The document offers practical steps for mediators on incorporating human rights principles into their work to achieve more inclusive and just peace agreements.
Despite the connection between human rights violations and violent conflict, the application of human rights principles is frequently viewed as an obstacle to mediation and peace negotiation endeavors. This perception may stem from the belief that these principles can limit the political pragmatism often necessary to get parties in conflict to the negotiation table and keep them there. However, a new publication argues that these principles can be used to improve the quality and effectiveness of mediation and offer practical strategies for opening negotiation channels, resolve complex issues and foster sustainable agreements.
The publication, a “practice note” jointly produced by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), positions itself as a practical guide for mediators. It illustrates how human rights principles and considerations have been integrated into mediation processes to improve the likelihood of reaching more inclusive and just peace agreements.
Speaking at the launch of the practice note, titled “Enhancing the quality and effectiveness of mediation efforts through human rights: DPPA-OHCHR Practice Note,” Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo underlined that advocacy for human rights in mediation efforts can provide additional avenues for success. “If a mediator reframes charged political narratives in the more technical language of human rights, this can lower the temperature in the negotiating room,” she noted.
DiCarlo went on to highlight the example of El Salvador, where a mediation process gained popular support by being responsive to human rights concerns, paving the way for a UN human rights monitoring mission. This contributed to a reduction of human rights violations and opened up space for the parties to sign political and security-related agreements.
She also emphasized that human rights networks could be invaluable to promoting a victim and survivor-centered approach, as seen in the case of Colombia. In that country, the UN and national partners convened forums of victims and survivors and facilitated the participation of these groups in the negotiations between the Government and FARC. This contributed to the parties’ adoption of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition.
Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Rights, OHCHR, stressed that the practice note represented “a significant step forward in the pursuit of human rights and conflict resolution,” bridging two areas that are often seen as separate worlds but are really complementary. The objective monitoring and impartial information on human rights can establish a baseline in peace negotiations, building confidence and making the final agreement more sustainable, she said.
Mediation and human rights practitioners also participated in the panel event: Diego Garcia Sayan, former President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Foreign Minister and Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, and Leila Zerrougui, former Special Representative for the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Asif Khan, Director of the DPPA Policy and Mediation Division, moderated the panel discussion.
The launch event was held at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations.