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The Invocation of Human Rights and the (De-)securitization of Ethno-political Conflicts

By Richard Georgi.


The paper contributes to the scholarly debate on (de-)radicalization through research on the (de-)securitizing character of human rights invocations by civil society organizations (CSOs) in ethno-political conflicts. The securitization concept provides for an innovative analytical tool for understanding the influence of CSOs on inter-group relationships: A securitizing move asserts an existential threat to a reference object and demanding all necessary means to prevent it. They follow the “logic of war” narrowing windows of opportunity for constructive dialogue. Reversing a conflict’s securitization necessitates de-securitizing communication transferring an issue back from panic politics to the realm of negotiations. The articulation of human rights, however, does not necessarily bear a de-securitizing character and therefore de-radicalizes conflict discourses. In fact, the articulation of a violation of a human right rather opens the scope for securitization: seeking urgent actions to avoid the threat to human life. Asking under which conditions human rights CSOs issue a securitizing or de-securitizing move, puts the interface between contextual factors, organizational behavior, an at the center of interest. The close examination of two organizations operating in Chiapas, Mexico, during the highly securitized conflict period between 1994 and 1996, suggests that the kind of social capital produced by the societal context of the organization and the type of invoked human rights condition the (de-)securitizing character of their statements. Prevailing bridging social capital induces the CSO to invoke rather inclusive, integrational human rights, which are likely to issue a de-securitizing move. Within contexts characterized by bonding social capital, produced along the conflict divide, CSOs tend to invoke exclusive human rights on behalf of one conflict group, producing securitizing moves.

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