British Academy highlights the need to reconsider the role of human rights in transitions from conflict to peace

6 Jun 2017

In a new report launched today, Tuesday 6 June, the British Academy points to the need for politically smarter approaches to the implementation of human rights in fragile and conflict-affected states.

Navigating Inclusion in Peace Settlements: Human Rights and the Creation of the Common Good argues that while peace settlements are usually successful in resolving immediate violence, they often produce compromises between parties to the conflict. This can lead to an uncertain peace in which the root causes of the conflict are not resolved but are carried into the new political and legal institutions.

Drawing on the experiences of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nepal and Burundi, the report recommends a more political approach to human rights implementation; one which takes account of both the challenges and the opportunities of post-agreement environments. Among its recommendations are:

  • The need for joint analysis between international interveners and local actors, to develop long-term strategies for transformation, and identify likely obstacles to their success.
  • The importance of continuous post-agreement support for both ongoing and ‘one-off’ mediation.
  • The adoption of conflict-sensitive approaches to aid to support the delivery of social goods such as healthcare, education, or sectoral reform.

Lead author of the report, Professor Christine Bell FBA said: “Many recent peace processes appear to have produced a partial and transitory peace. If peace settlements are to last, they need to be based on inclusivity: a commitment to governing in the interests of the common good. In this report, we argue in favour of the political use of human rights as a tool for navigating inclusion in future peace processes”.

The report is part of the British Academy’s programme of activities on Justice, Rights and Equality.  It was launched today at an international conference entitled The ‘Common Good’ in Times of Transition, which brought together researchers, policymakers and practitioners from the UK and overseas. 

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