Peace: A Right for All

How can we contribute to make ‘the Right to Peace' a reality? Today, some of the most important global policy consensus including the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Sustaining Peace agenda, have peacebuilding at their heart. There seems to be a realisation by the international community that in order to promote human, social and economic rights, it is necessary to ensure, first and foremost, the Right to Peace.

While there is a growing importance of peace and prevention in policy discourses, there is one important challenge that needs to be addressed.  How can we translate policy to practice? Or to put it in the words of Kofi Annan, how can we reduce ‘the unacceptable gap between rhetoric and reality'?

One thing seems clear. Closing this gap needs the active participation of civil society. The current trends of armed conflict suggest an urgent need to enhance the role of civil society in prevention and peacebuilding efforts. The UN-World Bank report ‘Pathways for Peace' presented earlier this year highlights two significant dynamics:

1. Most of these conflicts are not between state actors, not event between a non-state actor versus a government or a state actor.  Most of the conflicts occur now amongst non-state actors. Syria is the most dramatic example of this trend with over 1000 armed groups often fighting among each other.

2. Most of the victims of these violent conflicts are non-combatant civilians. It is ordinary people, not the military, who overwhelmingly bear the brunt of today's violent conflict.

From this data, we can conclude that conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts need to go beyond governmental actors and involve, and in many cases be led, by civil society actors.

Today, more than ever, we need to consolidate and expand partnerships between civil society and government actors to articulate conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts. At GPPAC, we are fortunate that important actors such as the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish International Development Agency, the UN Peacebuilding Fund, the German government and others, share this vision and see in us a valuable partner.

As GPPAC members celebrate the international day of peace, and remind us that peace should not be a luxury for the few, but a right that needs to be protected for all, it is important to be aware of our role in enforcing that right. Because conflict prevention and peacebuilding are a ‘whole of society' endeavor and we need to be ready to play our part.