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Human Rights and Sustaining Peace



In the dual resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council in April 2016, “sustaining peace” is understood as a goal and a process to build a common vision of a society, ensuring that the needs of all segments of the population are taken into account. Sustaining peace can be seen as “an explicit and deliberate policy objective for all states, regardless of whether or not they are affected by conflict.” Indeed, all societies possess features that contribute to sustaining peace, whether through their institutions, culture, policies, or other norms of interaction among individuals and between people and their states. Sustaining peace thus requires identifying the attributes and assets that have “sustained social cohesion, inclusive development, the rule of law and human security.”

Sustaining peace further promotes a holistic approach integrating all three pillars of the UN’s engagement—human rights, peace and security, and development—so as not only to contain the immediate consequences of conflict but also to prevent the outbreak of violence by addressing the root causes of conflict. Human rights violations and lack of accountability and prosecution for such violations are often drivers of conflict. Monitoring human rights, therefore, could provide early warning of and help prevent destabilization of societies. Secretary-General António Guterres alluded to this in his April 2017 address to the Security Council, where he observed that “upholding human rights is a crucial element of prevention,” and “human rights are intrinsically linked to sustaining peace.”

This paper seeks to demonstrate the role of human rights as a tool for prevention for sustaining peace. It reflects on three countries that, in part through their commitment to uphold and safeguard the rule of law and human rights, have managed to remain relatively peaceful, despite internal vulnerabilities and external pressures: Mauritius, Senegal, and Tunisia. Unlike previous issue briefs published as part of this series, where the primary focus was on conflict-affected contexts, this paper focuses on what relatively peaceful societies can teach us about sustaining peace.