something unexpected happened. The voices of freedom spoke clearly
and decisively.
Carlos Pena Romulo, Philippine delegate, 1956.1

* Roland Burke is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Melbourne. His thesis examines the impact of decolonization on the international human rights
project between 1950 and 1979. His work is based on original research from the Personal
Papers of Charles Malik, as well as other documentary sources from foreign service archives
in Australia, the United States, and United Kingdom.

The author would like to thank Dr. Robert Horvath, University of Melbourne, and Professor Richard A. Wilson, Director of the Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut,
for their comments on earlier versions of this article. He is also grateful to Professor Mary
Ann Glendon, Harvard Law School, Dr. Habib C. Malik, Professor Susan Waltz, University
of Michigan, Associate Professor Antonia Finnane, University of Melbourne, and Dr. Christopher Waters, Deakin University, for their assistance and encouragement in this research.
1. Carlos P. Romulo, The Meaning of Bandung 54 (1956). For commentary on this source and
its problems, see George McT. Kahin, The Meaning of Bandung, 312 Annals Am. Acad.
Pol. & Soc. Sci. 141, 142 (1957)(book review). Romulo reflects further on Bandung in
Carlos P. Romulo, Forty Years: A Third World Soldier at the UN 137–46 (1986).
Human Rights Quarterly 28 (2006) 947–965 © 2006 by The Johns Hopkins University Press

Zhou Enlai. Contrary to much of the current scholarship. the author argues that there was a clear commitment to human rights among the delegates at Bandung. Introduction In this article the author examines the place of human rights at the founding moment of the Third World as a political entity at the 1955 Asian-African Conference in Bandung. a process that would ultimately produce an almost unprecedented revolution in international relations. it was an expression of the considerable sympathy the African and Asian states had for human rights in the early post-colonial period. Extract from Les nationalismes d’outre-mer et l’avenir des peuples de couleur. II. and mythologized the conference as the birthplace of Afro-Asian non-alignment. the free states of Asia and Africa assembled to discuss common problems and attempted to formulate a united approach to international relations. non-aligned bloc. Gamal Abdel Nasser. like Nehru. “no event has ever been of such historic significance. and exploited the legacy of Bandung when courting newly independent states in his 1963 African tour. men who became iconic figures in many countries across Asia and Africa. who were indisputably some of the most influential in the conference proceedings. The Bandung Conference was one of the most significant events in the emergence of an independent Third World. The conference did not mark the genesis of Third World hostility to human rights. Jawaharlal Nehru. Chapter 11. and Ahmed Sukarno are all accorded prominent places in the pantheon of Third World heroes that gathered at Bandung to denounce colonialism and foster Afro-Asian solidarity. former Prime Minister of Senegal. Indonesia. and Sukarno. “Since the age of the Renaissance. Leopold Senghor. It was a milestone in the decolonization process that reshaped both Asia and Africa. 28 I.948 HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol. which either denigrates or ignores this aspect of the conference. Traditional accounts have emphasized the contributions made by these anticolonial voices. Encyclopédie française.” Senghor wrote. Those states allied to the West left the conference declaring it a triumph for freedom and democracy in the Third World. were enthusiastic about the emergence of a new. The Third World and International Relations 57 (1986). 2. pt. Section C. 1959 reprinted in Philippe Braillard & Mohammad-Reza Djalili. .”2 Bandung collected most of the leading anti-colonial politicians of the era. As the foundational moment of the Third World. Neutralists. Zhou Enlai saw it as an opportunity to win allies in Asia and Africa. extolled the conference as the most historic event in the past five centuries. Nasser. Instead. Bandung was almost immediately accorded special significance among Afro-Asian leaders from across the ideological spectrum. For the first time.

the conference “signaled trouble ahead” for universal human rights. The Asian-African Conference: Bandung. 5. It has become central to the very idea of the Third World. 7. at 224. The only detailed documentary study of Bandung to date is George McTurnan Kahin. Indonesia.H.”6 This anti-Western “mood” at Bandung soon translated into “characterizations of the [Universal] Declaration as an instrument of neocolonialism and in attacks on its universality in the name of cultural integrity. The Afro-Asian Movement: Ideology and Foreign Policy of the Third World (1973). Power and Prejudice: The Politics and Diplomacy of Racial Discrimination 223–29 (2d ed. Nehru cited Bandung and its principles with metronomic regularity in almost every foreign policy pronouncement he made until the end of the decade. to a lesser extent. April 1955 (1956). 1996). argued that the conference’s significance lay predominantly in its latent anti-Western dimension. Id. Id. another specialist historian on the development of international human rights. 4. Paul Gordon Lauren.” an idea that dominated the political rhetoric of a generation of Third World leaders. Specialized historical studies of the human rights movement also tend to ignore the Bandung Conference. Lauren provides a brief discussion of the place of human rights at the conference and its implications. The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen 241 (2nd ed. Mary Ann Glendon. Less dramatically. . A World Made New : Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 215 (2001). 6. Paul Gordon Lauren. David Kimche. When Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal. few studies devote much attention to those aspects of the conference outside the categories of colonialism.2006 Human Rights at the Bandung Conference 949 The legacy of the conference was encapsulated in the phrase “the Spirit of Bandung. the politics of Afro-Asian solidarity. 2003) and. and the evolution of non-aligned movement. which constituted one of the seven main articles of the conference Final Communiqué. is one of the few scholars to devote significant positive attention to Bandung. Two accounts of the history of Afro-Asian unity that offer detailed examination of Bandung and its legacy have been produced.”7 For Glendon. Bandung and Human Rights: Current Scholarship In Bandung historiography. has been virtually absent from scholarship on Bandung. at 223.4 According to Glendon. Jansen. or national sovereignty. see G. II. see Paul Gordon Lauren. In his two texts.3 The question of human rights. Afro-Asia and Non-Alignment (1966). Even today. he did so in the name of Bandung. Bandung began the 3. Mary Ann Glendon.5 The solidarity at Bandung was arrived at “through shared resentment of the dominance of a few rich and powerful countries. politicians across Africa and Asia invoke the myth of Bandung. self-determination of peoples. one of the few scholars to discuss human rights at Bandung.

Finally. The appeal came from an Egyptian senator.’”8 In this assessment. the conference came at a point when many Afro-Asian states were some of the most outspoken advocates of universal human rights. the two major challenges to human rights in non-Western states. authoritarian developmentalism and cultural relativism. This paper challenges the negative presumptions about the conference and its relationship to human rights. there was a significant level of continuity between human rights debates at Bandung and the debates over the UDHR at the UN. Charles Malik and Carlos Romulo. Mahmoud Aboul Fath. the question of colonialism. During the early 1950s. 9. this concern seems much more focused on potential problems emerging in the next decade. Glendon’s analysis of the fate of the human rights program is essentially correct. Nevertheless. and “[b]efore long. III. Rather than inaugurating the age of radical Third Worldist hostility towards rights. even if their domestic practices often fell short of their international rhetoric. Contrary to Glendon’s assertion. the defining issue of the conference. I demonstrate four main points. at 216. and he repeatedly laments the incipient anti-democratic tendency that seems to be developing across the decolonized world. but in locating the beginning of these trends at Bandung. In her outstanding history of the making of the UDHR. Glendon’s pessimism is not altogether unwarranted. Bandung was the point of origin for some of the most potent critiques of the human rights concept. also played an important role at Bandung. Human Rights: Bandung’s Forgotten Debate Even before the Conference began. First. rather than a critique of the human rights attitudes at Bandung itself. Charles Malik’s private appraisal of the conference is generally quite negative. Third. 28 steady decline in respect for the human rights embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). and were one of the foremost topics of debate. In my discussion. Id. albeit only in embryonic form. Second. . Two of the figures celebrated in that work.950 HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol. I argue that there was a serious positive engagement with human rights questions among the Afro-Asian states assembled in Bandung. human rights formed an integral part of the political vocabulary at Bandung. an avenue of research Glendon does not explore. were not yet apparent at Bandung in any meaningful sense. was in many respects a question about human rights. she made a compelling case for the intimate involvement of Third World voices in the founding years of the human rights program at the UN. a potent mixture of resentment and political expediency would fuel a Third World critique of the whole Declaration as ‘Western. she perhaps underestimates the level of support human rights attracted at the conference.9 That Glendon has taken this position on Bandung is somewhat surprising. human rights were highlighted as a central issue for discussion. Fath had been one of Nasser’s 8.

to Prime Minister Zhou Enlai of Communist China. Al-Misri. Fath exhorted the conference not to ignore human rights in the clamor to condemn colonialism: How can you ask colonialist and imperialist countries to put an end to the ruthless methods they employ in Africa and Asia. even if the practices of most were not yet consistent with the rhetoric. Manuscript Reading Room. which many of the new nationalist leaders were committed to. Wash. . and included such ideo- 10. serving as a propagandist and speech-writer for the new leader. Although. see Patrick Seale. Library of Congress. an absolute monarchy. For a précis of Fath’s experiences with Nasser.2006 Human Rights at the Bandung Conference 951 close allies. and Fath fled into exile. . Fath became a vocal critic of Nasser and his emerging dictatorship. and encompassed the full range of political systems in attendance. Some delegations chose to distribute their opening addresses as printed texts in lieu of a speech to permit more time for the substantive program. However. 124–25 (1963). D.12 Those speeches came from a remarkably diverse collection of states. Mahmoud Aboul Fath. Of the twenty-five nations who gave addresses in the opening session on 18–19 April. Interest in human rights was a distinctive feature of the intensely optimistic atmosphere that characterized much of the immediate post-colonial moment. Box 130. . this depressing reality co-existed with a genuine enthusiasm for the idea of human rights. Human rights were among the most popular issues in speeches to the conference.11 The extent to which the conference truly lived up to Fath’s ambitious standard is open to debate. The violation of human rights is certainly bad and intolerable when committed by imperialists against peoples on whom they force their authority but it is also worse and more obnoxious [when] committed by a few nationals against their own people. L’Affaire Nasser.) 12. with only the related but more immediate preoccupations of racism and colonialism featuring more prominently. (The Personal Papers of Charles Malik. 124. There were undoubtedly severe human rights problems in all the countries represented at Bandung. 11. 1955). no less than eleven invoked human rights. .10 In his letter to the Bandung delegates. was a key organ for disseminating the nationalist rhetoric of the new Republican government. Al-Misri was promptly suppressed. as the authoritarian tendencies of the regime became increasingly apparent.C. 39 Int’l Aff. Letter to Bandung Delegates (13 Apr. Folder 7. to restore freedoms and human rights to peoples under their influence when some of you treat their [your] own peoples in a worse way? Such a call will sound weak and lack some sincerity unless your courage will know no bounds or limits when conditions in countries represented in your own congress are concerned. Foreign Minister Sardar Mohammed Naim of Afghanistan. His newspaper. The speakers ranged from His Royal Highness.

” not least because of the “deep concern and full support which all the Asiatic and African countries have shown with regard to questions of human rights. and Yemen. . 18th– 24th April 1955: Speeches and Communiqués. and Japan. Support for universality was apparent early on. May 1955). for the achievement of our common desire . 19. . Twelve hours were spent debating human rights during the first meeting of the closed sessions of the Political Committee on Wednesday.13 During the closing session.19 This represented almost a quarter of 13. supra note 13. 14. supra note 13. 28 logically disparate states as Egypt. Closing Address of Pakistan. Opening Address of Thailand.”15 His sentiments were echoed by Prime Minister Mohammed Ali. . human rights were again a prominent feature. Afghan delegate Naim praised the conference for proving “that all of us.m.17 Prince Wan of Thailand even offered a brief philosophical digression on the common nature of rights. and respect for fundamental freedom for all without distinction as to creed. Fuad Hassan. See Hassan. Republic of Indonesia. 67. 18. with several speakers invoking both the UDHR and the Draft Covenant on Human Rights in the opening session. colour or race. from different parts of Asia and Africa.”14 Nasser of Egypt endorsed it as “a tremendous success. 59. Japan. Closing Address of Afghanistan. Conference Secretariat. supra note 13. at 154. reprint. 17. both held in the Dwi-Warne Building. Islam and Christianity all teach the same lesson—the dignity and worth of man.”16 The universal character of human rights received strong affirmation at the Afro-Asian meeting. and four delegations nominated its recognition as one of the achievements of the conference. Iran. Turkey. see Asian-African Conference: Speeches and Communiqués. Ricklefs. (Jakarta. supra note 13. Jordan. 16. “the peoples of Asia and Africa . 1955 (1983). at 10:00 p. Collected Documents From the Asian-African Conference: April 18–24. have felt and acted as one. at 149. at 173. the Heads of Delegations engaged in a long discussion on the inclusion of human rights. All opening and closing addresses verified by cross-reference to original conference record Asian-African Conference. Ministry of Information. at 50. one that started at 9:00 a. supra note 13. with a compromise. Indonesia. . opening speeches from Egypt. Thailand. and concluded. Lebanon. supra note 13. Iran.m. University of Melbourne. 15. Bandung. who extolled human rights as one of the core beliefs that defined the Asian-African attitude toward world affairs.952 HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol. In two sessions. Contemporary photo. copy supplied by Merle C. [the] protection of human rights. stand for the fundamental principles of Human Rights and Self-determination. faith in fundamental human rights. . and asserted that “Buddhism. Drawn from Press Release. head of the Pakistani delegation.”18 The enthusiasm many Third World delegates had for human rights was demonstrated in the most emphatic fashion at the first opportunity for proper political discussion. South Vietnam. and pronounced that among other things. 20 April. Closing Address of Egypt. at 109.

Bandung operated as “a small United Nations. supra note 11. While all agreed in principle that the conference should endorse human rights in some form. See The Personal Papers of Charles Malik. Laos. Ghana.21 Over a third of the states represented at Bandung were not involved in the adoption of the UDHR. Iraq. and in many cases. The battles of 1948 had to be re-fought. though no direct evidence exists in the papers to prove this.20 Most vocal and stubborn of those opposed to the acceptance of the UDHR was Communist China. Iran. A copy of the UDHR is among the extensive handwritten notes. supra note 3. Chronology of UN membership.org/Overview/growth. Over the course of Wednesday’s deliberations.22 With every new state that appeared. where Malik and Romulo. Early in the first session of the Political Committee. 23. Indonesia. 3002/1 Pr 5 at 2. as they were yet to be admitted to the organization. India. Folder 4. Box 130. led the push for human rights. minutes and appointment cards copy in Malik’s Bandung Conference folder.23 As the Chinese objections demonstrated. Pakistan. (Australian National Archives (NAA). Jordan. the Universal Declaration was not self-evidently universal for those who had not participated in its creation. In many ways. It was opposed by China. Turkey. A1838/278. at 198. Thailand. with Zhou reluctant to offer any affirmation of the UDHR. the same figures that had championed the Declaration in the UN. Nepal. the specifics of this question were bitterly contested. Sri Lanka. Libya. htm. at least on some level.) . and Sudan.un. Jansen. Japan. It seems reasonable to speculate that it was used to explain the content of the UDHR to those unfamiliar with it. as he had not been represented in its drafting. Malik put a proposal forward for the conference to recognize the UDHR.2006 Human Rights at the Bandung Conference 953 the time allocated for the serious work of the conference. the commitment to human rights among the delegates would become increasingly evident. 24. meeting together and deliberating in matters and by ways that were almost identical with the methods and ways of the United Nations. . a United Nations in miniature . Communist China. with every new state that entered the organization. This initiative won backing from Sri Lanka. Charles Malik. and North Vietnam.”24 20. Part of this process of persuasion was played out at Bandung. this debate on the UDHR at Bandung was an extension of the debates that occurred at the UN in the late 1940s. 22. Only fifty-eight states were members of the UN at the time of that vote. its status as the definitive human rights instrument was not yet assured. 21. available at http://www. Although the UDHR was successfully passed on 10 December 1948. Cambodia. there was the need to explain the UDHR and persuade them of its virtue. American Broadcast Corporation (ABC) Sunday Radio Program Transcript: Guest of Honour Charles Malik (5 May 1955). Indonesia. were still to win their independence. According to Malik. and South Vietnam. .

25 Acting as the chief advocate for the UDHR. China and North Vietnam. Communiqué: Some Impressions of the Bandung Conference. we were sharply divided. the successful passage of UDHR in 1948 meant little unless it was supplemented by this kind of advocacy. What are the ultimate fundamental Human Rights? For the Communists these rights are for the most part the social and economic rights. 1071/55/55. legal. D2231/336. of the concept of human rights. Malik. the question of economic and social rights was a main point of contention between the communists and many of the other representatives: [O]ne of the basic issues on which we were sharply divided . Malik explained what the document entailed to those unfamiliar with it: The problem of Human Rights was raised and we spent practically the whole of Wednesday talking about whether the conference should affirm or endorse the Declaration of Human Rights and I had to defend that point of view. D2231/319. at 2. Charles Malik at Luncheon. 28 At this “United Nations in miniature. Charles Malik. supra note 24. who was so central to the politics of the UDHR’s adoption by the UN Third Committee.26 In the era of rapid decolonization. An Appreciation. played a vital role in the politics of the UDHR at Bandung. was again rehearsed. So on this issue too. A1838/278.954 HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol. Tehran: British Foreign Office (3 May 1955). Parkes. 40. also ensured that the battle between those who gave priority to civil and political rights. was the question of Human Rights. Jakarta: British Foreign Office (28 Apr. political rights to freedom—to freedom of thought. . (FO 371/116984. which was raised as a potential alternative early in Wednesday’s meeting. (File No. (British Public Records Office. . 1955).).) 26. rather than re-opening the entire question and working out their own catalogue of freedoms. 3002/1 Pr 5 at 2. to freedom of expression.” Malik in particular defended the UDHR and had to convince the other representatives to endorse the set of human rights articulated. 1955). 156/3/3. Canberra: Department of External Affairs Australia (28 Apr. Roderick W. at 1. FO371/116983. The presence of two communist states. Malik. and those who favored economic and social rights. Djalal Abdoh. and certainly of free elections. the issue of economic and social rights had been the source of some controversy between the communist 25.) 27.27 During the drafting of the UDHR at the UN. . and I was asked again and again by members of the conference to tell them about the Declaration. According to Malik’s account of the debate. 1071/242/55. Communiqué: The Bandung Conference. this time among the delegates of the decolonized states. Talk Given by Dr. but for some of the rest of us the ultimate human rights that should now be guaranteed by the world and by the diverse nations are the personal. having had something to do with it myself—which I did.

In his discussion of the human rights debate.”29 Malik’s perception was similar. Drafting and Intent (1999). declaring that “since the People’s Republic of China was not a member of the United Nations. Romulo. but in Zhou’s opposition to it as a text produced by a body at which his country was not represented. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins. Canberra: Department of External Affairs. 27–40 (2003).” his country “could not be expected to attach its name to any conference statement tied to the United Nations. The division over economic and social rights can be overstated—clearly many Western states did have considerable sympathy for the concept. Item 94/28. However. Rts. and he understood the Chinese obstructionism as an attempt to “use every action to impress upon us the fact that they were not present in the United Nations. Mary Ann Glendon. The Forgotten Crucible: The Latin American Influence on the Universal Human Rights Idea. at 14. Although Glendon nominated Zhou’s opposition as being of special significance. Keith C. (NAA A4311/1.28 The finished text included a significant number of economic and social provisions. 31. 27. “it may be assumed that wherever reference to the United Nations occurs these difficulties were also present. and a testament to the balance and appeal of the formulation put forward in the UDHR.O. As unofficial Australian observer Keith Shann remarked.2006 Human Rights at the Bandung Conference 955 bloc and the Western powers. but more at drawing attention to their exclusion from the UN. its importance should not be overstated. and therefore had no opportunity to participate in the formulation of such United Nations statement or policies. United Nations Branch.) . Given the severe underdevelopment that plagued almost all of the countries at Bandung. could not be fragmented or divided. See Johannes Morsink. 16 Harv. or position. Hum. 30. 29. Report on Asian-African Conference— Bandung. though it was probably the influence of the Latin American states that did the most to ensure the recognition of these rights. supra note 26. at least according to the intentions of its authors. Australia (11 May 1955). the apparent failure of the communist states to put an emphasis on economic and social rights is significant. that therefore they could not be responsible for the decisions of the United Nations. Romulo reported the nature of Zhou’s objection to the UDHR: Chou En-Lai [Zhou Enlai] had originally signified objection to any conference statement predicated on a United Nations precept. it was directed not so much at the UDHR. Shann. Malik. the chief source of division in the debate was not found primarily in the content of the UDHR. at 5. and the conflict on this question was relatively modest during the drafting of the UDHR. but incorporated them into an interdependent whole which. supra note 1. J.”30 Accounts from foreign observers at the conference also describe the Chinese protest as essentially generic. principle.”31 28.

We said “Take note of. positive engagement with the UDHR at the Bandung Conference. 28 The question was resolved through the formation of a sub-committee. Final Communiqué of the Asian-African Conference 24 Apr. reprinted in 43 Am. there was a solid.”32 Carlos Romulo attributed the Chinese concession to the “strong. 35. U.”35 By the accounts of these figures at least. Id. “We managed at the end to add the phrase which was very satisfactory. Res. Malik. Romulo.” 32. J. He said you cannot expect me to digest it in three hours. 1). Abdoh.956 HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol. G. 36. adopted 10 Dec.”34 Djalal Abdoh. 33. the final clause reproduces one of the most important phrases from the UDHR. . GAOR. 217A (III). which ultimately saw Zhou retreat and recognize the UDHR. Chou En-lai [Zhou Enlai] read it. U. pt. 1949). supra note 3. at 1. spontaneous support in the conference” for the document and its principles. A/810 (1948). although the language was moderated to an extent. Analysis of the consensus human rights paragraph reveals a modest but significant success for the proponents of human rights. 1955. 127 (Supp. supra note 1. with the majority of the nations present willing to insist on its inclusion in the Final Communiqué. 3d Sess. edging it toward the positive endorsement that the Chinese delegation had rejected.N. Opening with a superfluous statement of support for the UN Charter. 1948. Finally—again—compromise has happened in all these gatherings. at 71. Mr. 37. Romulo understood the Final Communiqué as a document that “fully supported the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.37 This inclusion strengthens the overall text substantially. I had said it took us three years to work it out. supra note 25. Int’l L.36 Although considerably weaker than the unequivocal affirmation sought by Malik.N. thought the agreed resolution “a very simple one expressing the Conference’s support of the United Nations Declaration of Fundamental Human Rights. acting head of the Iranian delegation. the Chinese were scared of the text and we gave [them] three hours to read it. the Communique text concludes with a clear acknowledgment of the UDHR as a universal standard: The Asian-African Conference declared its full support of the fundamental principles of Human Rights as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations and took note of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. despite objections from the most powerful nation in attendance. at 14. See Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 34. at 80. supra note 26. Doc. (Resolutions.A. In the smaller committee.33 Far from a compromise solution.

Recognizing the attachment the delegates from these states had to human rights. Monday.40 IV. Id.) . 1955). and portrayed as a motif for the wider exclusion of Asian and African peoples from the machinery of international relations. Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China. Record of interview between Charles Malik of Lebanon and Mr. Indeed. and Indigenous Despotism Human rights also constituted a major dimension in what was perhaps the most spectacular debate of the conference: the debate on colonialism.”39 Recognition of the UDHR in the conference’s Final Communiqué was an important victory for the proponents of human rights. the fact that Zhou was forced to withdraw from his original position testifies to the strength of support for human rights among the smaller states. 39. Chou En-Lai. transmitted through Swedish Ambassador. an astute diplomat. 25 Apr. Bandung. That he later nominated his maneuvering on the UDHR as a mistake. Had the dominant sentiment at Bandung been one of hostility toward human rights. (Copy of transcript of interview between Chou En-Lai and Charles Malik. Malik. supra note 26. One of his major objectives at the conference was to win support from the newly decolonized states. such an issue could have been exploited to the advantage of the communist state. tactical retreat. Despite the compromise language that was agreed upon. and their lack of familiarity with the Declaration made them cautious about offering a full affirmation of a document they themselves acknowledged as highly significant: “[H]ere we had an important text—which was illustrated in their announcements—that they could not possibly fairly be expected to endorse it and the utmost they could say was that ‘we took note of it’. sent to Chou En-Lai. supra note 11.”38 Zhou’s refusal to agree to a phrase indicating full support reflected his recognition of the Universal Declaration as an important and potentially threatening document. reinforces this point. Manuscript Reading Room. According to Malik. 6:30–8:30pm. 38. would have faced few difficulties in excising the reference to the UDHR. as his was not the only country absent from the drafting procedure. he made a hasty. quite simply. then Zhou. 1955. 5 May 1955. His retreat indicated that there was. Defining Freedom: Colonialism. and even apologized for his initial stance. Transcript is a carbon copy of that presented to John Forster Dulles. no advantage to be won by opposing human rights at Bandung. Personal Papers of Charles Malik. Indonesia. 6 May 1955. Communism. who hoped that “the Chinese knew what they were doing when they accepted it. 40.2006 Human Rights at the Bandung Conference 957 noted Malik. the Chinese considered the human rights question a serious one. (25 Apr.

supra note 3. well. 30–31. was quick to recognize the powerful implications of this approach to colonialism. as a broader conception would necessarily entail very awkward questions. By articulating what constituted colonialism. and the relationship between national self-determination and individual liberty. those at Bandung were forced to examine the political and social systems they sought for themselves. the state of democratic liberty or democracy itself in the countries represented here. Nehru. 42. the state of individual or national freedom. emerged from the competing definitions of colonialism. Malik encapsulated the key point of contention raised by the colonialism debate. . with tensions escalating dramatically during the afternoon of 21 April. Jawaharlal Nehru. provoking a wide-ranging and bitter debate. An Asian Prime Minister’s Story 186–87 (1956). . Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru 103 (2d ser. the colonialism dispute raised arguments with important consequences for human rights and democracy. Such issues were the subject of considerable controversy from the first day of the conference on 18 April. at 202–07. supra note 3. when Sri Lankan Prime Minister John Kotelawala assailed the double-standard on the colonialism of the Soviet Union.41 Irritated by what he perceived as excessive focus on Western imperialism. Kimche. at 68–70. he argued that the most significant division at Bandung was over the nature of freedom itself: [T]here was no question on which points of view were more sharply and more poignantly divided than on this problem of freedom. If we look at this question in its entirety .42 While primarily concerned with foreign domination. 1955 (File SI/162/9/64-MEA) in 29 New Delhi. Id. 22 Apr. he urged the delegates to limit their formulation of colonialism to traditional situations. Speaking shortly after the conference to Australian diplomats.958 HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol. supra note 3. In his response to Kotelawala on the morning of 22 April. 43. terribly lacking. Kahin. . See John Kotelawala. 28 Questions about the nature of freedom. I feel many of us are lacking. . .43 Defining colonialism was a perilous task. and if we examine the state of freedom. Because to the Communists. Jansen. Kotelawala urged the conference to condemn Soviet colonialism as well. address to the closed session of the Political Committee. If we sit down and discuss these matters in all integrity in its entirety then we shall have to go very far and discuss how far countries represented here fulfil that noble standard which we laid down yesterday in the human rights or even the ordinary tenets of democracy and freedom. 214–15. in the present context of this Conference [liberation] meant the liberation 41. . They were made to question what precisely was at stake in the campaign against colonialism.. eager to see the conference conclude successfully. at 18–21. Problems of Dependent Peoples. 1984).

and colonialism was an evil because it always curtailed the rights of those living under it. but a complete democratic reformation of the repressive colonial state: [I]s political freedom achieved when the national banner rises over the seat of government. freedom to criticise. and anti-colonialism. freedom of press. he was one of the few Third World voices in the drafting of the UDHR. . and he was uniquely placed among the delegates as one of the foremost champions of both causes at the international level. but not sufficient. Eradicating colonialism was a necessary. the foreign ruler goes. For Romulo. to be the full human being. But there were systems. Anti-colonialism should not seek the transposition of an indigenous ruling elite for a foreign one. Romulo spoke with authority when he addressed the relationship between freedom and independence. 45. supra note 1. and the power passes into the hands of our own leaders? Is the struggle for national independence the struggle to substitute a local oligarchy for the foreign oligarchy? Or is it just the beginning of the conquest of real freedom by the people of the land? Is there political freedom where only one political party may rule? Is there political freedom where dissent 44. Malik. supra note 1. to judge for yourself—freedom. at 66. National self-determination and individual human rights were the two goals Romulo fought for his entire life. that were still more repressive than colonialism. Romulo. he successfully agitated for the inclusion of provisions for colonial self-determination in the UN Charter.45 In the field of human rights. Carlos Romulo had invited the participants to ponder the relationship between freedom. was. at 33–45. freedom of speech under the US colonial regime in the Philippines. He warned of the dangers of national independence. far superior to that which existed in communist countries. As Romulo pointed out.44 Even before Kotelawala’s dramatic speech. like communism. But to some of us—while this certainly belongs to the notion of freedom. against the wishes of many of the established European powers. 46. in short. for example. individual rights. the chief issue was individual freedom. which could degenerate into “an instrument for a new and different kind of subjection. See Romulo.2006 Human Rights at the Bandung Conference 959 of the various nations and peoples of Asia and Africa from foreign Western rule. freedom was much larger and much deeper than mere liberation from foreign rule. To us freedom meant freedom of mind. supra note 24. With this impeccable anti-colonial and human rights credentials. At the San Francisco Conference. freedom of thought.”46 Freedom was not won merely by casting-off of alien rule. condition for freedom. or under the British in India. which would precipitate the most acrimonious phase of the debate over communist colonialism.

and to a lesser extent China. Carlos P. which promised to bring the material improvements so desperately sought by the countries emerging from colonialism by instituting a one-party police state: 47. simply a manifestation of anti-communism. argued Romulo. Id. Id. Romulo had previously castigated the Philippine colonial administration of General Wood for denying the people’s freedom through the justification of superior material well-being. For countries that were extremely poor. 50. presented itself as a potential solution to the pressing imperative of industrialization. the question of whether to pursue economic development at the expense of human rights had obvious and immediate relevance. Is this really the model of the freedom we seek? Or is it the free interplay of contending parties. and even they made no mention of it in their respective addresses. 49. which brought development at the expense of personal liberty. the freedom of a man to speak up as he chooses. at 67. control of the press.” but argued that the best answer. China and North Vietnam. The only champions of an authoritarian development model were the two communist states. 28 from the policy of the government means imprisonment or worse? It strikes me that autocratic rule. “Better a dinner of herbs in freedom. At Bandung.” Romulo argued. however. the open competition of ideas and political views in the market place.960 HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol.50 For the states at Bandung. and the police state are exactly the worst features of some colonialist systems against which we have fought all our lives and against which so many of us are still fighting. 48. than caviar under a crown. was a pluralistic. at 68. I Walked With Heroes 164 (1961). and the one selected by the Philippines. the tendencies of the 1960s and 1970s were not yet discernible. the example offered by the Soviet Union. be he right or wrong?47 He acknowledged that there were “many possible answers to these questions.48 Philippine independence was a means for ensuring the rights of all citizens. . His criticisms were not. This silence on the part of the communists did not prevent Romulo from launching a powerful critique of the authoritarian strategy of modernization. Id. Romulo.”49 The controversy over Soviet imperialism raised other more general critiques over the nature of the communist authoritarian development model. however. not an end of itself. democratic state. a model that would be embraced by many Third World regimes in the 1960s and 1970s. Romulo addressed the communist program of economic modernization. and he pledged to construct “a society in which the freedom of our Republic will truly become the freedom of every one of its citizens.

This road is open before many of us. the peoples of the colonial Africa and Asia. all been. then. the first director of the UN Human Rights 51. and that all the “elaborate series of phrases and rationalization” produced for such dictatorships would be unable to hide the “realities” of authoritarian rule. be redeemed by the well-being and freedom of the yet unborn? . At the United Nations. struggle. V.51 Communist justifications. the 1950s marked a highpoint in Third World enthusiasm for human rights. Id.52 He dismissed the “trade-off” between individual freedom and economic progress as an uncertain and greatly disproportionate exchange. The gateway to it is strewn with sweet-smelling garlands of phrases and promises and high sentiment. tightly run. Commenting on the 1955 session of the Human Rights Commission. at 75–76. 52. 53. Id. at 75. in some dim and undefined future time. can it be true. the rigid control of all thought and expression. had not succeeded only to re-impose upon themselves another dictatorial regime.2006 Human Rights at the Bandung Conference 961 [Communism claims to achieve] total change through total power. supra note 1. the gate clangs behind you. . The policeman becomes master and your duty thereafter is forever to say aye. But once you march through it. Romulo. the ruthless suppression of all opposition.53 According to Romulo. that national progress must be paid for with the individual well-being and freedom of millions of people? Can we really believe that this price will. through avowed dictatorship and the forcible manipulation of men and means to achieve certain ends. whatever its philosophical justification. Conclusions Bandung came at a moment when African and Asian countries were among the strongest supporters of the international human rights project. much like the colonial ones that came before. . for the purpose of replacing foreign tyranny by domestic tyranny? Do we fight to regain our manhood from Western colonial rulers only to surrender it to rulers among ourselves who seize the power to keep us enslaved? Is it true. self-selected organization of elite individuals. could not justify the ground truth of this system. . John Humphrey. who had struggled for so long against foreign authoritarianism. the pervasive control of human life in all spheres by a single. A new excuse for dictatorship had not the object of the independence struggle: Does the road to greater freedom really lie through an indefinite period of less freedom? Is it for this that we have in this generation raised our heads and taken up the struggle against foreign tyrannies? Has all the sacrifice. and devotion. in this vastly developed 20th century.

28 division and one of the principal architects of the UDHR.org. but from the established Western democracies. GAOR Third Committee.N. 60. Humphrey. served as an important justification and motivation for Afro-Asian nationalism. France. U. Id. Rene Cassin. 59. supra note 5.58 They justified this clause by a feigned reverence for cultural difference.N.”60 The Belgian representative phrased a similar set of arguments in much more offensive terms. would remark “[t]he delegations with the strongest positive convictions were now without any doubt those which represented the Third World. Human Rights & the United Nations : A Great Adventure 203 (1984). one of the most influential figures in the drafting of the UDHR.55 Part of colonial struggle for freedom was a campaign for the extension of the individual rights that were considered the preserve of Europeans. . For Cassin’s role in the drafting of the UDHR. human rights occupied a central place. U. ¶ 5. which had been so trampled by colonial administrations. available at http://www. A/C.57 While self-determination was the primary object of the anti-colonial campaign. These debates occurred in the UN Third Committee in October and November 1950. Jordanian Foreign Minister Sayyed Wahid Salah lamented the “monopoly” the established powers had on human rights. civilized people. A/C. see Morsink. expressed disappointment that colonialism continued despite the adoption of human rights standards by the UN. at 70. In the debates on the human rights covenants in the early 1950s. while they were denied to the small states of the world. 55. 61. ¶ 38. In nationalist manifestos of the period.3/SR. supra note 28.”54 Far from being opposed to the rights discourse as a neo-colonial imposition. such as the 1955 ANC Freedom Charter. See Hassan. Human rights were for advanced.anc.56 Other delegates. at 132. respect for individual rights. John P.962 HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol. Glendon. 5th sess.61 Such arguments would not have seemed out of place at a summit of African or Asian leaders in the early 1990s. 54. 57.html. Doc. Doc. like Yemeni Prime Minister Emir Seif El Islam Al Hassan. U.292 (1950). Consult the summary records for further detail.3/SR. and Belgium argued for a special clause exempting colonial territories from their application. the sort of nationalism embraced by many African and Asian independence leaders had important affinities with human rights. and “subject different peoples to uniform obligations. 58.N. supra note 13. 56. ANC Freedom Charter June 26 1955.294 (1950). not those in African and Asian colonies.za/ancdocs/history/charter. The cultural relativist challenge to human rights first emerged not from the Third World states.N. was a prominent exponent of the case for a level of relativism in applying human rights in the Third World. delegates from Britain.59 He asserted that human rights might “endanger public order” among backward colonial populations. GAOR Third Committee. U.

passionately denounced the cultural relativist justifications of the colonial powers at the UN. Nationalist China’s representative.62 Bedia Afnan of Iraq. Doc A/C. endorsing H. supra note 63. ¶ 169.G. GAOR Third Committee. PengChun Chang. GAOR Third Committee. Azmi Bey.za/pages/specialprojects/june26/graphics/Freedom%20Charter-reduced. South African nationalists Moses Kotane and Joseph Cachalia were at Bandung.”64 Mr. supra note 66. Q. Universal Human Rights: The Contribution of Muslim States.N.”65 The force of these statements suggest we must be very cautious in locating even a nascent challenge to human rights at Bandung.2006 Human Rights at the Bandung Conference 963 Yet in the 1950s.3/SR.68 Kenyan nationalist Joseph Murumbi. 63.N. who along with Cassin had been deeply involved in the drafting of the Universal Declaration. charged that cultural relativism “was only too reminiscent of the Hitlerian concept which divided mankind into groups of varying worth. ¶ 81. 1955. Brian Bunting. “wondered how the degree of evolution of a people could prevent it from enjoying the rights which [Cassin] himself had admitted to be inherent in human nature. U. 26 Hum. Third World diplomats at the UN were among the strongest defenders of universality.296 (1950). Wells’ Sankey Declaration of Rights in 1940. U. 67. for more detail on the work of Afnan and Azmi Bey in the drafting of the covenants. Any such challenge would certainly have been inconsistent with the dominant viewpoint of the Afro-Asian states as they expressed it at the UN. who had themselves suffered punishment at the hands of repressive colonial systems. 12 Sechaba 51. 64.”63 In a passionate critique of cultural relativism.1985).N.N. who was imprisoned seven times by the British. pdf. used the language of rights to condemn apartheid in a statement issued at the conference.67 He was no stranger to human rights. Afnan argued further that “differences of culture and tradition were no obstacle whatever to the universal application of the provisions of the covenant” and that “nowadays it could no longer be claimed that some civilizations were essentially different from others. sahistory. being involved in both the African Bill of Rights submission to the Atlantic Charter and the drafting of the Freedom Charter. available at http://www.295 (1950). Moses Kotane: South African Revolutionary 206–13 (1975). 66. 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter.N. see also Susan Waltz. See Bunting. There was also a reflexive personal interest in human rights from the first wave of Afro-Asian leaders. U.org. Nehru. ¶ 6. A/C. U. had been an early proponent of human rights.3/SR. though only after being pursued by secret police from Pretoria. 65. 799 (2004). Isithwalandiwe Rests in Peace. Press Statement by Representatives of the African National Congress and the South African Indian Congress. at 117. the UN delegate from Egypt. 68. GAOR Third Committee. U.66 Kotane. Rts. Doc. one of the first to be banned under the notorious Suppression of Communism Act. even if their domestic records often fell short of this international rhetoric. 56 (1978). . ¶ 25. Moses Kotane. in The Asian-African Conference: Views and News 35–36 (c. who would 62. Id. 16 Apr.

S. in Mau Mau and Nationhood: Arms. and his position as head spokesperson for the Arab League. commentators often explain away Third World supporters of human rights as Westernized exceptions.69 The enthusiasm for human rights among many early Third World leaders was exemplified by the figures of Romulo and Malik. a decline epitomized by his defense of the Marcos regime. Atieno Odhiambo & John Lonsdale eds. there is a temptation to dismiss their advocacy of human rights as a symptom of the Cold War. 71. independent Lebanon. Glendon. a mindset that failed to properly consider the possibility of agency on the part of colonial peoples. Similarly. Though Romulo’s support for human rights faded dramatically in later decades. and had bitter experience of American occupation early in his life. they are reminiscent of the sort of patronizing mindset that characterized the worst features of imperialism. see Makau Mutua. 23–24 (E. Ogot. Coming from countries aligned with the Western powers. 2003).964 HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol. Romulo was fiercely anti-colonial. In some respects. later serving as foreign minister. and indeed were some of the most activist in the human rights program. Bethwell A. hopelessly disconnected from their indigenous culture. which he co-drafted. 70. a cynical political weapon to wield against communist and non-aligned opponents. Authority & Narration 8. Human rights were much more than a political weapon for Malik.71 His example illustrates the compatibility of anti-colonial nationalism and human rights in the immediate post-independence period. Human Rights: A Political and Cultural Critique 19 (2002). captivated by an imperialist ideology. For an example of this strategy. demonstrates the eloquence with which he articulated the human rights concept. with an impeccable record of Philippine nationalism.72 Even the most cursory reading of the preamble of the Universal Declaration. . Yet he was also an enthusiastic participant in the drafting of the UDHR. He too had witnessed their violation firsthand. and a committed advocate of human rights. During his public life. 28 return from Bandung to condemn colonialism on the basis of its violations of the UDHR. was on the run from the British colonial police state. Those who point to Malik’s “aligned” status would do well to remember his opposition to the creation of Israel. 69.70 These assertions understate the support for human rights evident among many colonial leaders in the early phase of independence. He had suffered racial discrimination at the hands of the Americans. Malik was dedicated to a strong. supra note 5. Mau Mau and Nationhood: The Untold Story. These two men were the most influential contributors to the human rights debates at Bandung. during a brief and traumatic period studying philosophy under Heidegger in Nazi Germany. he sought to maintain traditional culture while introducing political pluralism. 72. In modern scholarship.

both colonial and communist alike. see also Romulo. because the peoples they represented had cast their lot with freedom. Romulo. at 68–69. the Bandung Final Communiqué. Romulo himself was deeply contemptuous of such reasoning. then the application of the ideas of Fichte. . and were much more than an empty expression of Cold War politics: Democracy had its day in court at Bandung and emerged with flying colors. and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are universal. Just as it does in the great French and American Declarations. It was upheld by most of the delegates. In fact. the Declaration of the Rights of Man by France. They did not take that position because they were pro-American or pro-West.2006 Human Rights at the Bandung Conference 965 It is profoundly inconsistent to accept the supposed authenticity of the imported discourses of Marxism and nationalism without question. Marx. If the assumption that an ideology’s provenance determines its legitimacy is accepted. at 36.” The durability of the human rights concept in the Third World should not be solely attributed to the work of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. supra note 1. and Lenin outside their native regions must also be questioned.”73 Freedom and democracy were not limited by geography. the Declaration of Independence of the United States. and attacked those. human rights also finds an important place in the foremost political charter of the early Third World. Romulo. supra note 1. they are placed on the defensive in their respective countries when they are referred to by the American press as pro-American or pro-West. It was apparent at the foundational conference of the Third World. That the position of these delegates happens to be that of the United States or of most of the Western countries is only because the ideals of freedom as enshrined in the Magna Charta of England.74 It is insulting to approach the place of human rights in the era of decolonization simply in terms of “Westernization” and “alignment. 74. at 54. who claimed that Asian and African people could only speak of freedom as “tape recordings from Washington or London. while simultaneously repudiating the legitimacy of human rights. and in many of the anti-colonial movements that established the independent states of Africa and Asia. 73. supra note 1.