Policy Choices



A policy of human rights means a choice among priorities. It means that a government will have to decide whether and when it will give a higher priority to human rights over other foreign policy considerations, such as national security, foreign trade and development cooperation. Such policy considerations may conflict with each other. If they do, a government will have to make a policy choice and set priorities. A well-known example is the granting of licences to export, for example weapons or other strategic items, to a state where human rights are being violated. Which consideration should prevail? National security? The country in question may be an important link in the international security network. Economic policy? It may be essential for the survival of an important segment of national industry to be allowed to export the goods. Indeed, as it is often argued in such cases, ‘if we don’t deliver the goods, some other country will be quite willing to take our place’. Full employment? The industry in question may be vital for the maintenance of full employment and thus it would be suicidal from the point of view of the national interest to refuse such permission. Indeed, the labour movement is often faced with such dilemmas; on the one hand it may be quite willing to make the case for human rights, while at the same time it will be reluctant to risk losing vital employment opportunities. Effectiveness?


Foreign Policy National Security Policy Choice Foreign Affair Full Employment 
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  1. 2.
    Max van der Stoel, ‘De Rechten van de Mens in de Oost-West betrekkingen’, (’Human Rights in East-West Relations’), in Ph.P. Everts and J.L. Heldring (eds), Nederland en de Rechten van de Mens, Baarn: Anthos, 1981, p. 79; translated from the original Dutch.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See Leo Zwaak, ‘A Friendly Settlement in the European Inter-State Complaints Against Turkey’, SIM Newsletter, no. 13, February 1986, pp. 44–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter R. Baehr 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leiden University and Utrecht UniversityThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Netherlands Institute of Human RightsThe Netherlands

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