PROMOTING DIALOGUE AND PREVENTING ATROCITIES: THE UK GOVERNMENT APPROACH
Dr Anicée Van Engeland, Associate Professor of International Security & Law, Cranfield University at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom
Dr Gemma Collantes Celador, Senior Lecturer in International Security, Cranfield University at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom
- The aim of this submission is to support the British government’s constructive engagement with the prevention of atrocities, by highlighting the merits of a focus on institutions as a complement to a people-centred approach. Institutions are understood organically, which leads to a discussion as to how State can and should be adapted to local specificities;
- The above proposal is to be coupled with new thinking on governance whereby institutional democratic power-sharing is re-thought with the aim of accommodating a human rights-based security framework to peacebuilding;
- The main argument is that exclusion and discrimination are conduits for human rights violations that ultimately enable the occurrence of atrocities. Such observation calls for the development of a human rights-based framework with a focus on equality, justice and fairness;
- To fulfil the above objective, the authors draw the attention of the FCDO to the way it engages with States: it is suggested that institutions should be empowered in response to local needs and expectations while meeting universal human rights demands;
- To this end the following recommendations are outlined:
Recommendation 1: The Need to Focus on Institution as well as People to Ensure Equality and Inclusion
The authors recommend that the FCDO pay as much attention to institution-building as it does to people when working towards peace.
Recommendation 2: From Consociationalism to Human Rights-Led Governance
The authors recommend the FCDO engages with other forms of governance when supporting peacebuilding efforts, looking beyond short-term crisis management. They recommend looking at institutions as a vehicle for both local values and human rights values.
Recommendation 3: The Need for a Human Rights-Based Institutional Framework with a Focus on Equality and Inclusion
The authors recommend a human rights-based framework to support institutions to ensure sustainable peacebuilding and prevent atrocities. This recommendation applies to policies, programmes, projects employed by the FCDO.
Recommendation 4: The Need to End Dependency towards External Actors
It is recommended the FCDO shift its approach to contextualise peacebuilding and conflict prevention. The authors consequently encourage a methodology that places greater onus on local needs and understandings.
Biography and Reasons for Submitting Evidence
- Dr Anicée Van Engeland, Associate Professor at Cranfield University, is an expert in international security and law, with a focus on the Muslim world. Dr Van Engeland provides briefings to the UK armed forces. She also trains state actors involved in peacebuilding around the world via FCDO and MOD programmes and is currently advising the Ukrainian Parliament on law reforms. Her work has been used by the UK and US courts and by international organisations, such as the Red Cross, the United Nations, and non-governmental organisations.
- Dr Gemma Collantes Celador, Senior Lecturer at Cranfield University, is an expert within the field of conflict, security and development, currently focusing on the intersection between statebuilding processes, security sector reform/governance and transitional justice. Her doctoral thesis focused on the reform of police forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of post-conflict peacebuilding efforts, research that was carried out with substantial fieldwork on the ground. Since joining Cranfield University she has been involved in briefings to the UK armed forces as well as capacity building in democratic governance processes for security sector actors in countries around the world in support of UK MOD defence engagement activities. She is currently supporting the Folke Bernadotte Academy (Swedish agency for peace, security and development) in the delivery of some of their activities in Colombia.
- Cranfield University has a sector devoted to social science in which academics work on matters pertaining to peace and security through the provision of high-quality research, education, capacity-building training, and consultancy. Their engagement with matters related to what is discussed in this statement – on a number of consultancy projects – have allowed them to be deployed all over the world, in a variety of complex settings. The authors therefore have expertise and experience working with institutions, primarily those of the security sector, in support of democratic governance agendas aimed at bringing sustainable peace and, and among other things, the prevention of atrocities.
- The motivation for this submission is to contribute to the thinking on the prevention of atrocities through an institutional angle using a human rights methodology. The evidence is also submitted by two experts who are deployed in the field on a regular basis and have confronted a range of situations that have prompted them to consider the questions and issues raised in this submission.
- The aim of this submission is to support the FCDO in its aim of preventing atrocities by highlighting the merits of a focus on institutions as a complement to a people-centred approach. The authors understand the importance of addressing human factors as triggers of conflict, such as greed and grievances for civil conflicts (Collier and Hoeffler, 2004), but also sociological aspects (Malesevic, 2004). Yet, it is also crucial to look at how institutions can be part of the problem as illustrated by the example of the Rwandan genocide (Gibson, 2010; Heldring, 2014)
- The evidence consequently calls for a discussion as to whether institution-building based on a consociational or confessional logic is best placed to avoid large-scale human rights abuses such as atrocities or whether governance solutions based on a human rights framework should be explored.
- The submission looks at security from a state perspective, including a bottom-up perspectives by incorporating some elements of human security.
Recommendation 1: The Need to Focus on Institutions as well as People to Ensure Equality and Inclusion
- The General Framework Agreement for Peace for Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Peace Agreement/Accords, focused on balancing political interests and ethnic belonging to determine power-sharing. The authors argue that power-sharing needs to be transcended in favour of a with human rights-focused methodology to frame institutions .
- The emphasis placed on institutions is rationalised as institutions permit socialisation and can help engineer the notion of civic identity. Institutions that normalise segregation and exclusion such as “the two schools under one roof” phenomenon in Bosnia undermine efforts at conflict prevention. Institutions play a crucial role in the reproduction of ‘order’, understood here as an agreed set of rules that leads to predictability and stability (Hills, 2019). The question is whether an order based on a consociational or confessional logic brings about the long-term stability and predictability in behaviour that is required to avoid large-scale abuses of human rights.
- While the authors acknowledge the limitations of the institutionalist perspective (Chandler, 2017; Lemay-Hébert, 2009), they also believe that institutions can play a key role in building a nation. Institutions can dissemination the ‘right’ message to avoid divisions, hatred, violence and atrocities. Equality and inclusion should therefore be at the heart of institution-building for peacebuilding and conflict prevention.
- Establishing a governance system that takes ethnicity or religion as the main referent – and such is the current temptation of Ethiopian reformists (Aalen, 2002; Fessha, 2017) – can only work if the institutions are corrupt-free. Otherwise, those institutions can be undermined by greed, grievances and other human-led factors that can create the right environment conducive to large-scale human rights abuses. A corrupted administration that was ill-designed ab initio will lack popular legitimacy and create resentment; its staff will also be unable to perform their tasks. Here, corruption is to be understood not only as financial, but also as scenarios when the integrity of institutions can be co-opted by the agenda of elites, fostering division, for example, along ethnic lines. Besides, a captured state is one where violence can develop, as shown in post conflict Guatemala (Lustick, 1979).
- The Dayton Peace Accords ended the war but - although it also included a number of objectives to bring about political and economic reconstruction and social and psychological regeneration of state and society – it did so on the basis of complex governance structures that did not solve the nationalist/ethnic disputes that fuelled the 1992-1995 war. As a result, the institutions have been pervaded and used for ethnic gains for a long period of time. In such situation, institutions are then used for the reproduction of the ethnic elites, often at the expenses of gender equality and minorities.
- In general, reference to institutions should be made looking at local, traditional or religious institutions, the history of colonialism and organic structural solutions to decolonisation. Legitimacy of institutions is indeed critical: if the institutions have no social legitimacy, the population will have little trust in them. There will be little confidence in the institutional ability to protect people, so society might turn back to agents perceived as trustworthy. Those agents may be part of the problem. Institutions are therefore not solely understood in a Westphalian State centric view to peacebuilding.
- The authors believe it is a necessity to engage with local understandings of institutions and structures. For example, tribal leaders play a regional or national role in several African nations. Institutions are part of Islam, and these Muslim-compliant structures are found existing side by side with state institutions. Customary courts, religious courts and State courts co-exist in countries like Nigeria.
- This is why the authors recommend that the FCDO pays as much attention to institution-building as it does to people when working toward the prevention of atrocities. Strong institutions that are embedded in a human rights narrative are as good a deterrent of atrocities as people that have been supported to pro-actively engage with a human rights agenda. This leads to questioning the overall governance system in which those institutions exist.
Recommendation 2: From Consociationalism to Human Rights-Led Governance
- Consociationalism or confessionalism have been used as they produce short-term stability. Yet, these modes of governance tend to provide a false sense of security: the level of trust needed for the population cannot be provided by institutional structures that maintain rather than solve divisions in state and society. This is why the authors recommend a human-rights based governance and framework for institutions.
- The use of consociationalism, or democratic power sharing, as a method of governance has had negative effects in Bosnia and elsewhere. The bureaucratisation of every day politics combined with the lack of proper engagement with the roots of atrocities through the belief that equal sharing would sort of crucial issues such as land law led to the creation of a weak state. Similar complex dynamics can be observed in Afghanistan where the cohabitation of legal systems led to impossible situations, thereby demonstrating that the prioritisation of group-based rights (on the basis of religion or ethnicity) can have detrimental long-term consequence including the inability of institutions approato actually deal with the local context, which in the case of Bosnia was that of a war successfully ended but not solved.
- Used in the wrong context, consociationalism reproduces inequality at the expenses of minorities and women (see the Sedjic and Finci case in Bosnia), thereby re-starting a cycle of exclusion that breeds instability. As a result, the authors recommend considering lessons from human rights-based governance systems such as the South African one, to understand their strengths but also where further work needs to take place. The rainbow nation acknowledges pluralism as a strength and legally accommodate it, using human rights embedded in the Constitution as a benchmark. Besides, the governance structure includes local and organic institutions: for example, traditional leaders play a role at the provincial and the national levels, and courts take customary law into account. However, this strategy has not prevented corruption or other governance problems. This is partly due to the lack of engagement with structural violence (Forde et al, 2021) but also institutional exclusion. This example serve to emphasise that institutions that are framed by a human rights-based approach need to be completed by other perspectives.
- The authors recommend that the FCDO engages with other forms of governance when supporting peacebuilding efforts, looking beyond short-term crisis management and resolution. They recommend looking at institutions as a vehicle to carry both local values and human rights values.
Recommendation 3: The Need for a Human Rights- Based Framework with a Focus on Equality and Inclusion
- The authors believe that one way of building sustainable peace is to develop a human rights-based framework for institutions as well as people. Such methodology is embedded in notions of substantive governance which is centred around human rights. The post-WWII liberal narrative has used human rights as a way to defuse conflict and avoid atrocities, but also for accountability. Human rights are an integral part of peacebuilding. Yet, in Bosnia, while courts have engaged with past human rights violations, there has been a lack of political will to make it a priority (UN OHCHR, 2021). Consequently, having a human rights-based governance approach to institutions is key to prevent non-recurrence and support reconciliation. Mainstreaming a human rights-based approach in all laws, policies, strategies and doctrines as well as in institutions is a way forward to disable the logic behind atrocities. The purpose is to avoid discrimination and exclusion that could then pave the way for the empowerment of the human elements constitutive of atrocity triggers.
- A human rights-based perspective to atrocity prevention requires an in-depth reflection of the meaning and the content of the values referred to. Indeed, there is a variety of human rights narratives challenging the universal discourse. This raises the matter of traditions, culture and religion as well as practices, beliefs and values that could contradict or diminish universal human rights values: such views are tolerable as long as they do not normalise hatred and divisions. Scholars such as An Na’im (2000) or Baderin (2005) have produced the groundwork to positively engage with alternative views on human rights, extracting the similarities with the universal system: for example, the ubuntu principle enables community-led and human rights framed institutions with popular support. If there are differences between interpretations of human rights, it would be the role of the institution to find a solution such as, for example, the one adopted in South Africa where the Constitution is the yardstick for compliance.
- A challenge for the UK has been to engage with non-universal perspectives of human rights. To be a global force for peace there is the need for the British authorities to strike a balance between the liberal narrative and alternative views on human rights that, depending on the context, may ensure the buy-in from the local populations. Building peace without ensuring that institutions have embedded human rights-compliant mechanisms and have mainstreamed human rights in their law, policy and strategy-making will only lead to conflict. Not only it is key to educate individuals to believe in non-discrimination; institutions must also be framed in a non-exclusionary (Ralph, 2019). The right to equality could address this systemic issue, but this would require a plan of action that is long-term and structurally all encompassing.
- The authors recommend the FCDO promotes a human rights-based institutional framework to atrocity prevention. This recommendation applies to the FCDO itself when it comes to foreign policy.
Recommendation 4: The Need to End Dependency
- The culture of dependency observed in complex settings is another lesson to be learned in relation to weak institutions: in most recent attempts at peacebuilding and/or statebuilding, external actors have been involved in drafting the constitution and in developing institutions. By doing so, they have often transplanted, rather than adapted, knowledge and experience leading to questions over the acceptability by local stakeholders, including the population, and thus raising the issue of sustainability.
- Human rights mainstreaming requires better coordination with a range of local voices that ensures participation and consensus building. Those voices often have a better knowledge of, for example, the laws that are needed or the ways gender should be mainstreamed. If the people and the institutions are not anchored locally, they will lack legitimacy, starting a cycle that could lead to instability.
- The authors recommend that the FCDO works on participatory approaches to peacebuilding that allow for the empowering of local stakeholders that help mainstream human rights into governance structures.