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In many conflicts, the line between sufferer and perpetrator is often blurred. In the aftermath of violence, the time comes for survivors, soldiers and innocents alike, to return home and heal collectively. This process gives rise to many problems—ex-combatants face stigmas and mental health problems, a lack of employable skills or education, and an absence of community ties. Meanwhile, non-combatants deal with their own traumas, the realities of living in a war torn society, and anger towards military groups. The reintroduction of former soldiers into society at large is crucial to building lasting peace and stability because without it many ex-combatants, devoid of ties to community or resources for self-sufficiency, would return to their guerrilla groups or armies. However, Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) programs must overcome many barriers to succeed. In this conversation, experts discuss the challenges and tactics of achieving effective reintegration of ex-combatants into society.
The United States’ use of torture and cruelty in post-9/11 counterterrorism operations spurred U.S. human rights and civil liberties organizations to form powerful coalitions that fought for a reversal of this misguided policy. The New Tactics in Human Rights Strategic Effectiveness method was one tool used to by these groups to collectively move their work forward.
As more people throughout the world are forced to leave their homes due to conflict, climate change, or in search of a better life, host nations are trying to keep up with the influx of new students in their education systems. With scarce resources and limited funds, governments and organizations are forced to come up with new ways of including refugee students in local schools. With increasing xenophobia and gaps in integration policies, integrating these new students is not without its barriers. Language restrictions, finances, and lack of job opportunities are just a few of the obstacle keeping kids out of school. Furthermore, displacement and resettlement can leave children out of school for years at a time, making it difficult for them to rejoin formal education. Conversation participants discuss the issues with refugee inclusion in national education systems and draw on real-world programs as potential solutions to some of the challenges that refugees face in obtaining an education.
LGBTQI rights are fought for with a spectrum of tactics. In some states, gay citizens and allies march in pride parades and mark themselves with rainbows; in others, activists work in secrecy to protect their safety. Homophobia takes many forms and stems from a multitude of sources, each one different from the next. LGBTQI rights are human rights and must be upheld accordingly, but this lack of uniformity leads to distinct challenges in advocating for these rights on a global scale. Today, activists around the world confront a multitude of bigotry as they fight for the universal protection of queer individuals. In this conversation, participants discussed challenges and strategies for promoting LGBTQI rights through local and international actions across a range of situations.
Reconciliation and peacebuilding rest upon knowing as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes, and extent of gross violations of human rights that have been committed. Investing in the education of youth is important because it expands their worldview and challenge stereotypes. By successfully doing so, youth can actively participate in shaping lasting peace and contribute to justice and reconciliation in their respective societies. For example, Canada has integrated meaningful reconciliation into classrooms and workshops to help learn about its history of colonization and think creatively about the future. South Africa has also recognized the importance of educational reform in order to address the problem of reconciliation and conflict transformation in youth. The importance of empowering youth to engage and take an active role in non-violence, dialogue, and reconciliation was at the center of this conversation of the potential roles that youth can take in truth and reconciliation at both the local and global level.
Businesses and human rights are to a large extent interdependent: businesses are able to play a positive or negative role in building human rights movements, and the position that a business takes can influence its brand in the same way. In January 2017, Uber experienced a backlash on social media that called for users to delete the app in response to the company’s decision to turn off surge pricing and continue service to the airport during the New York City taxi drivers’ strike against President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Thousands of Twitter users adopted the #DeleteUber hashtag to decry Uber’s actions, and many consumers turned to Lyft for future service, which fiercely opposed the executive order and announced a one-million dollar donation to the American Civil Liberties Union. As demonstrated in this case, businesses can impact the human rights of their employees, customers, and communities. It is important to explore the innovative ways in which businesses can participate in human rights movement building. Conversation participants discussed the tactics and strategies used to integrate businesses, both locally and internationally, in human rights movements.
Protest art has been practiced throughout history, especially serving the anti-war movement in the mid-20th century. Today, art has become a powerful and international language to speak against all forms of human rights violations, along with other activism. For example, during the Arab Spring, the arts were used to make anti-authoritarian statements. The photographer and graphic designer, Nermine Hammam, captures the fundamental frailty of rule by force in the global community in her exhibition Cairo Year One by combining the realities of the conflict with a surreal and idealistic background. Tunisian folk-rock singer Emel Mathlouthi and rapper El General used music to rail against the state brutality and the suffering of Egypt’s youth and working class, which attracted considerable attention from protestors and transformed into a powerful protest song. The protest art of the Arab Spring has since joined a broader dialogue between protest art of the past and present, in mediums as diverse as books, film, performance art, and multimedia.
Muslim women face many of the same problems as non-Muslim women; however, cultural norms often prevent Muslim women and girls from reaching out for help. The Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) recognized the need for faith and culturally sensitive services for the Muslim community, and to Muslim women and girls in particular.