Justice and Struggle for Peace

ICES works for people excluded from access to resources, politics, and means to a dignified life. We link rights to the theme of Justice emanating from permanent discrimination, vulnerability, powerlessness, and disenfranchisement from politics – of women, immigrants, internally displaced, minorities and indigenous communities, racially discriminated groups, refugees and the stateless- consequently relating to the notion of vulnerability and protection.

ICES has been an important actor in the areas of peace, justice and human rights since its inception, under the leadership of two of its founders, Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam, who was assassinated in the Sri Lankan conflict in 1999, and Dr Radhika Coomaraswamy, previously a UN Special Rapporteur and now the UN Under Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict.

With the war in Sri Lanka erupting a year after its establishment, ICES played an active policy and research role throughout the conflict, helping to shape key legislation and advise government discreetly. Regionally, ICES has hosted processes aimed at developing mechanisms for conflict prevention in South Asia, and for deepening coexistence and multiculturalism across Asia and Africa working with regional partners. It has convened high level policy seminars and published volumes with contributions from leading experts on key aspects of peace processes, constitution writing, and the inclusion of women in peacebuilding. ICES has been called upon to advise peacebuilding processes, such as assisting the constitutional process in Cambodia in 1992-93, and conducting eight election monitoring missions across South Asia in the 1980s and 1990s.

Building on these solid institutional foundations and networks, ICES’s former Executive Director, Dr. Rama Mani, who has contributed to the field of peacebuilding and transitional justice through her publications, policy work and training since 1996, brought her expertise and contacts from Europe, Africa and Asia to bear on the new programme, and ensure it is able to deliver on its objectives.

The scope of the new programme would encompass its traditional objectives while simultaneously going beyond areas of ‘human rights’, ‘peace building’, and transitional justice. The new programme will combine empirical and comparative research, policy interventions, training, dialogue, arts and culture to focus on strengthening capacity in human rights, preventing relapse into conflict, and deepening the practice of transitional justice.

ICES will further its solid contributions in human and minority rights in Asia and Africa through focused policy and training.The programme will focus on the most pressing dilemmas of peace building which have a real impact in terms of human suffering in countries in conflict – high rates of relapse, collapsed peace processes, social injustice and marginalisation of minority groups, linking human rights to peace building. As a planned activity, the programme hopes to introduce a new research project onPreventing Relapse – Resuming Peace. This project will seek to deepen understanding of why fifty percent of countries that emerge from conflict relapse back into violence within five to ten years and how, to ensure that following relapse, a peace process can be resumed. This project hopes to take on a comparative international perspective.

The programme also hopes to deepen and embed questions of justice into its work. The reductionist tendency of viewing justice after conflict as reducible to a single mechanism of either trials or truth commission’s will be challenged both empirically and politically. Reparative justice or restorative justice provide broader categories for encompassing and responding to the diverse needs of survivors who must coexist within shared or contiguous borders after conflict, and who often prefer traditional and culturally shaped approaches to extraneous and imposed ones. The scope of transitional justice will be expanded through research, dialogue and policy to include social justice and the rule of law.

Furthermore, research will encourage southern researchers in its projects and help reshape the agenda of peace building to reflect southern voices and exigencies. To further this desire, the programme would seek to draw on the strong networks of southern scholars and on traditions of south-south and north-south partnerships, to encourage and establish partnerships between, and training programmes amongst, young scholars and peace-builders.

ICES has long contributed to the development and promotion of minority and group rights and the protection of indigenous peoples in South and South East Asia, Africa. ICES has worked closely with the United Nations to channel information to Special Rapporteurs, Working Group on minorities and Treaty bodies. Through its training and advocacy, ICES has empowered national and local grass root level organizations in over ten countries in Asia and Africa through the development of educational material using international human rights instruments and national mechanisms. ICES works closely with a wide range of partners to strengthen their capacity to collect information, channel their grievances, and obtain redress for violations through grants support and advisory services. The statement of principles on minority and Group Rights in South Asia which was submitted to the 2003 session of the Working Group on Minorities is presently being developed into a South Asia Regional Charter in partnership with key institution in the region.

Rooted in rigorous research, the programme will generate ideas and policy recommendations targeting nascent governments in countries in or emerging from conflict, donor governments funding human rights, peace building and state building and the United Nation, particularly the new UN Peace Building Commission and UN Human Rights Council, as also regional institutions like SAARC and the African Union.

Programme Objectives:
* To deepen understanding of, and catalyse improved policies for, social and reparative justice, inclusive peace, and the prevention of conflict and relapse into violence in the global south.
* To strengthen mechanisms and capacity in human and minority rights in Asia and Africa


Past and Future Directions

ICES’ long tradition of championing human and minority rights nationally, regionally and globally, and identifying best practice in peace processes will be continued. The new programme will combine empirical and comparative research, policy interventions, training, dialogue, arts and culture to focus on strengthening capacity in human rights, preventing relapse into conflict, and deepening the practice of transitional justice.