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  • Autumn Melody Thomas

Culture of Peace Initiatives: Human Rights

Narrative: Give added power to the UN Peacebuilding Commission to enact pre-conflict transformation through alleviation of structural human rights issues.

The essence of human rights is to protect individuals: by affording them not only the basic necessities of survival, but the opportunity to thrive in a safe and habitable environment, full of dignity and free from fear. If human rights are prioritised and preserved: civil unrest vanishes; backlash against governments quells; and the need for third party humanitarian intervention is thwarted. Regardless of the resources peace keeping missions may bring or the accountability international agreements aspire to bind states to, if the underlying cause of conflict remains at the local level, violence still remains a possibility. Therefore the preservation of human rights remains paramount in cultivating a lasting culture of peace.

The most sustainable way to eradicate conflict is to target the structural factors which cause the gravitation towards violence in the first place. By pre-emptively addressing systemic human rights grievances and violations, issues can be peacefully resolved at the source before they reach the point of erupting into violence. Early operationalization of pre-emptive conflict prevention works towards an ideal environment of ‘Positive Peace’, in which elevated economic and societal outcomes, paired with a diminished number of grievances, lowers levels of violence and the will to resort to it. Positive peace can be easily understood as a society free from the structural problems that would lead its citizens to resort to violent actions. Or, in layman’s terms, violence is rendered unnecessary because there are no issues to fight over. For example: if human rights are upheld, society functions well, and citizens are generally happy … a peaceful environment prospers naturally.

To create an environment free from conflict-igniting human rights violations takes firstly, a clear and comprehensive understanding of what ‘human rights’ means globally, what it takes to uphold them, and how the international community is obligated to act when these rights become jeopardised. States must have an obligation to refrain from violations of internationally agreed human rights standards and further, must act swiftly and decisively when violations arise, before they have a chance to erupt into violence. The creation of this understanding, and the will to engage in globally-backed peace keeping initiatives takes research, leadership, education, policy changes, and a normative will to triumph human rights as invaluable.

Proposal 1: Elevate Positive Peace as a Core Objective of the UN

Have a UN-facilitated deliberative and diplomatic approach to pre-emptive peace building through early identification of grievances and potentials for violent conflicts. This should be paired with early local level outreach designed by international peace keepers in tandem with local authorities to target the area’s unique issues and needs.

Proposal 2: Expand Accountability Mechanisms to Defend International Human Rights

Building on initiatives such as the Responsibility to Protect, UN member states must accountably bind themselves to upholding human rights standards, initiating unanimous international

reactionary efforts when violations begin to occur, and cultivating a normative shift towards a culture that rejects human rights violations and the resort to conflict as viable options.The UN Peacebuilding Commission is the best UN mechanism to take this proposal forward and they must be afforded the support and resources to do so.


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