Memorandum from Christian Aid
1. Christian Aid is the official relief
and development agency of 40 British and Irish churches. It works
where the need is greatest in 60 countries worldwide and helps
communities regardless of religion. Christian Aid links directly
with people living in poverty through local organisations. It
supports programmes with the aim of strengthening the poor and
improving their lives and life chances.
2. Christian Aid welcomes the inclusion
of material on the UK's Human Rights Act and on further developments
in UK Human Rights Law in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's
(FCO) Human Rights Annual Report 2001 (henceforth HRAR 2001).
While the stated objective of these annual reports is to promote
human rights overseas, the partnerships that underwrite international
peace and security must demonstrate as well as promote scrutiny,
transparency and accountability. As the report suggests, to adapt
a truism, human rights begin at home.
3. Following the Select Committee's recommendations
on last year's report (FAC-HRAR 2000), Christian Aid welcomes
the inclusion of information on a country-by-country basis in
HRAR 2001, detailing the "challenges and progress" in
14 states where human rights remain fragile.
4. The two key challenges facing global
governance, as described by HRAR 2001, are impunity and the prospective
role of the international community in helping to address such
impunity. Christian Aid shares this view and welcomes the continuing
emphasis on the fiduciary or "trustee" role that the
international community can play. Good governance cannot be advanced
without more effective partnerships between fragile states and
the international community, in order to hold human rights abusers
5. The development of new mechanisms such
as the international tribunals on Rwanda and Yugoslavia and the
establishment of an International Criminal Court are important
steps forward as HRAR 2001 argues. Some recalcitrant state and
non-state actors, however, retain the continuing ability to ignore
existing international instruments and institutions as successive
annual sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
have made clear.
6. This offers increasing challenges to
foreign policy perspectives, especially where the state or non-state
actor's impunity threatens regional or international peace and
security. In a world searching for security in the wake of the
attack on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001, such challenges
will require regional solutions as well as national, where partnerships
with key members of the international community will take on new
and complex resonance.
7. While the doctrine of non-interference
in the affairs of another state will remain one of the foundations
of international relations, a range of preventive actions and
representations will increasingly be required from member states
as well as the United Nations system, in relation to states where
impunity has come to be the norm. As with development assistance,
it is increasingly clear that the most effective human rights
partnerships will be those that include and are owned by the community
8. This submission provides two brief case
studies where Christian Aid has substantial experience, namely
Colombia and Israel/Palestine. We present these here as a contribution
to enhancing the impact of British foreign policy from a human
9. Christian Aid has been present in Colombia
for over a decade, supporting local organisations and internally
displaced communities to strengthen development, democratic participation
and the defence of human rights.
10. One of the international community's
most effective interventions in fragile states has been its support
for national offices and programmes of the UN Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Christian Aid urges Her
Majesty's Government (HMG) to support the renewal of the mandate
of OHCHR in Colombia and the establishing of regional sub-offices
to enhance human rights monitoring.
11. Christian Aid also supports the conclusions
and recommendations of OHCHR's 2001 report to the UN Commission
on Human Rights (E/CN.4/2001/15) which are too diverse to list
here. Paragraph 253 of the report confirms the pervasive impunity
that blights Colombian society. "The office was able to confirm
that the principal problem as regards human rights is not an absence
of laws, programmes, mechanisms or institutions, but a failure
to use them and thus an absence of tangible decisions, action
12. While HRAR 2001 welcomes Colombian legislation
to combat impunity, it does not mention the recent Law for National
Defence and Security (Law No 684 of 13 August 2001), which facilitates
incommunicado detention without trial, promotes military over
police authority and establishes norms that impede the investigation
of members of the security forces. Christian Aid and its partners
urge HMG through its bilateral contacts with Colombia to work
for the removal of Law 684 from the statute book.
13. Christian Aid likewise urges HMG through
its partnerships with Colombia and the International Community
to work for a full implementation of the OHCHR report's recommendations.
14. HRAR 2001 affirms that the best way
to secure human rights and the rule of law in Colombia is through
progress in the peace talks between the Colombian government and
the main guerrilla groups (p 21). But in doing so it acknowledges
the paradox that "Widespread and systematic human rights
violations are often at the root of conflicts, particularly internal
armed conflicts. Respect for human rights is a necessary component
of lasting peace" (p 41).
15. Currently, many members of Colombian
civil society, advocating a negotiated solution to the conflict
are brutally repressed through threats, intimidation and selective
murders, say recent reports by the Barrancabermeja-based human
rights organisation, Credhos, a Christian Aid partner. Until the
government of Colombia curbs paramilitarism and provides effective
protection and support for peace-building in civil society, its
people will be the continuing victims of this illusory divide.
16. Peace negotiations cannot pre-empt the
rule of law. Peace negotiations are part of the rule of law. The
prevalence of the rule of law in wider spheres of society is more
likely to create a climate for peaceful resolution of conflict
than high powered peace talks in a disintegrating society. In
reality, in as complex an arena as Colombia, they are mutually
reinforcing components not competing agendas.
17. As a development agency, Christian Aid
is all too aware of the human cost of conflict in Colombia and
other fragile states. NGO estimates suggest that over 300,000
people fled their homes to become internal refugees in Colombia
in 2001. Over two million people have been displaced by the war
in Colombia, over a million of them in the last five years.
18. According to OHCHR's 2001 report. Colombia's
Ministry of Planning concluded that the number of those living
in poverty rose by 14 per cent between 1997 and 1999 to 22.7 million
of its 36 million people. Poverty is both an active cause and
effect of conflict. Its effects are both tangible and visible
and can be effectively addressed with the support of the international
19. Christian Aid has been involved with
work with the Palestinians and Israel since the 1950s. It works
today with 25 partner organisations, Palestinian and Israeli,
in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, health, education
and women's issues. Christian Aid's work includes a focus on all
human rightseconomic, social, political, cultural and economic.
Within the region, we condemn all violations of human rights and
are especially concerned by, and have repeatedly condemned, the
growing acts of political violence and killings by all sides to
20. Like Colombia, as HRAW 2001 confirms,
a parallel impasse blinkers the perceptions of the protagonists
to human rights concerns. Israel claims that threats to its security
justify measures such as targeted assassination, detention without
trial, confiscation of land and destruction of private property.
The Palestinian Authority explains Palestinians' responses as
spontaneous reactions to provocation or collective punishment,
while groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim suicide bomber
attacks on civilian targets are a legitimate weapon of their liberation
21. Since "the second Intifada"
began in October 2000, more than 950 Palestinians have been killed
by Israeli occupation forces. Over 250 Israelis have been killed
in the same period, including Tourism Minister Rehavim Ze'evi.
An Israeli state policy of retaliation and targeted assassination
provides ammunition to Palestinian extremists to re-escalate the
conflict and prevent progressive resolution. A Palestinian Authority
policy of apparent toleration of organisations like Hamas and
of their activities, in turn, gives Israel the opportunity to
pursue such groups extra judicially and with impunity.
22. FCO Minister, the Rt Hon Peter Hain
MP, in his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee last year,
defended the government's policy of "avoiding tough and harsh
negotiations with Israel". This referred to discussions that
might take adequate account of the human rights related clauses
in the European Union (EU Association Trade Agreement, with Israel
and lead to the Agreement's possible suspension or withdrawal
(FAC-HRAR 2000, paragraphs 32-38).
23. While acknowledging that human rights
concerns were raised during a range of diplomatic contracts with
Israel, Mr Hain's assertion was that "the really important
thing was, rather than get into a dispute between the EU and Israel
over this matter, to try and push forward the peace process, because
in the end that is the best guarantor of human rights protection".
Committee member, the Rt Hon Dr Phyllis Starkey MP rightly characterised
this as exemplifying an either/or approach where human rights
concerns were sacrificed to broader political objectives.
24. While as HRAR 2001 confirms, HMG has
supported measures at the UN Commission for Human Rights and European
Council sessions, calling on Israel to comply with her obligations
and responsibilities, this has had little or no effect. Christian
Aid requests the Committee to renew its dialogue with Mr Hain
and the FCO on more effective modalities for human rights accountability
25. In conclusion, Christian Aid believes
that human rights cannot be put on hold, whether in Colombia or
Palestine or elsewhere. Nor should their observance be bargained
for influence. Trade or other interests, as is sometimes the perception.
Even from an instrumental perspective, they are seldom effective
currency for these purposes. In a moral economy, human rights
remain the property and inalienable possession of the people of
the respective state. Where they are threatened or stolen, it
is our part of our responsibility in the compact of global governance,
to return them to their rightful owners.
15 January 2002