Human rights and the early warning signs of conflict

LanddisputesworkshopIn recent years, the United Nations has been increasingly committed to find and use the tools available to identify warning signals that can trigger unrest and conflict.

In November, the South-East Asia Regional Office of OHCHR hosted a workshop in Bangkok on the linkages between land, human rights violations and conflict in South East Asia. Participants included NGOs such as Fortify Rights, the International Commission of Jurists and Forum Asia, as well as UN bodies.

The Bangkok-based office hosts several workshops around the region each year as part of OHCHR’s mandate to promote and protect all human rights.

At the Bangkok workshop, we discussed how human rights violations, particularly those of economic, social and cultural rights can act as ‘red flags’ of escalating conflict and potential violence. We looked for common qualitative indicators of conflict and sought a cohesive set of early warning signs that all actors could use and integrate into early warning mechanisms.

On the final day of the meeting, participants came up with a set of common early warning indicators of unrest, conflict and human rights violations. These included: increased military activity, forced evictions, extra judicial violations and abuse, the criminalization of rights defenders, lack of access to judicial processes and an absence of law to protect land rights.

With respect to land disputes, some human rights violations identified were: forced evictions, decreases in the enjoyment of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food and water, violation of cultural and indigenous people’s rights, extrajudicial executions, threats and harassment, violation of the right to peaceful assembly and the right to form organizations.

November 2015