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

Publish Date: 
Friday, August 17, 2018
Over the past year, ESCR-Net members have begun a global discussion about how to advance economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) in situations of conflict and occupation and in post-conflict transitions. A first round of online discussions was held between December 2017 and January 2018 amongst more than fifteen members from ten countries. The webinars aimed 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 and consider opportunities for collective work at the intersection of ESCR and conflict. A second round of webinars held in June and July 2018 amongst eighteen members from ten countries sought to deepen discussion about opportunities for collective work amongst ESCR-Net members to promote the respect and protection of ESCR in conflict and post-conflict situations.

The need to advance ESCR in conflict and post-conflict situations was first expressed at ESCR-Net’s Global Strategy Meeting in 2016 (GSM 2016), primarily by representatives from several members from the Middle East, North Africa. This call to advance collective work on ESCR advocacy in conflict-affected environments was also supported by member representatives from countries in several other regions that have recently been affected by conflict.

In the online discussions, members confirmed the importance of applying an ESCR framework in dealing with conflict situations to ensure sustainable peace and human security, emphasizing that real peace cannot be achieved without true social and economic justice. Examples from Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) showed how ongoing tensions persist, despite the existence of peace processes, due to failure to fulfil the economic, social and cultural rights of affected communities. In the first round of webinars, members had 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.

From the diverse contributions in the second round of webinars, several points of potential collaboration emerged. These included the need to develop a human rights narrative around conflict with a focus on economic, social and cultural rights, and their intersections with conflict. Such a narrative will need to identify the different actors and their roles. It will also aim to empower affected communities and seek sustainable peace. In addition, members saw the need for pushing for accountability around ESCR violations in conflict-affected situations, including resorting to UN human rights mechanisms.

Members also agreed that certain thematic issues were important to focus on when dealing with conflict-affected situations. Thematic issues that emerged in the two rounds of webinars included access to natural resources (including land) and housing, the right to health, women’s ESCR and the role of corporations in conflict settings.  For example, members in Palestine (OPT) have asserted the need to hold corporations accountable for their role in human rights violations during conflict or in conflicted-affected areas. In the OPT, members reported on how corporations benefit from the development of settlements in occupied territories by gaining control over resources owned by the Palestinian people, who are unable to enjoy access as a result of the occupation. Other members attested to the role of corporations in grabbing land and displacing populations in the name of post-conflict development, as is the case in the DRC and Guatemala. Members in Georgia underscored the importance of focusing on the right to health and have explained how women’s access to sexual and reproductive health has been denied due to the conflict. In Yemen, people have been impoverished as a result of the conflict, which have had severe consequences on livelihoods; particularly for girls who have increasingly been forced into early marriages as a result.

Members also agreed that, in order to ensure accountability and remedies for violations of economic and social rights, there is need for good data collection and documentation. The need to share and develop expertise in community-led monitoring of ESCR violations in conflicted affected areas was a prominent theme. The need to bolster protection of human rights defenders working in conflict- and post-conflict settings was another point that emerged in these discussions.

Following these initial conversations with members and discussions with allies involved in the issue, members will proceed to develop actionable proposals for collective work to advance human rights and social justice for communities living in conflict and post-conflict situations around the world.