Fuentes-Julio, C. & Ibrahim, R. (2019). A human rights approach to conflict resolution. Ethics and International Affairs, 33, Issue 3, 261-273.
Background & Theory
Commonly thought of as two different areas that hold fundamental differences, the benefits of combining a human rights approach with a conflict resolution approach to solving conflict is often overlooked. Plenty of research exists that views these approaches separately, but Fuentes-Julio and Ibrahim set out to explore the relationship between and usefulness of using them together by evaluating recent international conflicts and their peace-building experiences.
Claudia Fuentes-Julio and Raslan Ibrahim in their article, “A Human Rights Approach to Conflict Resolution” (2019), aim to answer these questions:
- How can a human rights approach in regard to conflict resolution practices be used to provide a sustainable and positive peacebuilding solution?
- What are the fundamentals required when combining these schools of thought for a sustainable and positive peacebuilding solution?
Fuentes-Julio and Ibrahim focused their research on evaluating two recent (and still relevant) international conflicts: The Colombian conflict between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC–EP), and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as addressed in the Oslo Accords. They evaluated several distinct categories that are necessary when ensuring human rights are part of conflict resolution: a normative legal framework, structural conditions for peace, participation and inclusion, and accountability and redress. These four areas served as the guidelines to evaluate the effectiveness of the agreements previously in place as they relate to the international conflicts mentioned above.
The results showed, that while not perfect, the agreement reached between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC–EP) was more effective than those which originated from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the 1990s. This is because the Colombian conflict resolution had a firm inclusion of human rights factored in, which included addressing each of the four areas evaluated for effectiveness and sustainable change. The Oslo Accords had very little mention of human rights and failed to address the four crucial areas required, which has left the region with significant conflict to this day.
What This Means
The research concluded that:
- In order to effect lasting positive change, involving human rights in conflict resolution practices is absolutely necessary.
- Not only do human rights need to be considered, but the four specific areas addressed in the methods section (normative legal framework, structural conditions for peace, participation and inclusion, and accountability and redress) are all required for any real duration of peace in a community or area.
- While approaching conflict from a traditional conflict resolution approach vs. a human rights approach may be inherently different in several areas, meaningfully resolving conflict requires a collaboration of these two schools of thought.
- It is important to note two things:
- Those involved on all sides need to continue working toward sustainable peace over time.
- Human rights and how they are implemented may need to be adjusted with regard to the specific issues and concerns for the people and region involved.
For consultants: When dealing with conflict where human rights violations have occurred, remember that it is crucial and beneficial to all parties involved that both human rights considerations and conflict resolution practices are involved and used to promote lasting peace. Solving the conflict itself is not the only area needing to be addressed, but rather the underlying causes for the conflict and ensuring that peace is sustainable and all involved are offered a reasonable solution. This idea can be used in general, when accounting for conflict where someone has violated another person’s rights in some way.
For everyone: A large takeaway from this is to remember that perspective and keeping an open mind is key when addressing life’s problems. In regards to conflict, even in our personal lives, remember that remaining neutral can be beneficial in its own rights, but acknowledging the feelings and rights of others can be useful in coming to a long-term resolution.