“The role of human rights in peace-building”, by Salma Yusuf and Jennifer Woodham


The aim of this paper is to examine the contribution that human rights can make in terms of securing lasting peace in post-conflict societies. In particular, it aims to assess how human rights can deter civil unrest through the creation of a wide range of socio-economic opportunities, as well as a sense of belonging to the nation itself.

This is achieved through an assessment of the elements needed to build a nation, and the ways in which specific human rights can contribute to a process of nation-building. The conclusion reached is that it is important for all sectors of society – and, in particular, minority groups – to be able to feel a connection to the newly rebuilt nation. In the absence of such a sense of belonging, it is inevitable that civil unrest will return.

Whilst the introduction of human rights can cause controversy, the paper demonstrates that such does not always have to be the case: human rights can be introduced in a culturally-specific manner, thereby averting the common concern that human rights are simply a means of the West imposing its views on the rest of the world.

Title: The role of human rights in peace-building

Lead authors: Salma Yusuf and Jennifer Woodham

Date: March 2012

Published by the Institute of Human Rights of Sri Lanka


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