Home Opinion Video: Human Rights and International Conflict

Video: Human Rights and International Conflict

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In our latest vlog, Dr. Elise Carlson-Rainer, Assistant Professor at American Public University (APU), discusses the causes that lead to international conflict and why addressing human rights as a facet of foreign policy is relatively new.

Video Transcript:

Human rights violations are often the root cause of domestic and international conflict. Wars may be the result of discrimination based on several causes:international conflict. Wars may be the result of discrimination based on several causes: religion, ethnic minorities, race or national origin.

But the genesis of war is often found in the systematic denial of human rights. This year, the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that: “Promoting human rights and democratic governance is a core element of U.S. foreign policy. These values form an essential foundation of stable, secure and functioning societies. Standing up for human rights and democracy is not just a moral imperative, but is in the best interests of the United States in making the world more stable and secure place.”

Addressing human rights as a facet of foreign policy is relatively new. Before World War II, many national leaders turned a blind eye to how people were treated by their own governments. Raising human rights concerns about another country was seen as “meddling” in another nation’s domestic affairs.

Since then, leaders realized the need to address genocide, religious discrimination and other human rights violations.

In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed at the United Nations. This document created an international doctrine that still guides international law and human rights policy norms today.

As a result, many governments now recognize that international peace and stability are critical to a society’s security and economic development. With few exceptions, global leaders now understand that conflict in any country impacts their own security.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, for example, Middle East instability put human rights into the political spotlight as the root cause of civil conflict. Last year, President Obama told Middle East leaders that “governments across the Middle East who make a ‘commitment to justice and human rights’ will continue to have a friend in America… when governments do not lift up their citizens, it’s a recipe for instability and strife.”

Most democracies now promote human rights and democracy as part of their foreign policy. Diplomats encourage free and fair elections and the right for political parties to organize and assemble as well as the right to free speech and freedom of religion.

Human rights and humanitarian assistance are now multi-million-dollar industries. It is critical therefore international relations experts to understand their impact and how this funding and diplomacy can be used more strategically.

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While many governments conduct human rights diplomacy, there a need for more scientific study for this type of work. Foreign policy leaders choose from a variety of tools to promote human rights, including:

Funding a shelter for laborers and domestic workers related to trafficking in persons; training candidates in political party development; conducting interfaith dialogues; or funding international election monitors.

There is a great deal of potential for trained academics to study this field more in-depth and to provide greater systematic evidence to policymakers of the effectiveness of their specific strategy.

Some global military and defense leaders do not acquire training or expertise on international human rights practices. As a result, human rights are sometimes undervalued by security officials in certain nations. Women, ethnic or religious minorities are left out of peace-building operations, which can lead to long-term unresolved conflict.

Far beyond building military alliances and trade partnerships, security personnel benefit from understanding the critical correlation between human rights abuses and civil unrest.  The academic world can assist foreign policy leaders in devising more strategic security policies.

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