Global conversations to advance ESCR in conflict and post-conflict settings

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Through a series of online conversations, ESCR-Net members have embarked on a global discussion about how to advance economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) in situations of conflict and occupation and in post-conflict transitions.

The need to advance ESCR in conflict and post-conflict situations was first expressed within ESCR-Net at the Global Strategy Meeting in 2016 (GSM 2016). This call was led by several MENA (Middle East, North Africa) region members, particularly from Palestine, where occupation and other forms of conflict has dramatically impacted the ability of people to realize their human rights.

Finding an effective means to promote and defend ESCR in conflict situations is high on the agenda for members in MENA, as well as for countries in other regions that have recently been affected by conflict.

Tunisia, for example, is still experiencing ongoing protests of youth demanding their rights to work, health and a healthy environment.  Denying access to food is often used as a means to subjugate populations in conflict, such as in the infamous 2016 siege on Aleppo in Syria that left the city’s population hungry. In Yemen, the population is suffering a food crisis that is leading to famine, with over 2 million children suffering acute malnutrition and 14 million people food-insecure. In active conflict areas, health facilities are regularly targeted, further impeding access to medical care.

In recognition of the particular challenges to advancing ESCR in conflict and post-conflict settings, more than fifteen members from Africa, Asia, Latin America, MENA, Europe and the United States came together via two online discussions that took place on 21 December 2017 and 16 January 2018. The conversations sought to facilitate mutual learning and deepen a shared analysis about the critical importance of advancing ESCR in conflict and post-conflict situations, identify strategies that members are using in that regards and explore ideas for collective work in the intersection of ESCR and conflict.

From diverse contributions, several themes emerged from this first round of discussions. These include the critical need to promote accountability for the fulfilment of ESCR in conflict areas and a shared desire to address gaps between international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) as relating to the obligations of States to ESCR in conflict and post-conflict environments. Members argued that work in conflict situations should be grounded in human rights principles, including the active participation of affected communities and with a focus on structural and root causes that lead to ongoing violations of ESCR and the breakdown of security. Participants also identified some specific issues which might suggest opportunities collective work. These include access to natural resources (including land) and housing, the right to health, women’s ESCR and the role of corporations in conflict settings. The protection of human rights defenders working in conflict- and post-conflict settings was another common theme. Finally, participants generally agreed that promotion and fulfilment of ESCR is a critical requirement for achieving sustainable peace in post-conflict settings.

After these initial conversations with members and some desk research, a new round of virtual conversations will take place in the second quarter of 2018. These conversations will aim to deepen member-to-member discussions and elicit some actionable proposals for collaborative work to advance human rights and social justice for communities living in conflict and post-conflict situations.