United Nations policy documents on
Human Rights and Prevention
António Guterres, in his first briefing to the Security Council, on 10 Jan 2017 stated:
“We spend far more time and resources responding to crises rather than preventing them. People are paying too high a price. […] We need a whole new approach. [...] For me, prevention is not merely a priority, but the priority.”
The UN policy documents listed below repeatedly emphasise the need for linkages between conflict prevention, peacebuilding and human rights, strengthening civil society and local approaches. From our point of view, human rights, transitional justice and accountability also need to be reviewed through a prevention lens. For instance:
Traditional reporting of human rights violations are not contextualised to situate violations within a progression of dehumanisation that lead to mass atrocities;
Human rights cases utilising regional human rights courts, treaty bodies or special procedures are focused on specific violations working in silos rather than linking facts with their wider context;
Human rights violations, when reported, are not linked to broader drivers of violence. For instance drawing out patterns of hate ideology and those who incite and manipulate hate ideology; so that judicial decisions can eventually address other responsible actors or trends.
Accountability for mass atrocities through transitional justice mechanisms, particularly top down accountability in the form of international courts and tribunals, is invariably backward looking, rather than cognisant of its preventative potential.
There is significant scope also to emphasise prevention in a range of other transitional justice mechanisms, including formulation of reparations programmes.