Syria had become ‘the biggest peace and security [challenge] in the world’. The crisis began in March 2011 and to date it is estimated that over 400,000 have died, while over 11 million people—more than half of Syria’s total population—have been displaced either within Syria or abroad. As the conflict and humanitarian crisis continues, the international community’s failure to effectively respond has fuelled arguments that the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) populations from mass atrocities in foreign territories is nothing more than a ‘hollow norm’ after the ‘sound and fury’, but ‘signifying nothing’. However, R2P is not in and of itself a hollow norm but rather is understood and practised in many different ways across states. This is mainly because the norm is broad and ambiguous, which naturally permits deference to the political will and national interests of states, and which may result in ineffective global responses to cases like Syria.
Our research has been looking at the needs and priorities of small farmers in Cap Bon, Tunisia, as part of the Centre’s Transformative Justice in Egypt and Tunisia research project. One interesting set of findings from the research speaks to the way emerging democracies are experienced and evaluated through the lens of the rural economy. For our research participants, the rural economy is an accumulation of present and longstanding issues and grievances that have to do with their enduring poverty, inequality and insecurity.
A recent ActionAid project on unpaid care shows how NGOs could move beyond human-rights based approaches focused on implementing international law, instead working with communities to develop new grassroots understandings of rights that might help to plug some of the gaps in the international human rights framework.