Law of Peace(making) and Transforming Children’s Invisibility

Courtesy of the Blog of the Groningen Journal of International Law (August 22, 2017).

The law of international human rights came into being through an international peacemaking process, in particular the successive processes that gave birth to the Charter of the United Nations. The law as developed affirms children’s legal standing and agency as subjects of human rights. There is a concomitant international obligation to affirm the same in relation to the successive processes of peacemaking and give effect to those rights through the resultant agreements, as recalled by treaty and Charter bodies. Yet children are mostly invisible in such processes. Its extent is laid bare by a cursory review of collections of peace agreements. Of the close to eight hundred peace agreements in the United Nations database, for example, approximately ninety-five include a reference to children. The extremity of their invisibility raises a multiplicity of questions. Is it justified from the perspective of the law of peace(making)? May children’s human rights yield to the pursuance of peace?  And if not, why are children (mostly) invisible in peacemaking? These questions sparked and structured a probe of peace processes from a juristic, human rights and child rights perspective. Continue reading

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Pursuing Synergies to Guarantee Women’s Rights in Conflict: The UN Security Council Arria Formula Meeting on CEDAW and the Women, Peace and Security Resolutions

Catherine O’Rourke, author of today’s post, and Aisling Swaine co-authored the UN Women (2015) Guidebook on CEDAW General Recommendation Number 30 and the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security.

A key conclusion of the Global Study on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was the need for improved synergies between the treaty-based human rights system and the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda:

To fully realize the human rights obligations of the women, peace and security agenda, all intergovernmental bodies and human rights mechanisms must act in synergy to protect and promote women’s and girls’ rights at all times, including in conflict and post-conflict situations. (page 350)

The drive towards improved synergies between WPS and broader human rights obligations was given significant impetus in October 2013, when the monitoring Committee of CEDAW adopted General Recommendation Number 30 on the rights of women in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations. The Committee called on CEDAW state parties to inter alia ensure that implementation of their WPS commitments was taking place within the broader equality and women’s rights obligations of CEDAW. Further, state parties are called to report on implementation of their WPS commitments in their periodic reports to CEDAW.

The recent Arria Formula meeting between the UN Security Council and representatives from civil society, UN Women and the CEDAW Committee was an important milestone in the continued pursuit of such synergies. Held in UN Headquarters in New York on December 5, 2016, the meeting was convened by Security Council non-permanent member Uruguay. It was formally addressed by Yannick Glemarec, UN Women; Pramila Patten, CEDAW Committee; and Maria Victoria Cabrera-Balleza, Global Network for Women Peacebuilders. The speakers emphasized the following three dividends to be gained:

Information: Improved information sharing between the CEDAW Committee and the Security Council was identified as an important benefit of improved synergies. For example, the Security Council’s assessment of country situations should be informed by the CEDAW Committee’s assessment of women’s rights in the same country, gleaned through state reporting, shadow reporting and the women’s rights issues prioritised in Committee’s Concluding Observations to states. Likewise, the CEDAW Committee could draw on the Security Council activities in situations on its agenda to identify issues for further exploration through state reporting.

Civil Society Participation: The CEDAW process of periodic state examination, as well as broad standing for individual communications and inquiry requests under the CEDAW Optional Protocol, were identified as offering particular opportunities for civil society participation without significant parallel in the WPS resolutions.

Feminist Framing: The clear emphasis of the CEDAW Convention, Committee and General Recommendation Number 30 on women’s human rights, conflict prevention per se (as distinct from the narrower question of women’s role in conflict prevention) and disarmament (for example, the role of the Arms Trade Treaty in advancing WPS) was repeatedly noted. This mooted feminist framing offered a worthy counterpoint to the security and sexual violence focused activities of the Security Council.

Continue reading

Dispatch from the Women’s March in Washington

Wow.  What an experience.

img_9288Like Diane, I am not much of a marcher.  I respect and support direct action, but—as an academic—my contributions to social change tend to involve disseminating the written word more than chanting in the streets.

But this was an event to remember.  I am so thrilled that I was able to be here in img_9250Washington, D.C. (having flown from California in a plane FULL of women) with my mom, sister, daughter, and a number of students and friends from all stages of my life.  Thanks to our cell phones (and notwithstanding the overwhelmed cell towers), we were miraculously able to connect at random points along the way.

img_9287The Rally and March offered a beautiful display of American diversity—all ages, races, orientations, and genders were represented.  There were families with children everywhere—marching, chanting, frolicking, and sharing their own messages (“Grown-ups: WTF??” & “I Am 8 Years Old & I Have Better Manners & Fewer Tantrums”). Although this was billed as “The Woman’s March,” thousands and thousands of supportive men were in attendance, all advocating for women’s rights and inclusiveness (“Men of Quality Do Not Fear Equality”).

Although there were incredible speakers and performers (including Gloria Steinem, Michael Moore, Ashley Judd, andimg_9232 Madonna), this was really about building community and solidarity in the streets.  The roar of the crowds was incredible—and deafening—at times.

As usual, the ubiquitous hand-made signs, all emphasizing social justice themes and the power of resistance, were a highlight. They were full of creative double entendres (“Electile dysfunction”) and clever puns (“Donald Dump” (with poop emoji) – “Trump Puts The ‘Twit’ in Twitter” & “We Shall Overcomb”).  Even Trump’s bizarre appearance did not escape reference (“Orange is the New Blech”).

The messages were pro-immigrant (“To All Immigrants: img_9268Thanks for Choosing America”), pro-diversity, pro-social justice, pro-human rights (“Women Just Want to Have FUNdamental Rights”) and pro-reproductive rights.  Indeed, I’ve never seen so many unique renderings of the female uterus in one place (“Shed Walls, Don’t Build Them”).

Not surprisingly, Trump’s unbridled misogyny and sordid history of sexual assault offered frequent themes (“No Sex Offenders in Public Housing” (with a picture of the White House)).  The pussy references were legion, even over and above the seas of pink knitted hats thanks to the Pussyhat Project.  I was thrilled to wear one knitted for me by one of my students. img_9281

Much of the anger was directed toward Trump (“Dump Trump”), but Mike Pence did not escape the crowd’s ire (“Pence Sucks Too”), particularly as we all marched past the EEOB where the Vice President has his office.  There were also plenty of references to Russia’s intervention in the election (“Nyet my President”) and images of Trump as Putin’s puppet or crybaby (“Make Daddy Vimg_9283ladimir Proud”).  Trump’s campaign slogans and vile comments were all turned inside out (“Make America Kind Again” – “Build a Wall Around Trump & We’ll Pay For It” – “Hate Does Not Make America Great” & “You Haven’t Seen Nasty Yet”).  Even Melania receivedimg_9207 some attention (“Free Melania” & “Melania, Blink Twice if You Need Help”).

Everyone was peaceful and loving. Notwithstanding the finality of yesterday’s inauguration, people were upbeat, strategizing for the coming resistance, and exchanging random acts of kindness, even in hot, crowded metro stops and the throngs on the streets.  We saw two people wearing “Trump” hats, but otherwise this was a crowd full of Hillary Clinton supporters (“Still With Her”).

In fact, there were so many references to Hillary that it was as if this were her inauguration celebration. It should have been (“The People’s President: She Got 2,864,974 More Votes”).

Onward.

Read On! ‘Human Security and Human Rights under International Law: The Protections Offered to Persons Confronting Structural Vulnerability’

I am thrilled to post for the first time in IntLawGrrls and to share the publication of my book Human Security and Human Rights under International Law: The Protections Offered to Persons Confronting Structural Vulnerability (Hart Publishing, 2016).

This book considers the potential of human security as a protective tool within the international law of human rights. Indeed, it seems surprising given the centrality of human security to the human experience, that its connection with human rights had not yet been explored in a truly systematic way. The book attempts to address that gap in the literature and sustains that the human rights of persons, particularly those facing structural vulnerability, can be addressed more adequately if studied through the complementary lens of human security and not under human rights law alone. It takes both a legal and interdisciplinary approach, recognizing that human security and its relationship with human rights cuts across disciplinary boundaries.

Human security with its axis of freedom from fear, from want and from indignity, can more integrally encompass the inter-connected risks faced by individuals and groups in vulnerable conditions. At the same time, human rights law provides the normative legal grounding usually lacking in human security. International human rights norms, individualistic in nature and firstly enacted more than sixty years ago, present limits which translate into lack of protection for people globally. As a result, the collective and contextual conditions undergone by persons can be better met through the broader and more recent notion of human security, which emphasizes ‘critical (severe) and pervasive (widespread) threats’, and accentuates socioeconomic vulnerabilities as authentic security concerns. Indeed, as signaled by Sadako Ogata, human security is ‘the emerging paradigm for understanding global vulnerabilities’.

The analysis follows a two-part approach. Firstly, it evaluates convergences between human security and all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural –and constructs a general framework for thought and action, the ‘human security – human rights synergy’. Secondly, it goes on to explore the practical application of this framework in the law and case-law of UN, European, Inter-American and African human rights bodies in the thematic cores of 1) violence against women and girls (VAW); 2) undocumented migrants and other non-citizens such as asylum-seekers and refugees; converging in 3) a particular examination of the conditions of female undocumented migrants. In the last chapter, the book systematizes this evidence to reveal and propose added values of human security to human rights law; and inversely, it indicates how human rights standards/indicators can deliver a needed more precise, normatively grounded and operational conception of human security.

These ‘interpretative synergies’ offer promise for shifting the boundaries of international human rights law: in constructing integrative approaches to fill legal gaps, better prevention and addressing protectively collective threats, and –in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- creating an ‘enabling environment’ to fulfil all human rights, especially for those not only confronting isolated moments of risk or individual human rights violations, but rather conditions of structural vulnerability affecting their everyday lives. Continue reading

Law of peace(making) and the promise of a new beginning for children

Cross-posted courtesy of the Oxford Human Rights Hub.

The act of peacemaking may be viewed as the promise of a new beginning. It is latent within the sui generis legal form of the self-constituting process, and the often layered human rights transformation at its substantive epicentre. In the complex and evolving legality that constitutes peacemaking, international human rights claims often have heightened performativity. Or in other words, international human rights law (itself born of international peacemaking processes) is both applicable to, and performative within, the self constituting process of peacemaking. However, the layered human rights transformation is often partial: children and their rights are particularly likely to be invisible in the successive processes and agreements that constitute peacemaking. Yet, there is an international legal obligation to respect and ensure their rights ‘in’ and ‘through’ peacemaking, as affirmed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and underwritten by the Security Council. Further, as noted in an earlier posting, peacemakers may for multifarious reasons — some principled, others political — commit to ‘transforming children’s rights as part of human rights’. So, why, then, are children mostly invisible in peacemaking? Continue reading

How Do Wars End?

I had the great pleasure of attending Southern Denmark University’s Center for War Studies‘ signature event “How Do Wars End?”.  The conference started with the riveting reflections of the famous Danish author, Carsten Jensen, on “The Forever Wars”.  He described his experiences embedded with Danish troops in Afghanistan and related the soldiers’ problems dealing with a lack of clear strategic goals within the conflict, complex  homecoming struggles, as well as the current trend towards privatization of war. His books included characters that range from traditional soldiers to drone pilots and who grapple with ethical challenges as well as boredom.  He also provided a wonderful overview of war literature from around the world, leaving the audience with a compelling urge to run to the library.  The next presentation was by Christopher Kolenda, a Senior Military Fellow at King’s College London.  Kolenda served as commander of an infantry task force in Afghanistan which handed out notebooks and pencils to the local community as part of its peacemaking strategy (in part influenced by Greg Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea).  He also co-authored the McChrystal assessment on Afghanistan and has worked with strategic policy on Pakistan as well.  He delivered an insightful explanation of why the US has trouble managing war termination; including the cost of failure to follow up early negotiation opportunities, problems related to centralization of security decision-making, and the challenges of narratives which delegitimize the enemy and impede negotiation.  This was followed by Joachim Krause , the Director of the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel.  He discussed confusion regarding the definition of war and set forth a typology, ranging from cabinet wars to classic international wars, limited wars over specific islands, post-modern wars, hybrid wars, people’s wars, religious wars, wars of secession, civil wars, and the emergence of war economies.  He ruefully commented on the negative consequences of war efforts that were terminated too early as well as those that were terminated too late.  The breadth of his presentation served as a confirmation to me that the ethics academic, Jonathan Glover, had appropriately named his book on the scope of atrocities committed in the 20th Century, HumanityCian O’Driscoll of the University of Glasglow reflected on the Victory of Just War, ruminating on the scope of triumph.  He was followed by Thomas Obel Hansen of Ulster University who gave a thorough overview of transitional justice, breaking myths and underscoring real dilemmas in practice.   In conclusion, I gave a perspective from international law in which I reflected on the challenges we face given the lack of normative agreement on what we mean by peace, explaining the difference between negative peace and positive peace, as well as institutional failures to implement peace in the long term.  I gave an overview of the book Promoting Peace through International Law and then proceeded to discuss specific cases. I noted the Peace Accords in Colombia and the observation that there is no more war in the Americas.  To counter this, I used the example of Guatemala, which formally experienced a Peace Accord in 1996 while having 1 million IDPs and 200,000 refugees who claimed land restitution, as well as 200,000 paramilitary troops and 3,000 URNG guerillas who required demobilization.  In spite of a solid commitment by MINUGUA, USAID, World Bank, EU, Norway, and other entities, Guatemala experienced a serious setback in human rights and security, well documented in a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. At present, Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world, as well as high levels of illiteracy, and a homicide rate that renders it one of the most murderous countries in the world.  Most crimes are not prosecuted and the state’s security system has been infiltrated by criminal elements resulting in a parallel state. Thus, there is in effect a new war between criminal elements and the government.  This experience leads us to consider the process in Colombia, which has an overwhelming 7 million IDPs to contend with, difficult in particular due to ongoing polarization within the society regarding accountability vs. amnesty dilemmas.  I called for more research in peace studies, in particular adding legal and critical perspectives.

Kudos to  Anders Engberg-Pedersen and Sten Rynning for organizing a thought-proving conference!

Trouble? Remembering the Belfast Agreement in the Brexit Aftermath

Although Brexit resurfaced in the weekend’s newspapers with the revelation that Britain’s exit from the EU could be delayed until 2019, the referendum has largely taken a backseat to other news. Even at the height of the Brexit fervour there was little to no substantive debate on the effect a potential EU exit would have on Northern Ireland (which voted remain by a majority of 56%).

UK Passport

The passport for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

This oversight notwithstanding, Northern Ireland’s ties to the European Union are significant and merit consideration, especially in the context of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Europe has paid £1.3 billion to the Northern Irish PEACE programmes alone since 1995. This figure does not include farm subsidies or the economic gain from Northern Ireland’s food and agricultural exports to the EU. Monetary ties aside, I will focus on the proliferation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Belfast Agreement, the important role it plays in the peace process, and the right to citizenship and self-determination in the context of a post-Brexit border poll. Continue reading