During the first week of July, the open-ended intergovernmental working group in charge of drafting a Declaration on the Right to Peace met for their second session to discuss the progress of the initiative.

A slimmer text

As the previous text had encountered so many opposing opinions, the new text presented at the second session was considerably stripped down to the basics. As was highlighted during informal discussions leading up to the session, Member States would never accept the text in its original form. This resulted in a more cautious approach taken with the idea of designing a basic text on which to possibly build on in the future to make it more specific as to what promoting the right to peace actually means.

Objects of opposition

Subsequently, due to the focus for a more basic text, topics such as disarmament, private military and security companies, peacekeeping, environment, refugees, migrants and the right to conscientious objection were left out.

Ever since the beginning of the process, Member States have been divided between those that already recognise the existence of a right to peace in other international soft law instruments and those that do not acknowledge its existence, seeing that peace is brought through the respect of all human rights.

Although the last point is valid, WILPF does not see why states should not support this initiative, as it constitutes a clear international commitment towards the creation of peace. It certainly does not obstruct the work of other human rights instruments, rather it is a testament to the necessary and interdependent relationship between peace and human rights, where one cannot exist without the other.

WILPF’s engagement

A declaration on the right to peace will only have meaning as long as it acknowledges that violence and conflict originate in power relations. Thus, peace can only be achieved through a reconceptualisation of power through a better understanding of how the elements that define power are interlaced, are interactive and interdependent and how it is deeply gendered. As mentioned, for it to have any impact, the text should explicitly mention factors that contribute to peace, as otherwise it is fruitless. For us, the following areas need to be included:

  • Disarmament – there is always controversy when discussing arms in human rights fora, but it is undeniable that peace cannot be achieved without disarmament. The Human Rights Council is not the space to discuss how to reach disarmament, but it needs to address the way in which human rights, peace and arms are related and remind the international community that committing to peace means committing to disarmament.
  • Gender Equality and Women’s Participation – patriarchal societies are more likely to be affected by conflict as they uphold militaristic values of violence. Socio-economic and political inequality between women and men needs to be taken into account in peace building efforts, where women must be active actors. The necessity of a gendered approach to conflict needs to be clearly set out in the declaration.
  • Social Justice – Social inequality creates unrest that leads to conflict, as we have analysed in the example of Ukraine. Resources should be spent in human development rather than in defence and this needs to be indicated.

If we are to prevent armed conflict to ultimately protect all human rights, the emphasis must be on prevention and the diagnostic should be gender.

‘Till next time

The chairperson rapporteur decided not to present a revised text with comments at the end of the session, preferring to do so next year at the third session. We cannot but feel frustrated at the lengthiness of the process where one step forward is followed by two steps backwards. When will states practice what they preach and actually commit to peace?

To learn more on the right to peace, have a look at WILPF’s text suggestions and the joint NGO statement.

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