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The Australian National University

Dr Mathew Davies

BSc / MSc (LSE). PhD (ANU)
Fellow / Senior Lecturer
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

Areas of expertise

  • International Relations 160607
  • Government And Politics Of Asia And The Pacific 160606

Research interests

Human Rights, socialisation, ASEAN, Regionalism, norm diffusion, international relations theory


My current research examines the intersection of regional order building, human rights and governance in Southeast Asia, paying particular regard to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). I examine Southeast Asia through the lens of socialisation, investigating how ASEAN is both a driver of, and arena for, those efforts to diffuse standards. I am interested in the stories of rights socialisation efforts that have emerged, the success and failure of those efforts and how we can use those stories to better understand what ASEAN is. 

I am involved in a project that takes this interest and examines "the new politics of human rights in Southeast Asia”. In this project, spanning multiple articles and a single authored manuscript, I explain both why ASEAN came to adopt human rights standards and why it has done so in the way that it has. This project expands my focus on ASEAN to encompass the history of the regional project and the cross over between human and traditional security agendas. The work also interrogates existing accounts of how agents in institutionalised environments change their beliefs in response to normative contestation.

My teaching covers both UG and PG options, including courses on, human rights and regions, conceptual skill building, human rights and International Relations Theory. 

I have extensive experience in designing and running professional training courses. In 2011, I led an AusAID funded course training African Diplomats as part of the Australia Awards for Africa program. In 2012 and again in 2015 I co-ran a course for DFAT graduates.  

You can follow me on twitter at and find out more about my work at


Researcher's projects

My key research aim over the next two years is the preparation of a book manuscript which investigates the deep history of human rights in ASEAN and how that history has fundamentally shaped the contemporary nature of ASEAN's commitment to human rights. It expands my previous interest in rights in Southeast Asia both historically backwards into the 1950s and across the full range of ASEAN cooperation, political, economic and socio-cultural. The book manuscript has the working title of "From Disdain to Declaration: Explaining ASEAN's Human Rights Commitment". To better manage the book writing process I have divided this project into two main streams of work, one empirical and the other conceptual. 

The new politics of rights in Southeast Asia. The empirical study of rights in ASEAN is too often segregated from the study of other areas of regional cooperation. This project investigates how the evolution of rights within ASEAN has been related to, and impacted upon, other areas of regional governance. Articles drafted or submitted include:

  • Situating Gender in ASEAN's Journey to Human Rights (complete and published)
  • Discursive Institutionalism and Human Rights reform in ASEAN
  • Illiberal sovereignties and human rights norms in Southeast Asia. 

Change, continuity and socialisation in norm rich environments. Building on the above project, this stream of work focuses on how norms are socialised in norm rich environments. It critiques both existing understandings of socialisation in International Relations and the dominant understandings of how norms and organisations intersect to be found in the field of comparative politics. Articles draft include:

  • Belief Layering: Norms, Socialization and Localization (submitted for review). 
  • Regional Organizations as limiters of democratization (submitted for review).

I am also engaged in a number of smaller research projects related to my interests in both Southeast Asia and international organizations. Work drafted include:

  • Trust and the creation of security community rationality. Manuscript drafted for presentation and submission
  • Book chapter on ASEAN and Southeast Asian regionalism for Contemporary Southeast Asia (3rd Edition) Alice Ba & Mark Beeson (eds). 

Op-ed's and media. I use my research, together with my wider interest in international relations and world politics, as a platform to write regularly for online and in-print media. 

  1. Philippines Stumbling Towards Dangerous Isolation. August 11 2016. CNN International.
  2. ASEAN’s South China Sea Ulcer. June 26 2016. New Mandala (reprinted in The Canberra Times). 
  3. Brexit serves as a warning to ASEAN. June 29 2016. Policy Forum. 
  4. University impact requires criticism, rigour, bravery and education. May 18th. Printed in The Australian.
  5. The Foreign Policy Wisdom of Trump the Fool. May 4 2016. Printed in Canberra Times, electronic across Fairfax. 
  6. US-ASEAN summit an ominous development for regional democracy. February 26th. Printed in Canberra Times, electronic across Fairfax. 
  7. No more middle ground in our democracies. February 19 2016. 
  8. ASEAN’s community is moving in circles. New Mandala, December 7 2015. 
  9. What next for the Rohingya in Myanmar? Suu Kyi’s balancing act after the election. E-International Relations, December 6 2015. 
  10. In defence of distance: Why Australia should stay out of ASEAN. 8 October 2015. Australian Strategic Policy Institute: The Strategist. 
  11. The potentials and challenges for ASEAN regionalism. August 2015. Invited Lead article for Thinking ASEAN. Issue 2. 
  12. ASEAN at Sea. Invited article for Himal: South Asian. 3 July 2015. 
  13. The Rohingya and Australia’s rule-bending arrogance. ABC The Drum, May 18 2015. 
  14. The Rohingya and Regional Failure. New Mandala, May 16 2015. (reprinted Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age).
  15. The Ukrainian ceasefire is a victory for Russia. ABC The Drum. February 13 2015. 
  16. This isn’t a cold war - it could be far worse. ABC The Drum. November 11 2014. 
  17. A death cult by any other name: IS and statehood. The Canberra Times. September 4 2014. (reprinted Sydney Morning Herald, The Age).
  18. This time, things won’t be different in Iraq. ABC The Drum. August 12 2014 
  19. Hard choices for human rights? ANU College of Asia an the Pacific, May 28 2014. 
  20. Return to the fold, New Mandala, 22 May 2014. 
  21. Review of “Re-thinking International Relations” By Martin Griffiths, Australian Journal of International Affairs Vol. 67, No. 2 (2013) 247-248. Invited contribution.
  22. Myanmar can’t be a backseat drive. ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, November 2013. 
  23. One size fits all? ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, July 2013. 
  24. An ASEAN Magna Carta? ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, March 2013. 
  25. Revisiting ASEAN’s human rights declaration. ANU College of Asia and the Pacific,  November 2012.   
  26. ASEAN’s human rights declaration. ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, August 2012. 
  27. ASEAN, Human rights and Burma. ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, April 2012.

Available student projects

  • International / Regional organisations
  • Human Rights
  • Norms and socialisation 
  • International Relations Theory

Current student projects

Chair and Supervisor: Benjamin Day - Good donors and the financial crisis: The new uses of aid policy

Chair and Supervisor: Ruji Auethavornpipat - The ASEAN Security Community and regional identity

Supervisor: Thuy T Do - The debate over East Asian International Relations Theory and its influence on the practice of academics

Supervisor: Wen-ti Sung - The influence of thinktanks on the creation of US policy on China. 

Advisor: Sebastian Klich - Sovereignty and quasi-states. 

Advisor: Kerri Ng - US bases in Japan. 


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Updated:  20 November 2017 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers