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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

ASG Brands Kehris launch of the practice note on mediation and human rights

07 November 2023

Delivered by

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ilze Brands Kehris


The launch of the practice note on mediation and human rights


New York

It is my privilege to be here with you to launch the Practice Note on Mediation and Human Rights, in the absence of the High Commissioner, Volker Turk.

This Practice Note is a comprehensive guide that bridges two worlds (human rights and mediation worlds), which should be seen as complementary. It offers valuable insights and practical guidance to mediators, human rights practitioners, and all those involved in mediation processes. It shows how powerful the human rights framework is; how objective monitoring and impartial human rights information can help build confidence in the process and how sustainable a peace agreement grounded in human rights principles could be.

The power of the human rights framework is a strength as they provide a reference point for parties and a shared understanding of acceptable behavior and principles in the international system. Beyond strengthening the confidence between parties, the framework also helps ensuring legitimacy and credibility of the peace process. Making a reference to the UDHR or a regional human rights instruments in a peace agreement can add significant value to the agreement.

Human rights information and analysis is key in mediation processes because it speaks truth to the conditions of the situation of the population that should benefit from such truces and efforts. While OHCHR itself may not be the direct mediator of peace agreements, the information and evidence it provides contribute to creating awareness, improve the quality of conflict analysis and build confidence.

A peace agreement grounded in human rights principles provides a strong foundation for lasting peace and stability. Because they are designed to address the root causes of conflicts, promote social justice, inclusivity, and address peoples’ grievances. The peace agreement in El Salvador marked the end of a brutal civil war. It incorporated provisions related to human rights, amnesty, and justice and has paved the way for post-war reconciliation and the establishment of democratic institutions. The Salvadoran peace process demonstrated the importance of incorporating human rights considerations from the outset of negotiations, by using a strategic sequencing of agreements, with the initial focus on human rights issues before addressing other aspects of the conflict. This approach allowed parties to build confidence and address immediate concerns before tackling more complex issues.

Similarly, the Colombian peace agreement signed in 2016 between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is often seen as a reference agreement for its innovative approach to addressing human rights abuses in the context of a peace agreement. It strikes a balance between accountability and reconciliation, emphasizing the need to provide justice for victims while reintegrating former combatants into society. The current negotiations between the Government of Colombia and armed groups are good test case for this practice note between DPPA and OHCHR.

This Practice Note will be a valuable tool for mediators, peacebuilders, and diplomats showing how mediators and parties may use human rights information to bolster their legitimacy and credibility; to garner support from the international community; to address the underlying causes of the conflict; to show their commitment to addressing the suffering of the population and to gain public support for the agreement…

As we are approaching the end of the year with the commemoration of the UDHR, we should take inspiration from this important instrument and use it as an impetus to address complex issues.

Thank you.

OHCHR/DPPA practice note on human rights and mediation can be found here