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“Women nowadays do anything”: Women’s role in conflict, peace and security in Yemen

This article by Marie-Christine Heinze and Marwa Baabad draws from interview-based research by the Yemen Polling Center, Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient, and Saferworld to discuss the impact of conflict on women and the roles of women in conflict and peacebuilding in two regions of Yemen—Aden and Ibb. This research identifies common, general concerns in both regions with regard to the impact of conflict on women and families, including deleterious economic impacts, increased isolation of women, health consequences, and increased proliferation of arms. Additionally, women play a significant role in peacebuilding efforts in both areas. While generalities exist, it is important to remember that the relationship between women, conflict and peacebuilding is unique to each locale. As such, local, national and international institutions need to build on all women’s contributions to peacebuilding initiatives—even those that seem insignificant—in order to maximize the efficacy of these efforts. Read the full article here.

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July Newsletter – Are Human Rights a “Western” Concept?
Photo credit: Repeating Islands
Some claim that human rights are a tool created and used by Western imperialists to impose Western values worldwide. We’d like to challenge this notion by sharing a little bit of background about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the document developed to present a universal concept of human rights.

Why? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights came about as a result of the atrocities of WWI and WWII. Small countries and humanitarian and religious organizations wanted the Allied powers to live up to their war rhetoric and provide assurances that nations would never again allow massive atrocities to occur as they had during the past wars.

When and Who? In January 1947, the UN Human Rights Commission was established and included members from 18 nations: Australia, Belgium, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR), Chile, China, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Lebanon, Panama, Philippine Republic, United Kingdom, United States of America, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. The Commission created a drafting committee, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and tasked with drafting an “international bill of rights.” This committee included men and women from eight (8) countries: Australia, Chile, China, France, Lebanon, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.

What and How? As part of the drafting process, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) formed a committee that included leading intellectuals, philosophers and political scientists to study the theoretical basis for human rights. A questionnaire was sent out to politicians and scholars soliciting their opinions on the idea of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The questionnaire asked for reflections on human rights from Confucianism, Islamic, Hindu, and customary law perspectives as well as from American, European, and socialist points of view. Replies came from Mohandas Gandhi, French Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce, and Brave New World author Aldous Huxley.

In addition to UNESCO’s questionnaire, drafting committee staff studied all the world’s existing constitutions and rights instruments as well as suggestions sent to the Secretariat from members of the Human Rights Commission as well as those from outside organizations and individuals.

A list of 48 items that represented the common core of all of these documents and proposals was drawn up.  This list was essentially a distillation of nearly two hundred years of efforts to articulate the most basic human values in terms of rights.

In sum, it’s a stretch to claim that human rights are a Western concept considering the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was shaped by:

  • officials from 18 nations representing Asia (East and West), Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America and a wide assortment of non-UN organizations and individuals;
  • reflections on Confucianism, Islamic, Hindu, customary law, constitutional law and various political views; and
  • studies by intellectuals, philosophers and political scientists to study the theoretical basis for human rights.

Want the full story about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the history of human rights as well as news about some human rights organizations that are walking the talk? Keep reading!

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Civil Society, Human Security, and the Politics of Peace-building in Victor’s Peace Sri Lanka (2009-2012)

This thesis by Janel Smith examines the role of civil society in peace-building using the case study of post-war Sri Lanka. The “victor’s peace,” i.e. war that didn’t end through a peace agreement, enabled acts of securitization by Sri Lanka’s central government that resulted in a repressive environment, limiting the peace-building impact of civil society. Further, civil society itself is shown to be a complicated arena in which some actors might support the victor’s peace for reasons of self-interest rather than other more positive or altruistic reasons. Throughout, Smith uses the analytical tool of Human Security, which considers threats against individuals in evaluating peace, and in doing so also evaluates the concept and utility of Human Security itself. Read the full article here.

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