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  • 1 Rhodes University, Department of Political and International Studies

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Abstract

For constructivists, a state’s identity implies its preferences, interests, and resultant actions in international affairs, which is why constructivists expect democracies to support human rights internationally. This study examines South Africa’s record on civil and political rights at the UN Human Rights Council. While there is an element of anti-imperialism in South Africa’s identity that might help explain some of its actions, human rights remain important in South Africa’s self-understanding. Despite the presence of human rights in South Africa’s identity, at the Human Rights Council, South Africa’s actions have ranged from failing to uphold civil and political rights to supporting their restriction. A bifurcated national identity therefore diminishes the predictive power of a constructivist national identity approach.

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