September 2016 in Palestine: Human Rights Overview

GENERAL SITUATION

The third week of September, a month marked by the death of Shimon Peres[1], has been according to the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs the week with more Palestinians attacked[2] recorded since the escalation in the last quarter of 2015. More than 210 Palestinians have been injured and other 10 have been killed in direct confrontations. 64 infrastructures were demolished and 84 people displaced. The Gaza Strip also suffered the most intensive series of attacks since the ceasefire of August 2014.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rigths has also denounced the Ramallah´s High Court decision on suspending Council Elections, planned to be held next month, stressing that “these developments that would undermine and jeopardize the whole electoral process”.

HIGHLIGHTS: Peace, Human Rights and Conflict transformation.

Peace and Human Rights are intricately inter-connected. Peace is recognised as a Human Right, as stated The UN approved in 1984 the resolution 39/11: The Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace[3], and Human Rights are in turn central elements in peacebuilding and conflict transformation.

However, the role of Human Rights might vary depending on which approaches and strategies are we applying to peacebuilding initiatives.

When talking about peacebuilding we can find two main approaches: 1) The Human Rights Based Approach and 2) The Conflict Transformation one. The relations between these two approaches had advanced in parallel for many years. Whilst sharing an ultimate goal, the achievement of peace, they differed in significant material respects, such as analysis and mapping of actors involved in their attainment.

While rights-based approach seeks to ensure compliance with human rights and justice as necessary conditions for the existence of peace, conflict transformation focuses on the analysis of power relations between different actors and seeks to modify structures that allow these abuses to occur, in order to prevent them from occurring again in the future.

Human rights can be defined as a “values, standards or internationally agreed rules governing the behaviour of states towards their citizens and to those who are not” (Baehr, 1999, 1)

The behaviour of states in this sense can be understood both positively, in the sense of needing to act to protect certain rights; and negative, needing not to act or interfere to guarantee onto another rights.

The first form is usually related to the rights grouped into economic, social and cultural rights and the latter tends to relate to the protection of civil and political rights. We could say that the rights-based approach seeks to 1) strengthen rights protection systems as mechanisms for prevention of possible conflicts; 2) If the conflict has already been triggered, it would seek to alleviate the suffering that conflict causes in the population, stop rights violations and 3) establish mechanisms for accountability promoting mechanisms of restorative justice and reparation for victims of these crimes.

On the other hand, the approach of nonviolent conflict transformation perceives the conflict as a catalyst for social change and is taken as the core idea of social justice. It does not focus so much in preventing or alleviating its consequences, either in making the situation of injustice more bearable. On the other hand, it seeks to transform the structure that supports those injustices, not focusing on  the violation of rights per se, but on the imbalance of power that allows or facilitates such abuses. Conflict transformation focuses on a structural framework rather than a regulatory one. Thus, it preferably seeks capacity building of local peace building, as opposed to the idea of international norms and universal values promoted by the human rights-based approach.

Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses. Human Rights Based approach uses an international normative framework[4], shared, known and supported from most of the countries, including protection and accountability mechanisms. However, this approaches lacks of a power – relation analysis, which is crucial when the conflict and/or the rights violations are a consequence of power abuses or power imbalance. The analysis of the relations between the State as Human Rights guarantor and the State as a Human Rights violator needs to, inescapably, address power relations and aim to transform those structures that are abusing their power allowing, or perpetrating, rights violations.

The combination of both approaches enables the development of processes of social transformation from the bottom up, strengthening civil society initiatives and creating popular power, enhancing an enabling environment for systemic and structural changes.

                                                               gaza_newsletter

The Gaza Strip: Israeli Warplanes Raids Open Areas and Training Sites in the Gaza Strip (Source: PCHR website)

[1] An interesting perspective on Shimon Peres from the victims writen by the Israeli academic Ilan Pappe can be found here

[2] http://www.ochaopt.org/content/monthly-overview-september-2016

[3] The Declaration proclaims that the peoples of our planet have a sacred right to peace and declares that the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each State. Every 21st of September, the International Day of Peace is observed all over the world.

[4] Tools such as the Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and international covenants and pacts alike

For further information, see:

PCHR Follows up with Concern Ramallah High Court’s Decision to Suspend Local Council Elections Next Month

Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Weekly Reports

Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Weekly Reports