24 September 2014
In 1981 during the 36th session of the United Nations, a resolution was passed to observe the third Tuesday of September as the International Day of Peace. Later in 2001 during the 55th session of the UN, the General Assembly adopted a resolution to observe September 21 as the International Day of Peace.
We are living in a world where conflict is an existing reality and peace is an existing necessity. As a human being peace is our necessity. Without resolving the conflict, peace will never sustain in the society. The term peace building in the broader field also includes conflict prevention efforts, conflict resolution and reconciliation initiatives, conflict management, and what is increasingly being called conflict “transformation” work. Violation of human rights is one of the root causes of conflict. Denial of human rights also contributes to the emergence of conflicts. Numerous conflicts have been caused by human rights issues such as, limited access to resources, exploitation, forced acculturation, limited political participation, the quest for self-determination and discrimination. Denial of human rights occurs not only as a result of active violations (which can be defined as explicit, direct and intentional actions by the State and its agents), but also as a result of passive violations which can be defined as those violations resulting of the negligence or inability of the State to protect the rights of its citizens, especially in the socio-economic domain; passive violations can contribute to the deepening of societal cleavages and conflicts, and thus can lead to the emergence or escalation of conflict. So there are many linkages between human rights and peace building which can be easily established.
Demand for human rights is a cause of conflict. State’s inability or unwillingness to protect rights is a cause of conflict. Human rights violations are a conflict escalator. Human rights violations are direct symptoms of violent conflict. Human rights violations are direct or indirect consequence of violent conflict.
In order to understand the deep relationship between peace building and human rights, three different stages of conflict can be taken into consideration such as the c onflict intensification, armed conflict and post conflict.
In the context of Odisha conflict can be broadly divided into three categories
Resource base conflict: Here conflict is occurring because of resources. Land issues, community agitation against the State, community resistance against the multinationals firms like Vedanta, Posco, Bhushan, Jindal and Tata etc.
Identity base conflict: This is the rapidly growing conflict in Odisha. Ethnic violence, persecution on people of certain faith, atrocities on Dalits and Adivasis have been increasing day by day.
Gender base conflict: Domestic violence, atrocities on women, female feticide, sexual harassment at workplace is growing repeatedly. But such issues usually receive negligible coverage.
Human rights advocates and peace builders working on different issues share the common goal of constructing stable societies based on the rule of law. But their approaches are often at odds.
Human Rights Defender (HRDs) usually focuses on the restoration of rights where as Peace Builders focus is restoring the peace. Among human rights activists, common goals included strengthening local human rights organisations, increasing public awareness of rights, reforming laws to bring them in line with rights standards, and monitoring compliance with human rights provisions. Among Peace Builders, common goals include instilling a culture of support for conflict resolution efforts, encouraging research and education in conflict prevention/resolution, inducing representatives of competing factions to change from adversarial to cooperative approaches, fostering dialogue among parties to the conflict, and strengthening civil society prevention mechanisms.
In the short run, both seek to end violence, loss of life, and other suffering as quickly as possible. In the long run, both HRDs and Peace Builders try to assist societies in taking steps to ensure that the violence does not recur and that the rights of every human being are respected. Yet the methods each uses to achieve these goals, as well as their underlying assumptions, are different. As a result, at times they adopt contradictory or even mutually exclusive approaches to the same problem.
The dichotomy between human rights and conflict resolution communities is more pronounced in the international sphere where resources are scarcer and activists are more likely to work in close proximity. As conflict is an existing reality, hence the problem is not conflict, but the way we choose to deal with conflict really makes the difference.
Activists from the two communities agree that violent conflict can be prevented. Restoring the rights never assure restoration of peace. And unresolved conflict often leads to violation of human rights. Protection of human rights and peace building should be mutually reinforcing. Respect for human rights is a necessary precondition of a lasting peace, and conflict resolution efforts offer opportunities for creating forward looking mechanisms to ensure rights are respected.
Human rights advocacy typically emphasizes naming the violators. As such, human rights strategies are often adversarial and confrontational. Organisations engaged in peace building by contrast tend to emphasize cooperative approaches to their work, relying heavily on the principle of impartiality. Peace building work follows the diplomatic tradition, developing interest-based cooperative strategies while being closed and remaining out of the media spotlight.
Human rights norms help address these asymmetries in two important ways. First, they help empower the weaker party, a norm that the Peace Builders community already endorses. By strengthening the salience of human rights norms, third-party conflict resolution processes can achieve greater efficacy by giving a weaker party the support it might need to negotiate from a more equitable vantage point.
Second, human rights norms are important in reinforcing the notion that a State’s sovereignty carries with it a responsibility to protect the civilians within its borders. Most importantly, those designing and implementing conflict resolution processes for peace building in intra-State conflicts cannot assume that human rights are not our issue.
So, how both of them could be accommodated? Peace Builders usually eager to achieve a negotiated settlement to a conflict with minimum loss of life.
They may insufficiently factor in the relevance of human rights to the long-term success of their work and to the protagonists they seek to bring together. HRDs by limiting their activities to shaming, negative publicity, and judicial condemnation of responsible individuals, may miss opportunities for human rights improvements that could be achieved through the use of negotiation and diplomatic techniques upon which Peace Builders rely.
(The writer is working on human rights and peace building and can be reached at
Sunday, 21 September 2014 | ABHISHEK KUMAR DASH | in Bhuvaneshvar