(Last installment: From Conflict to Peace: Do Human Rights Matter Published: Nov 2006 Cordillera Today)
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”– Rev. Martin Luther King
“Peace is the absence of war” –
That was how a colleague from Cambodia initially defined it in our sharing. War being generally understood in it’s literal sense. Following that premise we fall back to a simple and narrow definition of peace, that which entails the absence of war. (The ancient Romans defined peace, Pax, as Absentia Belli, the absence of war.)
Narrowly defining peace against the context of an absence of armed conflict and hostilities however, masks many other forms of violence. Many believe that peace is more than the absence of certain societal maladies. From this perspective, peace requires not only the absence of violence but also the presence of justice. Thus, a society in which one group is oppressed by another lacks peace even in the absence of violence, because the oppression itself constitutes evil
Peace advocates generally identify two “types” of peace. There is what they call negative peace, when there is no violence. Positive peace is when both human security and basic needs are met. These basics needs may be identified in various ways and using different forms of standards. In international laws, human rights are legal entitlements of individuals against the state or state-like entities guaranteed by international laws for the purpose of protecting fundamental rights/needs of human person and his/her dignity in times of peace and war. State has obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights of citizens/people living in its territory. One of Indonesian peace advocates asked, what good are these rights for when most if not all are observed in breach? What good would it bring us if there are existing impunities and injustices? The discussions and exchanges may not have provided easy answers. Neither did it leave us with band aid solutions to the many a varied conflicts in our home countries. But it managed to remind us to reaffirm the seemingly obvious and still believe in it. From conflict to peace: yes human rights do matter. HR matters even at it’s articulated form to remind us of that many things that we have yet to achieve and the minimum that we all have to respect and fight for. They are so important because it brings you the sense that humanity is in us all.