The Right to Peace
Updated: Nov 14, 2018
contributed by Bathsheba Wells Dion, our reconciliation intern based at Coventry Cathedral.
If you asked someone to name some of the human rights, peace might not be very high up on the list. They might start with the physical necessities like food and water, intellectual wellbeing such as education or freedom of expression, or maybe those relating to the more obvious results of conflict: freedom from torture and slavery. The right to peace might not come up, and in fact it did not feature on the original Declaration of Human Rights at all.
Yet on the 70th anniversary of this Universal Declaration, the 2018 International Day of Peace will focus on precisely that, ‘The Right to Peace’.
Peace is a relatively new official human right, and was only ratified in 2016. In the very first sentence of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration, the rights were initially described as ‘the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’. Peace was the end point that would follow once the other rights had been guaranteed, not a right in itself. The implication was that if we followed all the other rights, we could then passively wait for peace to follow. Now, Article 1 of the recent declaration states: ‘Everyone has the right to enjoy peace such that all human rights are promoted and protected and development is fully realized.’
So what happens if we think about peace as a human right?
As an end goal, peace was a static point. As a right, it is a dynamic process. It is something that we owe to the people around us and have to negotiate in relationship with them. Because as long as we live in human communities, there will always be a need for peace-builders.
Peace is very closely linked to reconciliation, and in 1996, Vincent Coyle of Derry, Northern Ireland, even proposed that International Day of Peace be expanded to encompass Reconciliation. Though the proposal was debated at the Seanad Éireann (the upper house of the Irish government), it did not change the international event. However, at each of our Reconcilers Together training centres peace and reconciliation are inextricably intertwined as the core values. They all share that remarkable ability to see the transformative potential in situations of conflict, remembering the scars of history but not letting them limit their future. Through the Reconciliation Centres’ work to build networks and to emphasis on continual, open dialogue, they reflect this view of peace as a right, as an ongoing process lived in relationship with others.
Continuing with this week’s focus on Rose Castle, we can see how this ethos is borne out in their training programmes. The course of Disagreeing Well recognises that conflict will not vanish overnight – something evidenced in its 800-year history on the often-tumultuous border between England and Scotland – but that it can be transformed if people are able to empathise with people despite their differences and disagreements. The retreat here will offer participants in the Journey of Hope the chance to live and learn together in a context where conflict is not eradicated but transformed.