Converging law, Security Council resolutions and (un)intended international legal effects

Courtesy of IntLawGrrls (November 12, 2015).

As opined elsewhere,* international human rights law may be viewed as the juristic holder of our ‘embodied vulnerability’ to hurt and harm. And, as such, it transcends time and space; it continues to be seized, shaped and expressed by those made vulnerable. However it is also in flux: its legal expression is partial and ‘embodied vulnerability’ itself is fluid. Consider treaty law: layered beneath the content and framing of substantive treaty provisions is the treaty making process; constructive ambiguity may be co-opted as a tool to promote agreement; notable absences may signify an agreement shortfall—or alternatively unexpressed or as yet unfelt/imagined vulnerability. Viewed in this way, the imperative of deepening the connection between ‘embodied vulnerability’ and its legal expression is ongoing. And this is evidenced by the adoption of multiple thematic human rights treaties in the past quarter of a century. However, two conflicting dynamics undergird the prima facie certainty of the law: the ever present forces of progression and regression. The Security Council is an extraordinary source of those forces; and the thematic resolutions on children a particular expression of their sometimes progressive, other times regressive effects. 

Converging law, (un)intended vulnerability and international peace and security

Courtesy of IntLawGrrls (October 22, 2015).

The Security Council may be viewed as the juristic holder of ‘international peace and security’. Yet this is largely undefined in the Charter of its birth. And so too is its relationship with broader international law. Legal arguments abound: some view the Council unbound; others view it bound with discretion to depart for its primary responsibility (and of course there is a spectrum in between). In the search for certainty, international legal equivocation rules. Ipso facto, the Council is a holder of extraordinary power. Yet threats to international peace and security often have a legal expression—egregious violations of international humanitarian and human rights, some of which may be international crimes. Thus viewed, undergirding the Council’s engagement is a shift from ordinary to extraordinary ‘embodied vulnerability’ to hurt and harm. And it, therefore, may be supposed retracting these vulnerability shifts—by conducing compliance with applicable international legal obligations—lies at the core of its decision-making about maintaining international peace and security. And increasingly, if non-consistently, the Council so acts. It, then, is an extraordinary expression of the omnipresent interrelations between power and ‘embodied vulnerability’ to hurt and harm—and its thematic resolutions on children a particular embodiment of those same interrelations. 

Malala and the post-postcolonial child

Courtesy of the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights Blog, University College Cork, Ireland.

‘Malala is not alone’ said the deliverer of the 2014 Annual Grotius Lecture of the American Society of International Law — Radhika Coomaraswamy. Held within these four simple words are children’s indivisible worlds, where embodied vulnerability lives in continuous, dynamic juxtaposition with their evolving capacities. So too, are ‘the interrelations of subjugation and independence’ of the distinguished discussant’s response — Diane Marie Amann. Subjugated, Malala seized, shaped, and expressed her right to education. And for this act of subversion she was silenced; or at least the ultimate silencer was triggered and failed. Herein the depth of the connection between aspects of those interrelations (those of subjugation and self-determination) is held within the individual of Malala. However those four words (‘Malala is not alone’) also illumine their broader dimensions.

Dignifying the most vulnerable 'in' and 'through' Security Council Resolution 2139

Courtesy of the Oxford Human Rights Hub (March 22, 2014).

Conflict — perhaps like no other happening — illuminates our shared vulnerability to hurt and harm of unimaginable form and depth. The legal protection of rights was born of such suffered injustice. To an extent then, it may be viewed as juristic response to our embodied vulnerability. Therein lies one of the enduring paradoxes of international human rights law; the most vulnerable frequently have the least access to justice.

Consider the hundreds of thousands of besieged in Syria: over a thousand days since the conflict began rights violations cascade; violations of the rights to life, freedom from hunger and of movement layer upon violations of the rights transformers beneath — the rights to legal remedies, take part in public affairs, freedom of expression and association, amongst others. And, the sole possibility of redress is conditional on one of the most precarious of all political processes — decision-making towards peace agreements.

Geneva II, politicking and possibility for Syria's invisible 43%

Courtesy of the Oxford Human Rights Hub (January 8, 2014). 

The possibility of peace in Syria may seem more like an international force (pun intended) than a beacon of hope. History though tells us to ‘believe…’.* The form of the conflict’s resolution is simply unimagined — as yet. Dig deeper though and history also tells us another story: the transformation of conflict is likely to be partial — children, particularly, are likely to be invisible within decision-making towards peace agreements. To date, the Syrian peace process substantiates this: there is no reference to children — 43% of the population — within Geneva Communiqué I and just one reference within the Communiqué of the London 11.

14 days until Geneva II: who will represent Syria’s invisible 43%?

Original version of '13 days until Geneva II: who will represent Syria's invisible 43%?' courtesy of Human Rights in Ireland, (January 9, 2014).

Over 1,000 days of conflict in Syria, the impact on Syria’s nine million children continues to deepen.

View the impact of the conflict on Syria’s nine million children on any terms and it reduces us all.

Scan a selection of media headlines: those focusing attention on the deliberate targeting of children by all sides, or the conflict’s domino effect on children's broader rights — their rights to family life, healthcare, education and freedom of violence, among many others.

Review some of the statistics: the eleven thousand plus children dead, the one million child refugees or the unknown numbers detained. Or simply read the findings of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

What are, these, if not a call to action? Why, then, are children — 43 per cent population —invisible within the peace agreements to date? There is no reference to children within Geneva Communiqué I and just one reference within the Communiqué of the London 11.

Believing in the possibility of an inclusive peace; affirming the dignity of Syria’s children

As the Syrian conflict unfolds across our multiple screens, the possibility of peace is both deeply held and unimaginable: a barely spoken force in the hearts of those made vulnerable; yet as unimaginable as those same harms committed by both sides. Perhaps the greatest challenge is of hope: believing ‘a further shore /Is reachable from here’.*

As the peace agreements multiply — move from the Geneva to the London 11 Communiqué — the prospect of Geneva II (planned for the 22nd January 2014) may seem more like an international force (pun intended) than a beacon of hope. History tells us though to believe: the form of its resolution is simply unimagined — as yet.

There is another challenge though: interconnected, but unlike the transformation of conflict to peace, as yet unrealised (or only partially) by history. The challenge of asking the child question: ensuring children’s rights ‘in’ and ‘through’ the process. History may tell us to ‘believe…’ but it also tells us the transformation is often partial — that children particularly are likely to be invisible within decision-making towards peace agreements.