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Rory O’Connell, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (Minnesota and QUB) and Lina Malagón (University of Wales Trinity St David) have just published ‘Are Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Side-Lined in Peace Agreements? Insights From Peace Agreement Databases’ in the Gonzaga Journal of International Law. This article is based on their work with the GCRF-funded Gender, Justice and Security Hub.

According to the paper’s abstract:

This article addresses the construction of knowledge in peace agreements focused in particular on practices concerning the inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) as an under-researched category in peace agreement databases and as a contested category in the peacebuilding practices. We argue that what appears to be technical cataloguing varies enormously within the construction of databases and, as a result, the construction of peace ‘knowledge’ within databases shapes subsequent perception and practice of the degree to which peace agreements include and value (or not) ESCR.

This article links the apparently technocratic to the highly charged question of which rights are included and which are not in these databases and what difference these hierarchies and the practice of rights inclusion make to the measured success or failure of peace processes. Moreover, given the ‘borrowing’ that occurs between peace agreements, it matters significantly in practice that ESCR are projected as central (or marginal) to peace agreement practice.

The article also tracks and analyses significant scholarly and practitioner debates about the inclusion of human rights in peace agreements. In Part I, we examine existing databases evaluating how databases use different methodologies and categories to collect and classify such agreements and reflect on the significance of those practices. We also explore economic, social and cultural categories (and rights) contained in these databases, noting the differences in definitions and classification and assessing the consequences of those differences.

These divergences are critical to understanding why ESCR continue to be perceived as marginal to the integrity and success of peace agreements. In Part II, we turn from methodological considerations to the substantive issues that can be gleaned from the databases – especially the preeminent PA-X database – regarding the inclusion of ESCR in peace agreements and the provisions related to women’s and girls’ rights. Comparing the diverse databases, this article finds that ESCR provisions have not been as frequently used as civil and political rights (CPR) provisions in peace agreements around the world.

This lack of inclusion demands further interrogation and understanding, not least to better understand if absence signifies lack of attention or methodological fault lines in ‘seeing’ the socio-economic dimensions of peace agreement practice, a preference for treating these dimensions as matters of ‘development’, or a complete absence of attention to economic and social issues in the negotiation of peace settlements. We pay particular attention to the gendered implications of excluding ESCR.