“In the current multidimensional crisis, the social contract between governments and their people and between groups in society is eroding. The transformational potential of human rights in their entirety – economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights – are part of a just and sustainable solution to such problems.”
With these words Florence Foster, Peace and Disarmament Representative at the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) Geneva, opened the panel discussion on ‘Promoting Human Rights and Inclusive Societies’. This panel was part of the Geneva Peace Week meets New York conference held from 28-29 November 2023 in New York. The conference provided an opportunity for the broader community of peacebuilders to discuss and expand proposals for the New Agenda for Peace and generate ideas for its effective implementation.
The panel gathered a diverse range of speakers that focused on how human rights have a preventive and socially integrative effect at a national, regional, and multilateral level; from workers’ rights and outlining the importance of political participation in transitions to green economies or democratisation in South Sudan, to the Colombian peace process and the creative collaborative spaces between human rights and peace practitioners.
A recurring theme was the acknowledgement of the interdependencies of economic and social justice and peace – there is no justice without peace, nor is there sustainable peace without justice. Panellists highlighted that rising inequality is at the root of the reduction of social trust, creating fertile ground for exclusion, violence and conflict. Therefore, economic and social justice, with human rights at its heart, is a cornerstone of sustainable peace.
This aligns with QUNO’s human rights-based approach to sustainable peace. QUNO as a social justice organisation has both peace and human rights in its DNA. It has been working over the past few years on raising awareness of the importance of human rights for sustainable peace and has been supporting the inclusion of a peace lens in the work done in the human rights system of the United Nations (UN). Several reports outline QUNO’s work on leveraging human rights mechanisms for conflict prevention and sustainable peace (see links below).
Florence Foster reflected that since Boutros-Boutros Ghali’s 1992 report ‘An Agenda for Peace’, peacebuilding has been understood within the UN as a set of exclusively post-conflict activities. Prevention of destructive conflict – and with it the integration of human rights and its mechanisms in conflict prevention – was not given sufficient emphasis within the UN system despite periodic calls for change.
Efforts to rectify this have been made, in particular since the Twin Resolution on Sustaining Peace (2016) which helped affirm the importance of human rights normative framework as a critical foundation for peace and of human rights mechanisms, including special procedures and Treaty Bodies, to be considered as tools for nationally anchored prevention mechanisms. The upcoming Summit of the Future and the process around the New Agenda for Peace therefore need to be informed by this progress and ensure human rights-based approaches to conflict prevention.
The upcoming processes need to re-energise delivering on the 2030 agenda, building resilience by reducing vertical and horizontal inequalities and, in doing so, rebuilding trust between communities and with their governments, with human rights at its heart.
The Geneva Peace Week meets New York conference presented a good opportunity to further contribute to bridging the pillars of the UN system and the work being done in Geneva and New York.
Previous reports by QUNO on these topics:
- Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Sustaining Peace
- Integrating Human Rights and Sustaining Peace: Exploring the Universal Periodic Review
- Sustaining Peace: How can human rights help? 2016 – 2020 retrospective
- Integrating Human Rights and Sustaining Peace: Exploring Special Procedures (upcoming)