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Why isn’t peace a human right?

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UN discussion, the Right to Peace, WILPFStates ‘have shown a determination to prevent any codification of such a right’.

After two earlier sessions in which no consensus was reached, the mandate of the third Working Group was to finalise the draft UN Declaration on the Right to Peace in accordabce with the Human Rights Council’s Resolution 20/15.

But once again, achieving consensus proved to be a very difficult goal for states; some are just not ready to recognise a Human Right to Peace – or even a Right to Peace.

For the third session the chairman-rapporteur presented a concise new draft with a rich preamble but an extremely short operative part in the hope that states might be able to accept it.

The draft included the principles of gender equality, non-discrimination, and social justice, and highlighted the importance of women’s participation in peacemaking processes.

But the draft lacked any reference to disarmament as a prerequisite to the achievement of peace, it was weak in its measures for compliance and it did not even acknowledge the human right to peace; it merely created the notion of the entitlement to “enjoy peace”.

WILPF, the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, advocated for a text that included the root causes of war and that would effectively ensure long lasting peace.

WILPF talked about peace as a human right, disarmament and the need to include implementation measures as states are the main duty-holders for the human rights in one statement and joined other NGOs in a coordinated statement.

Looking specifically at gender equality and women’s participation in peacemaking, WILPF said that patriarchal societies and patriarchal distributions of power contribute to the escalation of conflict and may lead to war.

At the risk of generalising, WIPF said that where there is a greater divide in how gender roles are created and assigned and they are accompanied by emphasis on the stereotype of male/female difference, then there is a greater risk that societies will use violence as a means of conflict resolution.

Considerable research – including that by Cynthia Enloe and Cathy Cohen to name but two – underlines this, obvious though it would seem to those who have ever experienced conflict.

Gender equality goes beyond the principle of non-discrimination. It implies positive efforts towards the elimination of stereotypes and social barriers. Promotion of equality and non-discrimination, WILPF continued, are essential to peace and are a vital part of this draft declaration.

Women’s participation in peacemaking, WILPF pointed out, ‘is crucial element for sustainable peace is an inclusive peace building process.

‘The participation of women in this process, whilst it is linked to gender equality, has deserved specific attention from the UN and its member States because of its importance for the international peace and security.’

And, WILPF’s statement concluded, ‘If we are to prevent armed conflict to ultimately protect all human rights, the emphasis must be very much on prevention and gender must be used as a diagnostic.

‘This would be fed through the various treaty body mechanisms and the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council.

‘We must monitor arms supplies and access in countries where there are indications of a possible rupture.

‘We must look at the foreign policy priorities of states, their trading and financial policies and analyse these as part of their human rights obligations in their dealings with other states in the multi lateral system.’

The Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International order, Alfred de Zayas, also made a statement asking states to work positively towards peace.

Although the draft declaration was already very weak and the absolute minimum countries could agree on, the discussion among states did not lead to a consensus.

Some states categorically rejected recognising the Right to Peace, while some delegations made it clear from the outset that it was inconceivable to have a draft declaration without the Right to Peace appearing in it.

Discussions have added new paragraphs on terrorism; foreign occupation; obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force and peaceful settlement of disputes; the importance of conflict prevention and of addressing the root causes of conflicts in the new draft. There is also an important paragraph on the needed measures for implementation.

But that text does not enjoy consensus either.

And so, although they had three sessions with a clear mandate to draft a Declaration on the Human Right to Peace, states have shown no willingness to recognise such a right; indeed, as WILPF points out, what they have shown is a determination to prevent any codification of such a right.

At a time when it is acknowledged that civilians are increasingly purposely attacked in war.

The NGOs present in the room feel that all they have done is waste their time believing in an initiative that states were never willing to support. Perhaps, as WILPF remarked, that was the point.

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