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Values and Interests in Foreign Policy Making (SWP 53)

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Why should Canadians, Australians or anyone else care about human rights atrocities, health epidemics, environmental catastrophes, weapons proliferation or any other problems afflicting faraway countries when they do not have any direct or immediate impact on our own physical security or economic prosperity, viz. our traditionally defined national interests? Are concerns about ‘value’ issues just optional add-ons to states’ foreign policy? This paper spells out my long-held belief, which has its origins in the Pearsonian liberal tradition, that there is a third kind of national interest which every country should pursue: being, and being seen to be, a good international citizen. My argument – which I illustrate with reference to issues such as nuclear disarmament, aid policy, the treatment of asylum seekers, and the responsibility to protect populations against genocide and other crimes against humanity – is that acting as a good international citizen wins hard-headed reputational and reciprocal-action returns, and as such bridges the gulf between idealism and realism by giving realists good reasons for behaving like idealists.(This paper was adapted from the author’s lecture, delivered in his capacity as the 2016–17 Simons Visiting Chair in International Law and Human Security, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, 15 September 2016.)
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ISSN 1922-5725
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Evans, Gareth, “Values and Interests in Foreign Policy Making”, Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 53/2016, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, October, 2016.
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