Oct 05, 2016

Jus Post Bellum Final Conference

UNPO The Hague attended the Jus Post Bellum Final Conference on the 29th and 30th of September 2016.

UNPO had been invited to be a participant at the final conference on the Jus Post Bellum Project, an NWO funded Vidi project of the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at the University of Leiden. The conference was held at the Peace Palace in The Hague – the international city of Peace and Justice – and brought together experts from various countries and disciplines to talk about the development of the jus post bellum concept. While there is no clear definition of the concept, just post bellum is inherently linked to the construction of a just peace after conflict. While the development of the concept has been challenged by conceptual and practical obstacles, jus post bellum aims at providing certain norms and principles applicable to transitions from conflict to a perceived fair and legitimate peace. 

The experts performing the project have pointed to a conceptual obstacle during the development of the jus post bellum concept. The notion of peace has been differently understood by different people. An analysis of the general nature of peace provokes different ideas of what ‘peace’ should entail and of what peacebuilding processes should aim at. Some war theorists have pointed towards the concept of ‘negative peace’, while others have suggested the concept of ‘positive peace’ or ‘decent peace’, which is somewhere in-between. In the context of just post bellum, a just war theory has been proposed that aims at generating peace by balancing feasibility and desirability in peacebuilding processes in a post-conflict situation. Furthermore, considering another conceptual obstacle that the concept generates, one may question: when do wars actually begin and end? When can one speak of justice at the end of the war? Rarely, there are clear transitions between the start, middle, and end of a war. Determining certain measures as appropriate and effective at certain phases of the conflict might therefore be challenging. 

A highly relevant and essential element of the just post bellum concept involves the incorporation of inclusivity in sustainable development goals and processes. The experts have highlighted the fundamental recognition that unrepresented groups, such as indigenous peoples, youth members, women, legal organizations, religious leaders, and civil society organisations, need to be included in the peacebuilding negotiation processes for generating a just and sustainable peace. In operational terms, inclusive negotiation processes would imply that national governments broaden their ownership of these processes and aim at maximizing participation. Such participation may be realized by an enhanced focus on capacity building and contextualization by state and international actors. As a manner to align unrepresented groups to the processes and to generate active engagement with local parties, political platforms may be created through which these groups can express their needs, interests and priorities, which should be used as starting points in negotiation processes.  

The place of cultural and socio-economic rights in peacebuilding processes has been element of debate in the jus post bellum context. While some have argued for the negotiation processes to aim at achieving ‘imperfect peace’, others have stressed the importance of including cultural and socio-economic rights in negotiation processes. As one of the experts highlighted, United Nations peacebuilding rules and peacebuilding practices have often diverged, which points to the fundamental challenge of balancing moral dimensions with practical realities. Some experts have argued that, while UN officials aim at protecting and promoting human rights in peace negotiations, terminating a violent conflict requires compromises and concessions that often imply a restriction on human rights. These compromises are made with hope for more durable peace and attention to human rights in later periods.

While such focus on practical reality is significant, some have argued to regard the protection of human rights such as cultural and socio-economic rights as key fundamentals for peace negotiation. Addressing socio-economic rights in a post-conflict context – such as labour rights and the right to housing and property –has been regarded as an important principle of jus post bellum that contributes to just and lasting peace. Moreover, post-conflict peace agreements may well include human rights related to cultural and minority rights. In an effort to prevent the loss of cultural identities, one may need a nuanced understanding of cultural heritage. Cultural heritage is not limited to tangible, physical property, but includes intangible property as well, such as the way in which people are used to eat, the way they walk, talk and dress. As emphasized by Smith and Akagawa, “all the heritage is intangible, not only because of the values we give to heritage, but because of the cultural work that heritage does in society.” Especially for those who have been forced to flee from violent conflict, the preservation of their heritage is crucial for their resettlement and well-being in the post-conflict situation. As such, in an effort to prevent the loss of cultural identities and to attain a just and fair peace, focus must be on the protection and restoration of socio-economic rights as well as tangible and intangible heritage.

Particular emphasis has been on promoting and securing the environmental rights of indigenous peoples in post-conflict. Experts have pointed out that, while underscoring participatory rights of indigenous peoples, a draft principle adopted by the International Law Commission has revealed the need for recognizing indigenous peoples as having a special status in regard to environmental issues in post-conflict and regarding their land as important for their identification and cultural sustainability. As such, protection of civilians, including minorities and indigenous peoples, should be properly understood as protecting and restoring the environment in post-conflict situation. While the draft principle recognizes ownership and possession of land by indigenous peoples, critics however argue for an extension of the obligations states would have under this principle. 

As such, despite conceptual and practical complications, the development of the jus post bellum concept might prove as an insightful and influential system that will innovate sustainable peacebuilding processes. At its core, jus post bellum aims at building peace that is perceived as just and fair in a post-conflict situation. It has been widely recognized that unrepresented groups, such as minorities and indigenous peoples, should have a place at the negotiation table. Different needs, interests and aspirations, including those of these marginalised groups, should be considered when aiming for long-term, sustainable peace and generating widespread well-being after a situation of violent conflict. The jus post bellum project and its fundamental principles has therefore been very insightful for UNPO as an international organisation that facilitates raising the voice of the unrepresented and marginalized nations and peoples worldwide. 


For more information on the Jus Post Bellum project: http://juspostbellum.com/