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Civil Society, Conflicts and the Politicization of Human Rights

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This publicaton explores violence, conflict and peace. It focuses on the non-governmental component in ethno-political conflicts. Civil society actors, or conflict society organizations (CoSOs), are increasingly central in view of the complexity of contemporary ethno-political conflicts CoSOs are key players in ethno-political conflicts. Nevertheless, the precise relationships underpinning the human rights-civil society-conflict nexus have not been fully examined. This volume analyzes the impact of civil society on ethno-political conflicts through their human rights-related activities, and identifies the means to strengthen the complementarity between civil society and international governmental actors in promoting peace. These aims are addressed in case studies on Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Turkey's Kurdish question, and Israel-Palestine.

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Conflict society and human rights: An analytical framework

It is widely recognized in the literature that civil society plays a key role in fostering democratic governance in peaceful societies. Yet the political significance of civil society may be far more prominent in contexts marked by conflict. Being characterized by a higher degree of politicization and a less structured institutional setting, conflict situations may generate a more intense mobilization of civil society. Here politicization is of a qualitatively different nature, as it occurs in view of the life-or-death nature of politics. Contrary to peaceful contexts, in conflict situations the existential nature of politics and the securitizations that follow generate different societal incentives to mobilize (Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde, 1998). The cross-sectional nature of existential or securitized politics thus yields a quantitatively higher degree of public action spanning different sectors in society. The different understandings of the causes of conflict and the adequate responses to them may in turn lead to the formation of civil society actors and ensuing actions that can fuel conflict, sustain the status quo or promote peace. It is in this context that civil society actors appeal to and politicize human rights in order to gain legitimacy and support. Within this context and building on Chapter 2, the aim of this chapter is to identify the determinants which affect the differing impacts of civil society on conflict. The purpose is to provide the ensuing case study chapters with a common analytical framework to structure their findings.

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