Human Rights Promotion & Protection

Last Updated: December 30, 2008

This subsection addresses human rights promotion and protection as a central component of peacebuilding processes. The objective is to protect people from further abuses and address the structural, systemic conditions that give rise to human rights violations. A general improvement in the human rights situation is considered essential for the rehabilitation of war-torn societies. More important, the promotion and protection of human rights must aim to deepen a culture of human rights within a society, as an ongoing part of the nation-building and socio-political recovery process. As such, human rights promotion and protection contributes to the transformation of societal conditions that could potentially generate violence.
The first section addresses the definition of human rights as well as of the different categories and generations of rights concerned. It also provides references to the main international and regional instruments referring to the different categories of human rights, as well as definitions of different terms and expressions used in reference to that topic. It also presents a brief history of human rights.
The second section frames the question of human rights in relation with violent conflicts and peacebuilding processes. There is a general consensus that human rights violations are both symptoms and causes of violent conflict; however, the emphasis on one of these understandings may lead to different approaches and outputs. This section also addresses the question of the inclusion of human rights in negotiated peace and the intersection between human rights and the different dimensions of a peacebuilding process, with a specific emphasis on other components of the justice and rule of law agenda.
The third section presents the main actors (both insiders and outsiders) and activities of human rights promotion and protection programs. A specific emphasis is given to the role and functioning of national human rights institutions, currently considered as one of the most important ways to improve domestic human rights regimes, especially in emerging democracies and countries recovering from internal conflicts. The main activities presented refer to monitoring; advocacy and reporting; normative initiatives; capacity- and institution-building; and human rights education and training.
The fourth section presents a summary of some of the key debates and implementation challenges discussed by academics and practitioners in relation to human rights promotion and protection in peacebuilding processes. The points relate to the following sets of issues: universalism versus cultural relativism of human rights; human rights versus conflict resolution; "conflict sensitivity" in the promotion of human rights; the enforcement versus institution-building approach; and the potentially competing agendas and interests between insiders and outsiders.
The final section presents a few suggestions for developing case studies, relating concrete experiences, namely: local human rights NGOs in Cambodia, national human rights institutions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Uganda, and district-level human rights committees and resource centers in Sierra Leone.

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