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Caliifornia State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: August 31, 2001
Latest Update: August 31, 2001


And Peacemaking

Review and Teaching Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors: August 2001. "Fair use" encouraged.

Human Rights and Peacemaking Issues

On Friday, August 31, 2001, Ian Harris posted a Call for Essays on PEC:

Call for Short Essays: Integrating Human Rights in Peace Work

The Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs (CCEIA) is seeking short essays (1000-1200 words) for publication in the Fall 2001/Winter 2002 issue of Human Rights Dialogue. The Fall 2001/Winter 2002 issue will explore the nexus of human rights and peace work in conflict situations.

We especially invite submissions from representatives of peace groups - defined as organizations working to prevent, resolve, transform, or manage conflict - and human rights organizations in troubled regions of the world. Submissions are welcome from any country where human security is threatened by ongoing internal conflict resulting from ethnic, political, religious and other forms of inter-group tensions, resource wars, flows of refugees and internally displaced persons, troubled states, collapsed regimes, etc.

Peace efforts create important opportunities for dialogue, organizing and action on a range of human rights issues that can ultimately advance the struggle for human rights in countries suffering internal conflict. Peace and human rights groups share the goal of establishing a stable environment within which human dignity and fundamental freedoms are respected. However, opinions vary on the role of human rights actors and issues in arriving at and maintaining such a stable environment. When and how should human rights be integrated into peace efforts?

The wide variety of organizations engaged in peace and human rights work seem to have differing perspectives on how to best protect and promote human rights, which rights to give priority to, and which strategies successfully advance human rights and when to use them. For example, some argue that demanding immediate justice for human rights abuses, seen by some as a precondition for sustainable peace, can derail peace efforts. Others argue that continued conflict only furthers human suffering and the denial of basic needs and rights. Still others see a need to focus less on denunciations for past and present abuses and more on building the institutions that will prevent abuses and ensure justice in the future. No matter what the issue, human rights absolutes are constantly challenged by the realities on the ground. Difficult tradeoffs seem inevitable, and therefore the need for greater dialogue and cooperation among human rights and peace groups is essential.

The next issue of Dialogue seeks to provide an analysis of the relationship between local peace groups and human rights groups in different contexts and reveal the possibility for developing common goals and mutually enforcing actions.

Successful essays should seek to address the following questions by analyzing a concrete case/situation in the author's country that he or she has first-hand knowledge of:

  • What are the inherent contradictions between human rights and peace groups in your particular context? What are the issues underlying the contradictions? (Please provide readers with an overview on how established human rights and peace groups are in your country and what their relationship is to each other and to the government and/or conflicting parties.)

  • To what extent and how have efforts to overcome the conflict in your country opened up opportunities for groups to advance the struggle for human rights? How have human rights and peace organizations acted to take advantage of these opportunities? (Please use at least one detailed, concrete example of an opportunity for human rights action that arose, the outcome and its human rights impact.)

  • Has the peace process empowered people or institutions to better protect, claim and defend basic rights in the future? (Again, please focus on a few concrete examples.)

  • Based on your organization's experience, what is the practical significance of using the international human rights framework or human rights norms for peace work? Contributors should focus on sharing concrete experiences that shed light on the relevance and legitimacy of applying the human rights framework to peace efforts in their region of the world. The goal is to facilitate greater collaboration among human rights and peace organizations, as part of an overall strategy to overcome the barriers to greater popular legitimacy for human rights.

Essays may wish to provide the following:

  • A description of the nature of the relationship between local peace groups and human rights groups in your country, taking into account:

    • Their views on the human rights-related root causes of and solutions for the conflict.
    • The relative priority they give to democratization, development, and rule of law.
    • Their human rights-related goals and priorities. Namely, what part of the international human rights framework is most relevant to their work?
    • Their operational strategies, methods, approaches to protect and promote human rights in the short and long-run.
    • Your ideas on the operational implications of using the international human rights framework for your organization's work. Specifically:

      • If you do not use the human rights framework, why not?
      • What discourages you from making, on the operational level, a connection with human rights norms?
      • What constraints exist? Please describe.

    • Concrete recommendations or a description of best practices that could inform a more transformative approach to guide the work of human rights and peace groups in conflict situations.

    Some contributors may also wish to focus their essays on whether the conflict prevention/resolution/management strategies of the various bilateral, multilateral and transnational actors working in your region adequately reflect the priorities, concerns and needs of local organizations and communities in conflict.

    • Where do the priorities of different actors diverge? Please use concrete examples to make your points.
    • We define human rights broadly to include social, economic and cultural rights, and group as well as individual rights.

    The Human Rights Dialogue is a regular publication of the Council's Human Rights Initiative. Dialogue's 5000 readers include influential actors and organizations throughout the world. Thousands more access the publication through our website. (See below for a description of the Initiative and for previous issues of Human Rights Dialogue.)

Teaching Essay on Human Rights and Peacemaking

Journal entry by jeanne

Notice that valuable resources are in many places, including requests like this for essays, job descriptions, etc. Learn to be alert and follow the possibilities. I found that the Human Rights Dialogue described at least a couple of things very well:

  1. The specific questions they would like answered about the relationship between groups that focus on human rights and groups that focus on peacemaking. Notice how detailed their requests are. This should assure that those who respond will not have to guess at what they're looking for. I think that's a little like my posting "jeanne's notes" on discussion questions, so that you'll know what I was looking for when I asked the question.

    Come to think of it, I never realized that there could be such differences of agendas and focus by two groups working for very similar goals. Reading this post made me think more deeply on these issues.

  2. Notice that they ask for stories, examples:

    • "Based on your organization's experience. . . ."
    • "Please use concrete examples to make your points."
    • "Please describe."

    This is always a good pracice. Lawyers are taught:

    • State the law. (State the theory.)
    • State the facts.

    This allows the trier(s) of facts (the judge or the jury or the citizen) to make up their own minds; to draw their own conclusions. Why would they do this in peacemaking and human rights work? Their work, too, is about resolving conflict. And one can resolve conflict most effectively when one compares the facts, the story, to the theory or the law that one is trying to apply. This is the process that Habermas identifies as public discourse, and this is why Habermas considers the system of law so important.