On June 30th, QUNO NY as co-facilitator of the Civil-Society UN Platform on Prevention, hosted a civil society briefing on the joint initiative by the African Union (AU), World Bank (WB) and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to strengthen human rights integration into the AU Continental Early Warning systems. The discussion was a chance to reflect on the initiative, and for civil society representatives to provide input. It forms part of QUNO’s longer term focus on strengthening conflict prevention mechanisms at the UN.
The joint project seeks to bolster evidence-based approaches to conflict prevention, through a human rights approach. It seeks to make human rights frameworks central in data collection at the local levels, as well as in processes of decision making for early action at national and regional levels.
Briefers highlighted the important role that human rights frameworks can play in conflict prevention efforts and wider issues of rule of law, governance, and accountability. The discussion considered how this can be taken up by different actors and what it means in practice.
Speakers emphasized the need for collaborative approaches to data collection. On the local level, they highlighted the critical role of civil society. Early warning systems rely on a presence on the ground. Mainstreaming human rights as such, means training partners on the ground to improve data collection. Here, civil society briefers emphasized the need for cooperation across generational and gender divides, by ensuring the engagement of women and youth.
On the national level, briefers mentioned the need for national ownership of early warning processes and the importance of regional engagement with member states in human rights assessment processes.
Overall, discussants from both UN bodies and civil society noted that the multilateral system has become increasingly concerned with conflict management rather than conflict prevention. There was a recognition that human rights are a vital tool for peace and prevention work, and that better data collection is a starting point for more effective preventative action.