Law of peace(making) and transforming children's invisibility

Courtesy of the Blog of the Groningen Journal of International Law (August 22, 2017).

The law of international human rights came into being through an international peacemaking process, in particular the successive processes that gave birth to the Charter of the United Nations. The law as developed affirms children’s legal standing and agency as subjects of human rights. There is a concomitant international obligation to affirm the same in relation to the successive processes of peacemaking and give effect to those rights through the resultant agreements, as recalled by treaty and Charter bodies. Yet children are mostly invisible in such processes. Its extent is laid bare by a cursory review of collections of peace agreements. Of the close to eight hundred peace agreements in the United Nations database, for example, approximately ninety-five include a reference to children. The extremity of their invisibility raises a multiplicity of questions. Is it justified from the perspective of the law of peace(making)? May children’s human rights yield to the pursuance of peace?  And if not, why are children (mostly) invisible in peacemaking? These questions sparked and structured a probe of peace processes from a juristic, human rights and child rights perspective.

Five reasons to constitute peacemaking processes with designated structural foci on children's rights

1. Children are mostly invisible in the successive processes and resultant agreements that constitute peacemaking. Its extremity is laid bare by a cursory review of collections of peace agreements.Of the close to eight hundred peace agreements in the United Nations database, ninety-five include a reference to children, for example.

2. Yet there is an international legal obligation to affirm children’s legal standing as subject of human rights and give effect to those rights in the successive processes and through the resultant agreements that constitute peacemaking, as reaffirmed by treaty and Charter bodies.

Law of peace(making) and the promise of new beginning for children

Courtesy of the Oxford Human Rights Hub (October 23, 2016).

The act of peacemaking may be viewed as the promise of a new beginning. It is latent within the sui generis legal form of the self-constituting process, and the often layered human rights transformation at its substantive epicentre. In the complex and evolving legality that constitutes peacemaking, international human rights claims often have heightened performativity. Or in other words, international human rights law (itself born of international peacemaking processes) is both applicable to, and performative within, the self constituting process of peacemaking. However, the layered human rights transformation is often partial: children and their rights are particularly likely to be invisible in the successive processes and agreements that constitute peacemaking. Yet, there is an international legal obligation to respect and ensure their rights ‘in’ and ‘through’ peacemaking,  as affirmed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and underwritten by the Security Council. Further, as noted in an earlier posting,  peacemakers may for multifarious reasons — some principled, others political — commit to ‘transforming children’s rights as part of human rights’. So, why, then, are children mostly invisible in peacemaking?

Seizing 'the radical progressive potential of peace processes'* for children

The act of peacemaking may be viewed as the promise of ‘a new beginning’.  The promise is latent within the complex and evolving legality that binds the self-constituting process, and the often layered human rights transformation at its substantive epicentre. Therein, as illuminated and crystallised by Christine Bell, lies the ‘radical progressive potential of peace processes’.*  Like the progression of the process itself, it is made possible, at least partially, by legal and political imagination. The challenge is to seize this creativity to ensure children are part of this ‘new beginning’. Or in the words of George Bernard Shaw, it is about ‘dream[ing] things that never were and [...] say[ing] 'why not?'' The aim of these six principles, informed from a critical and constructive probe of peace processes from a juristic, human rights and child-rights perspective, is to support this act of legal and political imagination. 

The principles and related working paper are available here. *See 'Lex Pacificatoria: Marriage of Heaven and Hell' in On the Law of Peace at 300.

Posting cross-posted IntLawGrrls September 16, 2016.

Geneva (III), politicking and possibility for Syria’s invisible 43%

Updated and revised version of the original, courtesy of the Oxford Human Rights Hub (February 17, 2016). 

2015 faded into the new year with a glimmer of hope for the people of Syria. A hope propelled by renewed international engagement, as expressed within the Vienna Statements of October 30, 2015 and November 14, 2015 — and underwritten by Security Council Resolution 2254.  Two years since the dissolution of Geneva II, the UN Special Envoy for Syria reconvened formal negotiations between representatives of the Syrian government and opposition for January 25, 2016. In the face of continuing egregious violations of international humanitarian law, the proximity talks began a week late and were suspended — three days later.

Neither this, the time gap since Geneva II, nor the escalation of the conflict are unusual: peace trajectories recurrently stall, fracture and reconfigure, sometimes escalating and de-escalating over decades. More unusual is the form and intensity of that escalation: the ever increasing parties to the (increasingly internationalised) non-international armed conflict  and the layers of international lawlessness — the exponential rise in international crimes layer on the violations of international human rights law that sparked the protests and internal disturbances of March 2011.

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.